At around 8pm on Saturday police were contacted by the fire service to report that there was a fire at Heaton Park Methodist Church on Bury Old Road.
The blaze was put out by the fire service and further enquiries carried out by police have since established that thieves have broken into the church shortly before the fire started, by smashing a number of windows.
It is believed that as they were searching for valuable items to take, the fire has been started inside the church before those responsible fled the scene with a laptop and a projector.
The fire caused significant damage to the building which will require expensive repairs.
A joint investigation is currently underway between GMP and Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service to establish exactly how the fire started.
Chief Inspector Jamie Collins, of GMP’s Bury borough, said: “There’s no way to describe the offenders actions, other than to say they were disgusting.
“To break into a church, set a fire and then steal valuables would be bad enough any other time of the year but to do it a few days before Christmas, which is a time when many people turn to their church, is nothing short of disgusting.
“I know this incident will cause a lot of upset locally but I want to reassure the people of Bury that we are treating this as a priority and we are liaising closely with the GMFRS to establish exactly what has happened to cause the fire.
“However, we still need the public’s help to find those responsible. If you believe that you can help us find them then please contact the police as a matter of urgency. We simply cannot tolerate this kind of behaviour.”
Anybody with information should contact police on 0161 856 8172 or the independent charity Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.