The Archbishop of Canterbury’s recent pronouncement that he wanted to see payday lenders such as Wonga put out of business should be cheered to the rafters. At last we have one Christian leader who is an exception. Why ?....... because he is prepared to take a public stand for the values of the Gospel.
We should not allow the fact that his church’s investment arm had previously invested a small amount of its funds in one of Wonga’s backers, detract from the potential benefits of his plan.
Interviewed by Total Politics magazine, the Archbishop said: “I’ve met the head of Wonga and we had a very good conversation and I said to him quite bluntly ‘we’re not in the business of trying to legislate you out of existence, we’re trying to compete you out of existence.’ He’s a businessman, he took that well..........
We’ve got to have credit unions that are both engaged in their communities and much more professional, and the third thing is people have got to know about them. It’s a decade-long process.
We’re putting our money where our mouth is, we’re starting a Church of England staff credit union. You’ve got to have a corporate interest body to identify who’s members of the credit union. We’re starting one of those so we’re actually getting involved ourselves. We’re working steadily with the main trade bodies for the credit unions.”
The Archbishop wants the Church to open up its network of 15,000 church premises to existing credit unions and offer volunteers to assist with their promotion and operation. A former business executive who has been fiercely critical of the banking industry, the Archbishop wants to help expand the credit union movement as an ethical alternative to an industry which many ordinary Christians consider to be morally bankrupt.
The Revd Dr Peter Mullen, writing on the Archbishop Cranmer blog has hailed Archbishop Welby for his plain speaking: “We should be thankful for that we have for Archbishop no Regius Professor of Obfuscation but a man who speaks as we speak in the street.”
Dr Mullen is right. Justin Welby by speaking plainly about the issues that really matter to ordinary people might just have found a way of helping the church reconnect with society.
Christian leaders at local level could take a leaf out of Welby’s book if they really want to be taken seriously by ordinary people. Plain speaking in the public square works. After all, that’s what Jesus did.