Church's 'War on Wonga' 5 years on

Wed 11 Jul 2018
By Cara Bentley

The 'War on Wonga' started five years ago when the Archbishop of Canterbury set a challenge for the Church to compete payday loan companies out of business.

In 2012, £3.7 billion worth of loans were borrowed. Loan companies were heavily criticised for not doing proper credit checks and lending to people who were unable to pay back the money, especially once the extortionate interest rates were added on.

Archbishop Justin said the Church should support the growth of credit unions, who are like banks but exist to serve members and are not-for-profit.

Last night at St Paul's Church in Hammersmith church leaders, debt counsellors and business owners reviewed how well the Church had done at changing the banking system and what ideas could be implemented further to increase financial equality.

The Rt Rev Graham Tomlin, the Bishop of Kensington, provided theological grounding to the evening by explaining how the Old Testament condemns usury and described how God's character of grace should influence how we think about wealth.

"If we really believe in a God of liberality and generosity who gives us everything we need then we have the freedom not to grab everything - not to have to get the highest interest rate we possibly can," he said.

When asked how Christians could apply this principle he said: "Many churches have got involved in sponsoring credit unions. Credit unions are often a really good way to do it because they encourage a kind of relationship between the borrower and the lender... they often make decisions based on individual need rather than some abstract credit score from somewhere else."

Listen to the full report of the event here:

Explaining how credit unions work, Anna Jones, a Christian who is on the board of directors for the London Community Credit Union said: "We're a kind of bank where our share-holders are our members…so that means you don't get interest on your savings but at the end of the year when we're profitable you get a dividend."

Jones called on Christians who are planning to take out a loan to consider taking one from a credit union instead of a high street bank as credit unions do not make money off people's debt.
Other ways of fighting poverty were discussed with Tim Thorlby, the founder of the ethical cleaning company Clean For Good said: "The widespread adoption of the London living wage would be the biggest attack on poverty since the welfare state."

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