What is the issue?
The need for a more structured approach to enabling worshipping communities to learn more about ethical investment has been recognised for a long time, but overcoming the barriers to achieving that knowledge and understanding has been difficult. Reasons include:
- Traditionally, the responsibility of investment selection and money/asset management has been delegated to third-party professionals;
- Engagement by shareholders with companies has been seen as too complex and time consuming for individual investors;
- More open discussion about the ethics of money and wealth ownership, and in particular the connection with religious faith, has not been encouraged within our society.
Faith communities are getting much more involved in these issues, not least at a national level when it comes to ethical investment and ‘good money’. Debate on ethical finance and its relationship to faith has become particularly intense recently following the Archbishop of Canterbury’s criticisms of Wonga and involvement in the payday loan and credit union debate, the Pope’s critique of global economic systems based on “a god called money”, and British Quakers’ recognition that continuing to invest in fossil fuels is incompatible with their faith commitment to low-carbon sustainable living. However there is not, as yet, a strong and co-ordinated grassroots involvement which ECCR is seeking to harbour and generate through development of training materials and support networks which individuals and faith communities need in order to understand and develop appropriate responses to and practical action on these issues as a vital part of their discipleship and mission.
What will the project try to achieve?
The Ethical Money Churches (EMC) project will build a community of people in UK churches who are seeking to fulfil their Christian stewardship and ownership responsibilities with regard to the money, savings and assets that are used either by them as individuals and/or on their behalf as members of church denominations. The project will harbour and generate grassroots involvement through training and development of materials and support networks to help faith communities understand the issues and develop appropriate responses and practical action as a vital part of their discipleship and mission.
A supportive and interactive relationship with the pilot communities will be developed to help them chart their own pathway to becoming an Ethical Money Church. This will also ensure that sometimes difficult and complex issues can be fully explored and appropriate responses developed as well as the learning and action to be effectively captured and lead beyond the initial project period to a much wider roll-out across the churches.
Who might be interested in the project?
A range of faith communities and denominations are expected to be interested. Interest has been expressed by some Quaker local and area meetings and the St. Pauls Institute has committed to including an EMC module in their clergy training day – “No Longer ‘Intimidated by Expertise’ – The Church and Finance”. A number of Anglican churches and a cathedral have expressed an interest in participating. The project has been discussed with the Church of Scotland who will be promoting it amongst their church networks and opportunities with the Church in Wales are being explored. The project will be promoted at the annual conference of the Roman Catholic National Justice & Peace Network, an ECCR member, and opportunities through the ECCR membership and regional groups about engaging with the different denominations are being explored. A key initial step, and potentially effective promotional tool, has been the launch of the ‘your faith your finance’ (YFYF) website during National Ethical Investment Week (October 2013) which is a web-based resource and reference for those who wish to understand more about the context of their faith in relation to their finances.
Please note that this project was funded under our broader Right Use of Money theme rather than as a Resilient Economies project.