Faith-based organisations have a long, complex and sometimes antagonistic relationship to the financial sector. Many faiths – Islam especially – have their own distinctive tradition of financial practice, and a long history of supporting alternative financial systems. Recent years have seen prominent campaigns on issues such as the expansion of payday lenders and the living wage. Some – most notably the Archbishop of Canterbury in 2013 – have even suggested that churches and other religious institutions could play a role in the provision of financial products and support via credit unions and other forms of microfinance or debt counselling. But how effective can such activities be, given the level of resources in faith communities?
This collection of articles addresses contemporary dates about the influence of faith based-organisations on the financial sector, and includes contributions from theologians, social researchers, community activists and those with a background in finance.
In the first article, The realism of faith and the fantasies of finance, Luke Bretherton of Duke University offers a theological critique of the financial sector, arguing that modern financial systems radically deny the interconnectedness of human life.
This is followed by an article by the social researcher Elaine Housby, who draws on her research into Islamic finance to ask if that tradition could revivify the tradition of responsible lending in Britain: Islamic finance has something to teach us all and may have more freedom to flourish here in the UK.
Finally, two further articles are included from the Contextual Theology Centre’s report God and the Moneylenders, one by Selina Stone and Tom Chigbo on the Just Money campaign, and another by Philip Krinks on Challenging unjust lending through social enterprise.
In addition, as part of this series a debate from Public Spirit’s launch event in October 2013 on the question: ‘Can public faith help rebuild the link between morality and markets?’ is being made publicly available for the first time. This includes:
- Jon Cruddas MP on the influence of faith communities on Labour policy, suggesting that: “Faith communities are creating policy from the ground up”
- Liz Carnelley (Church Urban Fund) on the work of Near Neighbours: who focused on “Challenging the culture of acquisition”
- Francis Davis (Cathedral Innovation Centre) on Wonga, credit Unions and social entrepreneurship: who argued that “To challenge payday lenders, we need to focus on the details”
- Tarek El Diwany (Kreatoc Zest Limited) on the challenge of the ‘MBA consensus’, whose address pointed out: “If I have to share the losses, I don’t just pile into sub-prime”
Shenaz Bunglawala provides reflections on the 9th World Islamic Economic Forum. The ninth WIEF tapped into the new breed of ‘halal consumers’, but she asks will it help to remoralise finance?