Christian Socialists to debate role of Church in financial sector

By staff writers
May 6, 2009

Tomorrow, a bishop and a member of Parliament are to debate the values which underpin the financial sector and the role of the Church in changing it.

The Bishop of Hulme, Stephen Lowe and John McFall MP are taking part in the annual Tawney Dialogue on Thursday 7 May with the theme: ‘Rewiring the global economy – can the church provide the spark?’

Their initial contributions have been published on the Christian Socialist Movement’s (CSM) website (

A number of bishops have criticised the financial sector for their ‘greed’, with the Archbishop of York branding some city traders ‘bank robbers’.

Over Christmas last year, several bishops, including Bishop Lowe, made challenging comments about government policy and about the values that led to the current problems.

However, others have pointed out that the Church of England engages in many of the financial practices that the bishops have condemned. Its £5 billion investment portfolio includes the largest listed hedge fund, Man Group, many large banks, oil companies and mining companies recently condemned for their human rights abuses and environmental devastation. The Church also set up a currency hedging programme to short sell sterling. Its primary aim is make a profit from its investments of five per cent above the rate of inflation.

The Church has also resisted calls to invest in any significant way in creative alternatives such as micro finance, credit unions, co-operatives and housing associations.

Bishop Lowe argues that global banking has seen financial transactions far removed from the places where the liabilities are situated. "We have lost banks committed to the regeneration of their local neighbourhoods where the manager has some real charitable and investment resources…Better regulated, better connected local banking with relationship as a key pillar of the system needs to be our financial future.”

John McFall MP agrees that relationships are important for markets:. "Commonly-held values underpin trust and it was the breakdown of trust at the heart of market relationships, which nearly caused the collapse of our financial system. That is why I have been calling for more transparency from both the government and the banks about the way we are rescuing City institutions" he sayd.

Calling for a ‘fresh appreciation of the common good’, McFall, who is chair of the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, said: "We all need to cherish the fact that we are together members of one society and this must apply to the financial sector too."

Mr McFall is encouraging the Church to think through its message. “Just as we on the Treasury Committee have gone behind the headlines to understand what is really happening, so must the Church.”

Andy Flannagan, the Director of CSM, said: “Before the G20 summit, Gordon Brown and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd called for the global economy to be based on moral values. Our Tawney Dialogue is one of the ways CSM is exploring just what those values should be and how we can apply them to our economy and financial system.”

the Annual Tawney Dialogue on Thursday 7 May 2009 between 6:15pm and 8:00pm in the Atlee Suite, Portcullis House, Westminster

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