The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said today the capitalist system must draw alongside people who are suffering, as Christ did, and urged corporate leaders to follow this example by exposing themselves to uncomfortable and difficult situations.
Archbishop Justin was speaking for the first time at the 2015 Conference on Inclusive Capitalism in the City of London this morning, in conversation with president of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur C Brooks.
During the discussion the Archbishop said a capitalist system imbued with morality “turns that into action… [and] meets the needs of the poor and the excluded and the suffering.”
He said this approach required capitalism to have a deep sense of gratuity and “a generosity of spirit that doesn’t always seek the greatest return; and, above all, of being alongside those who are suffering.”
Reflecting that he learned “more in my three years in a very poor area of the country as an assistant priest, when I was first ordained, than I did from any amount of study or work”, the Archbishop said Christ in his incarnation showed us what inclusivity means.
“We need a capitalist system that is not separate. That’s the point of the inclusivity… [it] means being alongside, being as Christ was in his incarnation, being in the middle of it all – feeling it in your guts as well as in your head and your moral system.”
Asked what concrete action corporate leaders could take, the Archbishop said: “I think the key thing comes down to how you organise your life. For me, one of the most important things I ever do is having slugs of the diary set aside to spend time in places that are uncomfortable, challenging and difficult. . . [in] areas of poverty, areas where the church is struggling, and that’s round the world, in some of the poorest parts of the world.”
“And it’s being there and being alongside and taking the time to do that which constantly corrects the bias we get by being in wonderful places like this, where we begin to think this is all there is. So part of it is simply the management of what we allow ourselves to be exposed to, the risks we take.”
The conference opened this morning with a video message from the Prince of Wales and a message from Pope Francis read out by Cardinal Vincent Nichols.
This evening former US President Bill Clinton will deliver the closing keynote speech.