Wednesday, November 02, 2011

The Unfamiliar Sound of the CofE Getting its Act Together

Update: good interview with Rowan Williams by the BBC.

The Diocese of London finally got on the front foot yesterday with this statement/action about the St. Pauls situation. Amongst other things, it notes the re-engagement of Giles Fraser in the process, and the appointment of Ken Costa to investigate reconnecting finance and ethics. Alongside came the Archbishop of Canterburys statement, which appears to endorse the 'Robin Hood tax' and speaks of the 'idolatry of high finance'.

Fraser first: good news, this enables the CofE to get one of its more media-savvy clerics back on the front line, to share duties with Pete Broadbent, Sally Hitchiner and others. It also, more importantly, may allow for the publication of the St. Pauls report into City of London ethics, which was due to be published last week until Frasers resignation. Since it was put together by an institute which he ran, it wouldn't have made sense to make it public at the time, but perhaps now it can be.

Ken Costa: most well known for his connections with Holy Trinity Brompton and the Alpha Course, Costa is also behind the excellent God at Work course/book, which seeks to help Christians reconnect faith and work in a number of practical ways. He's been quite busy of late, and his recent speech in the City of London about capitalism and morality is well worth reading, for a flavour of the kind of critique we might see more of from CofE sources:

Morality is both taught and caught. But that means it can also be forgotten and lost. Whatever the reality is, the perception is certainly that the financial world has forgotten or lost moral moorings, and there is deep public anger at this.

My feeling is that governments will not long be able to ignore or resist this anger, and will be compelled to respond to some of the more ambitious calls for intervention and regulation. And, well-intentioned as these may be, it is unlikely to be successful.

If you want a briefer version of his argument, try this piece in last weeks Financial Times. Costa is no anti-capitalist. He believes that a fundamentally capitalist economy can be redeemed, but only by recovering a sound ethical basis. I'm not sure I'm with him on that, but one step in the right direction is better than none. And, more importantly, he can make this argument in a way which makes sense to the financial and business sector, rather than in a way they can simply dismiss as a bunch of anarchists in tents.

The 'Restoring Trust in the City' initiative, which Costa was addressing, is looking at 'ethical behaviour' in the City, but to be honest it looks pretty weak. Any moral critique of mammon which doesn't mention the word 'justice', and have a pretty robust understanding of it, isn't going to float very far. We don't need codes of practice, we need justice and love in place of greed and individualism. That's where the Robin Hood tax perhaps comes in, depending on how the proceeds can be used.

By putting both Costa and Fraser into the mix, the Diocese of London looks like it's trying to have a foot in both camps (literally). Costa is a son of the City, Fraser is probably more at home on St Pauls steps than in its vestry. That could be a classic Anglican recipe for compromise, or it might actually be incredibly fruitful. Watch this space.

No comments:

Post a comment