Church takes bitcoins

14 February 2014

AP

A CHURCH in London is believed to be the first to accept donations made in the digital currency Bitcoin (News, 31 January).

Donors use their smartphones to scan the QR Code - a black-and-white chequered square - on posters outside St Martin's, in Gospel Oak, Camden, and on its website, to make a virtual payment. The bitcoins can be converted to real money at online exchanges.

The Priest-in-Charge of St Martin's, the Revd Christopher Brice, said: "This represents the church being in touch with developments in the world. The area around us is in the midst of a major regeneration, and our beautiful Grade I church tower is in the midst of a major restoration. So we are regenerating for the 21st century, like everybody else.

"We need significant sums of money to complete our tower, and £60,000 to £80,000 to re-do the hall, where we have homeless people sleeping. We hope this will be another way of bringing money in."

Bitcoin was invented in 2009 by an unknown web developer. No central bank controls it, and its value can fluctuate wildly: last year, one bitcoin equalled $900. It works anonymously, which has led to suggestions that it supports illegal activities such as drug-dealing.

The scheme at St Martin's was devised by Andrew Harrison, a member of the congregation and a former computer programmer who is now a surgeon.

"Part of Bitcoin's appeal is that no one knows who is donating, only God knows," he said.

A Church House spokesman said that they were unaware of any other church using bitcoins.

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