The Church Of England Takes The Unprecedented Step Of Opening A Credit Union

The Church of England launched its own credit union this week, with two objectives in mind: to create a trustworthy place for Britons to bank and to help lift people out of poverty.

The foundation of the Churches' Mutual Credit Union is part of the Archbishop of Canterbury's drive to promote access to responsible credit and savings.

"It could transform the way retail finance is done in this country," Archbishop [Justin] Welby said, adding that it will put an ethical basis back into the industry and help forge community links back into the sector.

The credit union was launched by leaders of member churches with a video of a ship being launched in the background, emotive music and the slogan: "God bless the CMCU and all who save with her."

It is currently open to about 60,000 church workers, charities, clergy and volunteers such as church wardens and members of the parochial church council, but will eventually be rolled out to every church member in the country. This could be more than one million people in the Church of England alone, with many hundreds of thousands more in the ecumenical partner churches; the Methodists, Church of Scotland, Scottish Episcopal Church and Church in Wales.

Welby is the first archbishop to come from a financial background, and he refers to the unprecedented launch as "putting our money where our mouth is" to both fight poverty and hold up high ethical standards for the financial marketplace.

Rather than preaching at the problem, the Church is becoming part of the solution.

"Credit unions are essential. We are trying to build a new financial sector in this country," the Archbishop added. The new credit union was a "major step" in this direction, he said.

Canon Antony MacRow-Wood, president of the new credit union, said: "Of immediate interest to many, especially ordained ministers, will be our plans to provide a competitive car loan scheme (APR 5.54%). The Church forms an obvious community with many shared interests and as such it has a natural fit with the idea of a credit union. The recycling of capital within the community, not least for mission, will be of benefit to all."

Rev Ken Howcroft, president of the Methodist Conference, said: "The gap between rich and poor seems to be widening and leaving people without the resources to do new things, or even pushing them into crippling debt. When we recognise your interdependence we can share our resources to help each of us meet our needs."

CMCU treads much of the same ground as American faith-based credit unions like America's Christian Credit Union and Christian Community Credit Union, but it may well be the first credit union run directly by a church. Its success or failure should make for an interesting story in the years to come.

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Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock / yurchello108