THE next phase of a church response to payday lenders was
launched on Tuesday - a network of "Credit Champions" to promote
responsible lending and saving.
The Church Credit Champions Network (CCCN) was unveiled at St
Martin-in-the-Fields, in central London, by Sir Hector Sants, the
former investment banker and financial regulator who is leading the
Archbishop of Canterbury's taskforce on finance.
The taskforce was set up last year, after Archbishop Welby's
run-in with Wonga (News, 26
The new network will be piloted in the dioceses of London,
Southwark, and Liverpool. The object is to train clerics and
laypeople to be advocates of community finance. The network will
also encourage and fund churches to find out about their
communities' financial needs, as well as using church buildings to
host credit unions.
It will be run by the Contextual Theology Centre, in east
London, and is being funded by the Church Urban Fund.
Speaking at the event on Tuesday, Sir Hector said that it was
important to remember why Archbishop Welby had made combating
financial distress central to the Church's mission.
"Seven million people are using high-cost credit providers. The
debt of the average UK household is now almost £13,000, excluding
mortgages. Thirty-six per cent of the clients of debt counsellors
Christians Against Poverty have contemplated suicide."
The Church of England, he said, had the best "branch network" in
the country. The aims of the CCCN were to help those in financial
problems, and equip all churchgoers to borrow and save
"We hope that, in time, every diocese will have enough of these
trained volunteers and clergy to deliver help for all who seek
Another proposal being considered by Sir Hector's taskforce is
the expansion of financial education in church primary schools,
including the practical experience of opening and running an
account with a local credit union. Sir Hector said they were also
investigating whether the C of E could establish its own lending
and borrowing mechanism, perhaps using peer-to-peer online
The Bishop of Stepney, the Rt Revd Adrian Newman, who chaired
the event on Tuesday, agreed: "What churches offer is a place where
people of difference meet. Churches can offer volunteers at every
level from governance through to opening up an access point.
"In that meeting of people of difference is a lot of potential
for credit unions."
Prebendary Rosémia Brown, Vicar of St James's, Clapton, told how
her church had embraced responsible lending. "I'm totally
passionate about what people do with their money, and borrowing
responsibly. We decided to train our members to start credit-union
Churchpeople at St James's have joined credit unions, and can
tell others about them from a position of experience, Ms Brown
said. This helped people to overcome the shame of debt which they
felt, and gave them a person that they could get to know and trust,
rather than a voice on the phone.
"You don't need a Ph.D., just bags of common sense," she
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