The Disraeli Room

The Disraeli Room

Blog Post

Promoting Good Investment through the Church

5th August 2013

Canon Dr Angus Ritchie on ways to promote good investment through the Church

In recent weeks, the church and its investments have dominated the headlines. Archbishop Justin has spoken of his desire to harness our resources to compete loan sharks out of existence. He has also welcomed ResPublica’s new report on Holistic Mission: Social action and the The Church of England – a report which shows how much the C of E is doing to promote the common good, but also highlights how much more we could do if our resources were better stewarded.

All too often, when the church talks about “stewardship,” it is just theological code for putting money in the collection plate. But any serious reflection on Christian stewardship needs to consider the far greater proportion of resources which churchgoers retain. If you were to add up the income and wealth of all the churchgoers in England, and then throw in the capital and property owned by Christian charities and churches, this comes to many, many billions of pounds. A significant proportion of this money is not earmarked for any immediate purpose, but squirrelled away “for a rainy day”. One of my colleagues calls it “lazy money” – currently it is doing very little. But if it was harnessed wisely and effectively, it could help the Church become an even more effective force for social transformation.

Last Sunday, parishes across the Church of England reflected upon Luke 12.13-21 – a parable against wealth hoarded in pursuit of the unachievable goal of complete security. A few chapters later (in the parable of the talents), Jesus urges his hearers to use what they have imaginatively and effectively in the service of the Kingdom.

What might this look like in practice?

Earlier this year, Bishop Richard Chartres launched the London Missional Housing Bond – an opportunity for social investment which aims to make our “lazy money” fruitful and effective, using it to address one of the biggest obstacles to “holistic mission”.

The problem is simple: even in the poorest neighbourhoods of London, the cost of housing is prohibitive. A growing number of people feel called to work in these areas, but many local churches and charities cannot afford to house them.

The Missional Housing Bond offers a simple solution. Money can be invested for three to five years, and used to buy houses for missional workers. The Bond has been developed by four Christian charities. Three (the Diocese of London, Eden Network and the Contextual Theology Centre) have a strong track record of placing and managing such workers so they make a real impact, while the fourth (Affordable Christian Housing) exists to enable such workers to find homes.

So far, the response has been both encouraging and frustrating. On the plus side, we’ve received a series of five-figure investments from churches, charitable trusts, and some individual investors – but the slow processes of local churches’ money management means we are only scratching the surface. In particular, the Missional Housing Bond is well placed to appeal to for churches with ring-fenced funds that are hard to disburse. (For example, many congregations have money locked up in funds for things like furnishing and vestments, or perhaps for a new organ. They know that a good portion of it won’t be needed in the next five years. If so, that’s just the sort of “lazy money” which the Bond will put to excellent use.)

The Bible and the rich tradition of Christian Social Teaching give us a vision of wealth being stewarded to serve the common good. The church need to do much more than preach about it. If we are to demand change from others, we must also steward our wealth faithfully and effectively. We can do more than speak of “Kingdom transformation” as a nice idea or a pious aspiration. We can use our own resources to make it happen.

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