Christian thinkers in ‘financial capital’ urge return to basic banking

Published January 26, 2009

Calls for a return to basic banking and an economy propelled by values other than greed have been made in London, one of the world’s financial capitals, at a conference of Christian thinkers examining the current economic crisis.

“We face today a choice between a political economy based on greed and consumption and a way of life which is based on a sustainable and just relationship with our neighbour,” Rev. Bob Fyffe, general secretary of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, declared.The session was held on Jan.20 at Methodist Church House and was organized by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, an ecumenical umbrella organization that groups all the major churches in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

John Ellis, treasurer of the United Reformed Church who previously worked for the Bank of England, pointed to one major bank’s relative success in weathering the current storm. “”It is fairly safe to assert that HSBC [bank] has been the most robust during the recent economic troubles. It is also safe to assert that the chairman of HSBC is an Anglican priest. Is that a coincidence?” he asked.

Ann Pettifor, director of Operation Noah, the Christian climate change campaign, blamed usury and easy credit for the crisis.

“Six per cent interest is incredibly high and, I would say, a usurious rate. Usury is the exalting of money values over human and environmental values. Capital and globalization are based on the principle that there are no boundaries. But the problem is law needs boundaries,” said Ms. Pettifor.

Investment banker John Reynolds, who chairs the (Anglican) Church of England’s Ethical Investment and Advisory Group, advised: “Ethical pressure must be applied both on companies and stake holders at the same time.”

Paul Clifford, head of theology at Christian Aid, described the view that the economic crisis served a higher purpose as deeply offensive to poorer people who were experiencing cuts in aid. Mr. Fyffe described the conference as “an example of the practical kind of way we can work together in the future towards building a more sustainable economy.”


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