…for many people in Britain the brutal question of money is becoming impossible to ignore, particularly if you have run clean out of it. Yet only someone who is truly confident around cash flows and interest rates would dare to pledge, as the Archbishop did last week, that the Church of England will back a chain of non-profit credit unions that would one day “compete” payday lenders such as Wonga out of business.
No good intention goes unpunished: just a day after that splendidly hopeful promise came the revelation that the Church of England’s pension fund itself had invested in Accel Partners, one of Wonga’s key financial backers. This was, I think, supposed to be the point at which the Archbishop was caught pitching a large stone from the door of a glass cathedral, but it somehow didn’t turn out that way. On Radio 4’s Today programme on Friday morning he openly admitted that the revelation was “very embarrassing”, and indicated that he would re-examine the Church’s decisions about its investments.
At the same time, he explained how morally complicated such choices could sometimes be: should an investment in a hotel chain, for example, be wholly disallowed simply because, like most hotels, they offered pay-per-view pornography? By the end of the interview, there was the sense that the unruffled Archbishop had treated his audience like adults.
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