Saturday, 27 April 2013

The Confused Church: Investing in Business?

Someone once said, “Perception is Everything.”

In reading an article in this week’s Globe and Mail, I perceived a rat; a big rich religious golden rat, one that I simply cannot sit back and say nothing about. In the article the Globe and Mail reported on how the Church of England has some $12-billion worth of investments spread over approximately 2000 companies. Yes, you heard that right … $12 BILLION!

I cannot tell you how many times people have taken exception to my claims that the institutional church has become little more than a business, however when one reads stories like this, can one really come up with any other conclusion? Obviously there are always exceptions, and we really shouldn’t paint everyone with the same brush, but $12 billion … really?

The article reports that a new church policy states, “Businesses are vehicles for wealth creation, without which there can be no wealth distribution.” I struggle with that kind of logic. That’s like saying it’s good to gamble because, if you win it big, you have a greater ability to give money away to the needy. That’s like saying that it’s OK to sin, because then grace will increase all the more (Romans 6:1).

Businesses have shareholders who invest in the business because they also are interested in wealth creation, and specifically, their own wealth. If the business makes money, then the shareholder makes money. One does not invest in something without expecting some measure of return on the investment. With its $12-billion worth of investments, the Church of England is an obvious and significant shareholder interested in making money. That fact also makes it a business and not a “church” (ie., the Body of Christ). But then again, apparently I have a different definition of the word “church” than many today do.

While the article speaks primarily to how bonuses are handled among executives in the businesses in which the church has placed it’s investments, my issue has more to do with the fact a “church” should even have such disposable monies to invest in secular business in the first place. Having said that, where else but from the backs of the faithful whom it claims to serve, did it acquire such wealth? How ironic that the “church” should get rich from the poor folks that it presumably was sent to serve.

If you ask me, I think this “church” has gotten itself a little confused. What about investing the monies in people (other than bonuses of business executives)? What about investing in the poor and needy? What about investing in the homeless and unemployed? What about investing in young single mother struggling to feed her children and the elderly couple unable to pay their heating bills? What about investing in foodbanks? What about investing in drug and alcohol abuse treatment programs? What about investing in orphanages and finding ways to get child prostitutes of the streets? But, no, in the interest of getting rich, it invests in corporate business giants instead.

Am I missing something here?

Jesus said that whatever we fail to do for the “least of these” we fail to do for Him (Matthew 25:45). Now I am not suggesting that this “church” doesn’t do “something” for the poor and needy of society, but the image I have in my mind here is that of Jesus observing the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury while the poor widow gave 100%, even though it was only two small coins that she gave (Luke 21: 1-4). Imagine what they could do with a $12-billion budget/investment into the lives of the “least of these” as opposed to lining the pockets of a handful of already overpaid business executives? Hmm.

Perhaps the cure for cancer or the solution to global hunger is already here. Maybe it’s just locked away in the coffers of the Church of England, the Church of Rome, the Mormons, and other institutional churches. Maybe it’s time for the faithful to stop financially investing in the institutional church and to consider investing directly into the lives of those around them instead. Maybe investing $10 into buying a meal for a homeless man instead of putting it into an offering plate is being a little more like Jesus.

And many church leaders wonder why the world mocks them and wants nothing to do with their form of institutional pseudo-Christianity. God forgive us.

Photo Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

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