An article for a 2005 edition of the USPG's 'Theological
Reflections', under the title, 'Rethinking Mission.'
MISSION, MAMMON AND MONEY
'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
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
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
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
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
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"
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
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 - email@example.com
- or 020 7207 0509 - Peter Challen
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