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An article for a 2005 edition of the USPG's 'Theological Reflections', under the title, 'Rethinking Mission.'


'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.

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. I suggest that global financial injustice affects our ability to be agents of God's mission.

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 17th 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.

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

My life in mission has taught me that three issues lie at the root of our economic order:
• Land and absolute property rights
• Money creation by private banks
• Corporate law.

Each requires theological appraisal and personal challenge if there is to be 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.

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.

Those with a mission should 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 7207 0509 - Peter Challen


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