A report from the recent Industrial Mission Association (IMA) conference.
‘Trust’ was a recurring narrative of the conference: Trust as a measuring stick for the Economy and for what Chaplaincy has to offer. The breakdown in trust was a large part of the need for failing banks in 2010 to be bailed out by the Government: the banks did not trust each other. The frightening fluctuations in the economy and the growing rich-poor divide bring us instability and fear. With stories of employers abusing ‘zero hour’ contracts, mis-selling products, avoiding taxes and bosses being rewarded for failure, even the CBI admitted to the conference that there is a major problem of ‘Trust in Business’.
We are told that to effect change we need different mind-sets and a new narrative – one key word in which should be Trust – and new power-bases. “Life is not a Lottery: we have the power to change”. The New Economics Foundation sees the church, and its chaplains as having a role in this. Chaplains are witnesses who are sent “to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8), Rev Phil Jump (Chair of Industrial Christian Fellowship) reminded us, and through their performance of trust they provide the environment for people and organisations to move on from Experience, to enable them to Express, Explore and Explain how things really can be better.
Paul’s Body imagery (1 Corinthians 12) reminds us that all parts of the body need nourishing – even the least ‘honourable’ parts, like the foot or the ear. The economy should work in such a way that no-one is humiliated. There is ‘trust’ in the way that all the body parts work together.
The 40 voluntary and paid chaplains also shared their current experiences of chaplaincy and organisational structures across the UK. Volunteers agreed to take on new roles for the National organisation – Industrial Mission Association – to develop Training programmes and Communications; and the IMA agreed to pay for a national development officer to spend a few hours per week progressing the opportunities facing the movement.
The invited speakers included John Ellis who is the Moderator of the General Assembly for the Unite Reformed Church, and previously worked for the Bank of England. He described how one major multinational business had approached the national churches to help reform their ethics: the business had sought assistance from a number of consultants and organisations, but thought the churches were the best people to help them make a right difference to their organisation.
Bishop Peter Selby, Co-director of St Paul’s Institute, spoke of his worries of the power that money has in the modern economy. “Banks have become almost Imperial in their reach and their power: they have sovereign powers to create money”. “97% of money now in circulation is leveraged and created by banks; this means that economic instability is a mathematical certainty.” The result of instability is fear; and fear leads to idolatry (eg of money). “Life is not a gamble: Trust in God is not a gamble.” Rev Phil Jump reminded us of Colossians 2:14-15: Christ has defeated the powers and principalities – but Jesus experience shows us that we have to be vulnerable and full of trust.