New research from the Church Urban Fund has revealed a high level of active support from churchgoers for credit unions, following strong backing for them from Archbishop of Canterbury Just Welby.
The research indicates many of those that attend church on a regular basis agree that churches should actively support such alternative finance initiatives, in order to strengthen alternatives to payday loans.
More than four in five of those surveyed agreed that payday loans exploit people without access to cheaper forms of credit and almost half believed that churches should raise awareness of credit unions in their local communities, allow them to use church premises, and encourage church members to volunteer their professional skills.
The Chair of the Church Urban fund, the Rev Paul Hackwood, commented: "The establishment of credit unions in churches is a great example of the kind of social action that is seen to be at the heart of the Christian faith. As one focus group participant put it, 'Here's a practical way of supporting the poor and that's what Jesus wanted us to do'."
The research also identified the steps that need to be taken to significantly increase membership of credit unions among churchgoers, to develop a better alternative to payday loans.
It recommends that future communications should explain to active Christians both the need for them to join a credit union and the benefit to them of doing so.
Churchgoers should be encouraged to help credit unions become more attractive to a range of potential members, says Church Urban Fund.
The church should work with partners to develop a network of peer influencers trained to answer people's questions, share case studies about how credit unions can help and give advice on practical ways in which churchgoers can support locally, says the agency.
These recommendations will contribute to the development of a strategy to significantly increase membership of credit unions amongst churchgoers, the Church of England said in a press release at the end of last week.
The issue will be discussed at the General Synod of the Church of England in February.
The Church of Scotland, which is Prebyterian and one of the two largest Christian traditions north of the border, is also involved in promoting credit unions.
The Church Urban Fund "is about churches and Christians working together to tackle poverty in England, to transform the lives of the poorest and most marginalised. We are the Church of England’s poverty charity and work through local diocesan partnerships of churches and others (the Together Network) to uniquely tackle poverty at local community level."
* The full Church Urban Fund (CUF) report and executive summary can be found at: www.cuf.org.uk/money-speaks
* CUF: http://www.cuf.org.uk/