THE proposed new Churches Mutual Credit Union (CMCU) was the
subject of a presentation by Canon Antony
MacRow-Wood, Team Rector of the Poole North Ecumenical
Team, who chairs the credit union's board; and Hilary
Sams, the chief executive designate of the new
"I first had conversations about a clergy credit union in 1995 .
. . and as a result leafleted all clergy in Bristol diocese, about
200. I only had ten replies, half of which said they had no
interest in joining a trade union," Canon MacRow-Wood said.
"Clearly, the time was not right."
Work on the Anglican Mutual Credit Union began in 2012. The name
was changed in 2013, after a conversation between Archbishop Welby
and the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of
Scotland, the Rt Revd Albert Bogle, "which led to this becoming a
joint venture. . . In recognition of our covenant with the
Methodists, they were invited to join, and there is every intention
of including other denominations in due course."
Canon MacRow-Wood explained that the CMCU would initially serve
clergy and office-holders on the Churches' payrolls; and would be
opened up to "all active church members" five years after its
launch. The CMCU would "offer a number of products with competitive
rates both for savers and borrowers", Ms Sams said. "The money one
vicar invests in the credit union will enable a vicar in another
parish to drive around in a new car. The interest they pay on that
loan will enable the credit union to add to the first person's
retirement pot, and so the money goes round."
The CMCU was continuing to work towards achieving formal
authorisation. This included "having raised sufficient opening
capital, demonstrating you have sufficient skills and expertise to
run the credit union, that you have a business plan that stacks up,
and the systems and controls in place to ensure smooth operation,
coupled with appropriately qualified staff, Canon MacRow-Wood
A question-and-answer session followed.
Gavin Oldham (Oxford) asked whether there was a
rating system for credit unions, and, if so, where the CMCU would
fit into it.
The Revd Dr Meg Gilley (Durham) was concerned
about the im-pact of this new credit union competing with existing
credit unions in poor areas, such as her parish.
Julie Dziegiel (Oxford) asked what part the
CMCU would play in financial education, beyond simply encouragement
to save, and awareness of credit unions.
Canon MacRow-Wood answered that he was not aware of a rating
system for credit unions. "Building societies are not excluded from
the work of the taskforce." It was on the agenda, but was not a
priority. The school curriculum was being altered already to
include budgeting, and credit unions could reinforce that with a
practical example for children, he said. The vision for ten to 15
years was for credit unions to be an established part of the
financial sector, using their advantage of not having to pay
Ms Sams said that, when she ran a credit union, about 80 per
cent of her members were in work, and had good savings. "Everyone
can benefit from having savings, affordable credit, and financial
The Ven. Christine Hardman (Southwark) asked:
"How is the Church, through the CMCU, going to help put pressure on
the banks to make the whole thing viable?"
Canon Giles Goddard (Southwark) asked how
credit unions could help those who would normally go to payday
lenders; they often had chaotic lives, and would rarely be members
of a credit union.
Cllr Robin Lunn (Worcester) asked whether the
CMCU had reached out to financial advisers to help them change the
culture of lending and borrowing.
Canon MacRow-Wood answered that the Archbishop of Canterbury's
task force was already actively engaging with the financial sector,
which was not really a CMCU issue. Ms Sams said that it was
difficult to make credit unions offer exactly the same service as
payday lenders. Credit unions could not compete in giving small
loans, but could train people not to need short-term loans by
anticipating their expenditure.
The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian
Henderson, asked whether the Union was working with other
organisations addressing debt, particularly Christians Against
Penny Allen (Lichfield) sought an explanation
about the relationship between the Credit Union and the Williams
and Glyn's Bank.
The Dean of Southwark, the Very RevdAndrew Nunn
(Southwark), wanted to know how the Union would be
"future-proofed", so that it would not go the way of the
demutualised building societies.
Canon MacRow-Wood said that the Union was not actively in
partnership with CAP, but was "trying to set up a flagship credit
union that raises the profile of credit unions, and demonstrates
that they are for everybody". Nobody could guarantee against
demutualisation, but it was a matter of "sticking to your values
and keeping your members involved in those values."
Sue Myatt (Deaf Church Conference) asked what
would be done to ensure that the Union was acceptable to those with
The Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Revd Donald
Allister, sought reassurance that credit unions would not encourage
The Revd George Newton (Guildford) was in the
process of starting a branch of a credit union. He would love it to
have been a church credit union: "Is there any way of expanding
further so we can serve our parishioners rather than be
Responding to questions,Ms Samssaid that the union would do
everything possible to be "accessible to everyone from all walks of
Canon MacRow-Wood suggested that clergy and church employees
formed a "natural mutual society". The Union offered a way of
"managing the peaks and troughs of expenditure", and a means of
"tax-efficient saving". The plan was eventually to open the union
to all church members.
Ms Sams said that credit unions offered the "best-case scenario
for borrowing money, and taking responsibility for their