Friday, September 26, 2008


When Ekklesia pointed out yesterday lunchtime that the Church of England's finance managers had been involved in the very speculative short-selling the archbishops had just roundly condemned, we didn't immediately realise how big the story would go. (See the news overview here and the Google news trail here.) After all, the main focus is on the world credit crisis and its domestic impact, the 'global impacts local' angle. Unsurprisingly, the media picked up on the 'negative' angle: "church accused", "hypocrisy", etc. But while the tendency of Christians to preach virtue to others while not examining their own behaviour too carefully remains a problem in this and other areas, the real issue is that this presents a positive opportunity to look at the "global economy of the churches", the alternative values we can and should be enacting, and the contribution this could make to necessary larger arguments about the reform of regulative financial systems, the operation of markets, and so on.

This is a profoundly theological issue, because, as Jesus is recorded in the Gospels as having pointed out: "Where your treasure lies, there lies your heart also." Indeed, Rowan Williams was correct yesterday to pinpoint the issue of idolatry at the heart of the current system: the attribution of ultimate worth and value to things that are purely instrumental and should have no such claim to control our lives. Both the economic and spiritual issues are raised in the detailed paper I produced in 2005, Is God bankrupt? This was a response to an ecumenical report which tried to get the British and Irish churches to "cosy up to the market" in a way that was just as simplistic as some alleged earlier ecumenical attempts to dismiss markets completely. There's also a summary of issues and initiatives involving church and economy, called An Economy Worth Believing In.

A slightly enhanced variant of this piece is on my Ekklesia work blog here. Plus a post on Williams, Marx and 'Red Tories'.

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