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Peter Challen challenges us to be more aware of how global financial injustice affects our ability to be agents of God’s mission. Our behaviour is the true test of the authenticity of our mission message and that behaviour is expressed in all the three dimensions of the intimate, the corporate and the global.

‘Each and every one of us who has worked with a true missioner, studied with, or been admitted to friendship has the privilege of finding ourselves in a demanding and testing relationship of utter seriousness with one for whom God is most certainly a refining fire – and the heat was often tangible!’

Those words of tribute to a missioner set the tone of my challenge to consider a mission that is at once intimate, corporate and global; and where each of these dimensions is understood and responded too in our personal capacity. Authentic mission today demands that we share visions of what the reigning of God in all creation means to us and how it affects our behaviour in all these three dimensions of reality. That is a consideration of ‘utter seriousness’. It seems as though the western world has let faith drift towards ‘common decency’ within the unchallenged prevailing system of economic behaviour, to the neglect of prophetic insight and application. And as the tension and new necessity for collaboration between Europe and the Middle East grows ever more urgent, it is imperative that we reconsider the church’s neglect of economics.

Archbishop Rowan Williams recently suggested to the CTBI (Churches Together in Britain and Ireland) that it was helpful to think of God as a therapist, enabling us to move from a state of confusion to resolution. He called for ‘therapy for the sane’. Thus philosophical counsellors, theological auditors, jobbing theologians, therapists and missioners, all need to take account of the wholeness of life and the indivisible relationship of our lives to the life of the earth itself. Profound explorations of this theological stance are to be found, for instance, in Anne Primavaesi’s Sacred Gaia – Holistic Theology and Earth System Science and in Mary Grey’s Sacred Longings: The Ecological Spirit and Global Culture . Both these works challenge us to develop eco-humility in our relationships to all the dimensions of reality. More recently the theologian Ulrich Duchrow and economist Franz Hinkelammert have asked similar questions in Property for People, Not for Profit: Alternatives to the Global Tyranny of Capital . This book contains a final chapter that asks the question in ‘utter seriousness’, as to whether the church is an errant church or a confessing church; offering twelve demands (p. 220) that we must be seen to be making, and making possible, if we are true to the God who so loved the world that ...

The limits of growth
Ever since the coining of the phrase ‘the limits to growth’ it has been borne in upon us that the pattern of exponential growth within a finite context results in crashes (crashes of whatever thing was in exponential growth mode). On just one day, November 17 2004, the Financial Times carried eleven articles that indicated dangers accruing to people and to planet because of structural faults in a variety of economic structural issues e.g. land distribution, money supply and the immunity of corporations from accountability for their ‘externalities’, (the euphemism for costs imposed on society and the carrying capacity of earth). These are signs of ‘structural sin’. If we are faithfully to share in a vision of the Kingdom of God we need to move from a consumerist society to one of healthy and prosperous frugality. Mission is a process of helping humanity wherever they are, to make a paradigm shift, to become complicit in the kingdom of God, not in the god of the market, often experienced as the god of money.

Participating recently in an annual review of a group of people deeply committed to ‘mission sharing’, I was struck by how we found ourselves conversing almost entirely in terms of the intimate responses of individuals in specific and particular situations. There was hardly any reference to the structures of society that were imposing massive constraints on the dignity, creativity and mutuality of their communities. The impression gained was that our faith enabled us to endure the present society, but scarcely to challenge it by our behaviour or by offering a stern – but gentle – critique.

To escape such narrowness of approach requires a larger perspective. In August 2003, in the middle of all the anxieties about climate change triggered by unprecedented temperatures, George Monbiot wrote in the Guardian that ‘We live in a dream world’, in which ‘the superficial world of our reason’ is constantly overtaken and frustrated by the deep, unspoken assumptions that really shape our responses to the world around, those assumptions that make us project ‘our future lives as repeated instances of the present’. If we lived rationally, we should be taking instant action about those features of our present life, which are making the human future more and more precarious. Since Monbiot wrote, the World Health Organisation has estimated that deaths from heat exhaustion (already 20,000 in 2003 in Europe) will double within a decade. No wonder he says that ‘The future has been laid out before us, but the deep eye with which we place ourselves on Earth will not see it’ (Guardian, August 12, 2003).

