Wongagate: Let’s put our money where our mouths are
We’re pleased that the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Webly, is taking on the loan sharks at Wonga and promoting credit unions. So we were disappointed to hear that the Chuch of England is itself investing in Wonga.
The fact that the Archbishop didn’t even know about this is a reminder of how disconnected investment has become from social witness in many churches – and not only the Church of England.
It appears that CofE rules allow an investment in a company involved in payday lending, as long as this accounts for no more than 25% of its business. In the same way, the Church of England can’t invest in a company that makes more than 10% of its money from arms – but ten percent of a large company can mean millions of pounds. The percentages urgently need changing.
More importantly, we need a radical new approach to churches’ money. Rather than seeing investment as an add-on, to fund the work of churches, it must be part of churches’ social witness. What a church does with its money is at least as important as what it says about money.
So if churches choose to make investments, we’re encouraging them to put their money into projects that witness to the kingdom of God and Jesus’ example of siding with the poor. An end to all investments in arms, fossil fuels and payday lenders would be a good start. Better still, investments in credit unions, social housing, renewable energy and small, ethical businesses could benefit society and witness to a better world.
Christianity Uncut member Symon Hill called for radical ethical investment on today’s episode of The World at One on BBC Radio 4. You can click here to listen to the discussion.