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The Easter Sermon by the Archbishop of Canterbury about leading by example (particularly in the economic downturn) reminded me of someone I met last weekend whilst doing the BBC 1’s Big Questions in Canterbury.
The programme was looking at Second Homes and how they often lie unused for large parts of the year, destroying communities by pushing up house prices and splitting up extended families who can't afford to live there. People who own Second Homes also don’t tend to use local schools, shop locally or use local infrastructure (whereas people who lived there more permanently would) which also has a significant detrimental effect.
Rowan Williams suggested yesterday that our present day fascination with monastic life is a sign that people may be looking to live a more meaningful life of sharing in the face of a culture of greed and acquisitiveness - rather than each of us aquiring and comsuming what we like for our own exclusive benefit.
After the Big Questions in Cambridge I hade a great chat with the founder of Yours2Share, Sophie Garrett. Yours2Share is a website which matches like-minded people who want to share valuable assets, and allows people to make better use of their resources. It makes environmental sense, economic sense, but also is in tune with what Noel Moules at our partner Workshop has called the "sharingness" of Christianity, as demonstrated for example by some early Christians who pooled their resources, and various Christian communities down the ages (some branded heretical) including some monastic communities.
Sophie Garrett has also blogged about a little experiment I have been doing in South London for the last 7 or so years with my family. We have been trying to live a “greater sense of sharingness” in our own small way. You can read what she has written here: http://www.yours2share.com/blog/?p=258 There are thousands of people experimenting in ways like this up and down the country.
It's great to hear the Archbishop talking in these terms, but it is also a shame that the Church of England doesn't invest much (any?) of its £5 billion in wealth in promoting and supporting new ideas and creativity in this area. If it did - in different forms of co-operative life, housing associations, mutual societies, credit unions, etc... it could be part of a small social revolution. It would also mean that it would lead by example for a change as the Archbishop suggests it should.
Instead it remains wedded to models of investment which buy (literally) into the values which the Archbishop is talking about challenging. It invests in the big oil companies, in the big banks, and in the large mining companies (whose practices have been roundly condemned by church and human rights groups). It also has a large stake in the largest listed hedge fund (Man Group) and has pursued a programme of short-selling sterling. The Church's stated aim in this is excess profit - 5% above and beyond the rate of inflation. The irony is of course, that if it had been investing creatively and pioneering new models, it might have returned a significantly better balance sheet over the last couple of years than it will have done by pursuing its primarily profit driven strategy, which has consistently (like most other people) looked for a return way beyond any reasonable measure of sustainable economic growth.Tweet
Ekklesia analyses the investment and finance policies of the churches, particularly the dislocation of financial decision making from integral mission and economic justice, proposing more integrated alternatives. Related report:
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