As an example of the kind of thing I am thinking about, is the following comment made by a friend on his return from a visit to Jamaica, having recently read an erudite book by an Islamic scholar, The Problem with Interest .
‘Solving the problem created by the creation of all credit and money by private commercial banks as interest bearing debt is absolutely fundamental to the global systemic problems and at the root of the financial free market/ unfair trading system that the world and we suffer from – e.g. the plight of the Channel Tunnel; the work work-more-more-hurry-hurry-worry-worry ethic; the lack of balance; the stress; the materialistic consumer slavery we unwittingly endure; the awful effect on the "third world” which in my view is still colonised and exploited by the US and EU; the terrible indebtedness and interest burden of countries like Jamaica which pay 60% of their meagre GDP in interest payments while their health and education services decline absolutely; violence, corruption and crime both individual and large scale grow; the gap between haves and have-nots enlarges; and the university yin Jamaica suffers 25% cuts in this year and more to come. Globalisation under Finance Capitalism basically does not serve humanity and mainly makes just a few people very rich and powerful.’

Three Gear Mission
To understand the need for a proper depth of vision to which Monbiot refers, which I wish to contend is a gift required of the contemporary missioner, let me take you back to the toughest consignment I was ever given. It happened while I was an industrial chaplain exploring the relevance of faith to the economic ordering of our lives. To survive the rigours of being a jobbing theologian on a nine-month senior management course at the London Business School some years ago, I had to invent some rhetoric which would authenticate my presence in a course dedicated to the pursuit of business. I claimed that I had a faith that was pertinent everywhere – God so loved the world... The fact that in each new situation I could not pre-emptively know how that pertinence was to be expressed, simply meant that I had to explore its relevance at one and the same time in the intimate exchanges of our daily dialogue, in the corporate intricacies which were the focus of our highly technical studies, and in the sustaining of the stability of the planet’s amazing carrying capacity – that God sent his only Son, to the end that all that believe in should not perish but have eternal life…

Trying, in that specific situation, to be ‘in Christ’ in the midst of that exacting course meant that I needed, (increasingly with the help of the others as my rhetoric caught their attention) to oscillate constantly between the three dimensions of the intimate, the corporate and the global. It required checking each against the other in terms of the vision we had for the people and the businesses we served. After several months we began to describe this exercise in the relevance of applied faith as our Three Gear Mission. It became a shared task, a sharing of visions of wholeness expressed in specific ways related to the economic order.

It was the significant absence of serious appraisal of the corporate structures and the global dangers, which worried me in that review by ‘mission sharers’ referred to above. Why? Because my intense year at the London Business School and my 30 years of engaging with the world of economics since, have daily reminded me that loving the world for God’s sake, requires profound questioning of our own and other people’s behaviour in relation to the structures of society as well as in each individual’s personal relationships with one another, always with an eye to the stability of our delicate planet and its rich bio-diversity.

My life in mission has taught me that three issues lie at the root of our economic order, 1. Land and absolute property rights; 2. Money creation by private banks; 3. Corporate law. Each requires theological appraisal and personal challenge if there is any hope of our being agents of God’s transforming purposes of inclusive structured justice which is in turn the basis of peace. Yet very little attention is given to these expressions of our human life in European and other western church congregations. Thus the severity of the challenge by Ulrich Duchrow.

Attending to mission
Mission begins with attention and presence. In any situation attended to there is an uncovering of truth that takes precedence over the application of technique. Whenever we attend a situation there are intimate, corporate and global dimensions to that situation and each has to be related to the other in a truly covenantal economy. Events for which we are responsible can be planned with careful attention to ways in which the great sweep of the biblical proclamation might be able to illuminate issues in contemporary society as a clue to the on-going activity of God’s self-disclosure. And witnessing to this activity of God is the fundamental understanding of mission. Above I referred to the root issues of land, money and corporate law. For the rest of this article I focus on money.

The deliberations on mission in the body of which I am currently the Chair, The Christian Council for Monetary Justice began in Scotland in the late 1950s with the work of the Congregational Union of Scotland (CUS) and its Christian Doctrine of Wealth Committee. The first report, often called the Dundee Report, was presented to the CUS Assembly in Dundee, May 1962. It aroused much public interest, was reprinted several times, and finally emerged with the title Money – A Christian View, with an enthusiastic foreword by the Very Rev George McLeod DD (founder of the Iona Community). The second report of the Christian Doctrine of Wealth Committee appeared in 1964 and reaffirmed the findings of the first report in the light of comments received from academics, economists and churchmen. The second report was lost in committee, was never adopted by the CUS, and was not widely published.

However the two key findings of this second report were:
1. That the existing system impedes the development, production and distribution of wealth (God’s providence). In the face of vast human need this fact calls for Christian protest and demand for reform.
2. The monopoly of credit issuance held by the banking system is indefensible and justifies the term ‘fraudulent’ (without personal implications).

Recently the 2004 AGM of CCMJ endorsed the following statement of belief as regards matters of Monetary Justice: ‘We believe that:
• Money for Industry and commerce should be issued by elected national and possibly in some instances local government only, in amount appropriate to the goods and productive capacity which it represents.
• Such money should be interest-free but for genuine cost of administration.
• Bank loans should be limited to the actual assets held by banks, i.e., the present practice of banks lending; say ten times their holdings should end.
• The National Debt, and local council debts, and many debts of firms and of persons are “phoney” to the degree that they relate to money created as above out of nothing by institutions which have gathered a private monopoly of credit creation.
• If the banks have a monopoly of credit-creation and want more back than they create, in consequence of charging interest, they ask the impossible so that the public “debt” grows continually.
• The computerised “Global Money-Market” has acquired a momentum of its own, yet it is irrational and is damaging to the poorer nations that it exploits on our behalf. CCMJ contends there are strong philosophical and theological reasons why profit from credit creation rightly goes to the community that gives it value, and the quantity of credit in circulation is controlled statistically (rather than either politically or for the sake of profit) to prevent either inflation or deflation and stagnation. The nation’s money supply needs to be state-created interest free in order to generate productive capacity.’

Steps for Justice
In the book Seven Steps to Justice which I co-authored with Rodney Shakespeare in 2002, we state: There is an urgent need for such a reformed monetary system which addresses poverty and rich-poor divisions and…
• focuses on the real, productive, economy
• protects the environment
• enables societies and nations to control their own destiny
• ends the exponential increase in debt now threatening to engulf the world
• ends usury (interest).

At present, most new money (in the West, 97%; plus 3% coins and notes) is fiat electronic money created by the banking system and issued as interest-bearing loans. Such money has an essentially fraudulent origin, tends to be inflationary, and can double or treble the cost of capital investment.

As an alternative however, rather than the banking system issuing interest-bearing loans, a State’s central bank could issue interest-free loans if the loans are used for public capital investment or used for private capital investment which creates new owners of capital. These uses would back the currency with assets, break the grip of usury, and be patently non-inflationary. We believe that all people of good faith will welcome the benefits including:
• two basic incomes for all
• capital ownership for all
• support for small business
• a strengthened social infrastructure
• a deepening of democracy
• an improvement in the economic position of women

While people of various faiths may differ on the implications for democracy and women, the ‘Seven Steps’ proposal can form the basis of a global push for justice.

Seven Steps to Justice has led CCMJ into profound discussions with Islamic scholars and bankers, who are moved to find Christians tackling monetary reform with ‘utter seriousness’ .This is because it takes seriously the Islamic prohibition on usury. The prohibition of usury is a feature of the ancient wisdom of all great faiths, though sadly profoundly neglected in contemporary deliberations on the faults in our globalised economic practices.
In a recent edition of Radical Economics, the journal of the New Economics Foundation, there was on every page a box marked Now Your Turn, indicating that all the stimulating words about the possibilities of effective change are as nothing if they do not instil witness in appropriate local behaviour commensurate with the convictions we hold. It also reminds us that those with a mission are to heed the wisdom attributed to St Francis, ‘By all means preach the gospel all the time... and sometimes use words.’ Our behaviour is the true test of the authenticity of our mission message and that behaviour is expressed in all the three dimensions of the intimate, the corporate and the global. All the pastoral attention we may seek to give wherever we witness or minister becomes only a palliative or an amelioration, if we do not also raise the prophetic challenge of the covenantal economy that reflects the kingdom of God.

It helps occasionally to drop the ‘g’ from kingdom. Kin-dom suggests the increasing understanding of the interdependence of all aspects of the earthly biosphere, and affirms with ‘utter seriousness’ our mutuality, with its corollary of reciprocity, in all our sharing of our visions of God and God’s purposes for us as stewards of sustainability. This is required of us by a God of Grace, that in all things intimate, corporate and global we seek human dignity for all and an ever-deepening understanding of the delicacy of the carrying capacities of planet earth. For ‘none of us can be fully human until all are human’, and that is only possible by tackling structured sin, as a theological necessity, rather than as a moral judgement.

I would be glad to follow up the implications of this article with any who care to contact me: or 020-720- 0509
Peter Challen: March 2005


1. Anne Primavesi, Sacred Gaia: Holistic Theology and Earth System Science, Routledge 2000
2. Mary Grey, Sacred Longings: Ecofeminist Theology and Globalisation, SCM 2003.
3. Ulrich Duchrow and Franz Hinkelammert Property for People, Not for Profit: Alternatives to the Global Tyranny of Capital, Zed books, 20043
4. Tarek El-Diwany, The Problem with Interest, Kreatoc, 2004
5. Rodney Shakespeare and Peter Challen, Seven Steps to Justice, New European Publications, 2002.


About the author
Canon Peter Challen was for many years Senior Chaplain of the South London Industrial Mission. He is Chair of the Christian Council for Monetary Justice.

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