Connecting Church and the Post-Covid Economy
BCUIM’s strapline is “Connecting Church and the Economy”. With our chaplains, our involvement with the Black Country Chamber of Commerce and contacts with business groups, we are there alongside the people who make the economy work. The churches we represent are integral to their communities, and include many people whose voices are seldom heard, but who participate in the economy as they earn and spend money, receive pensions and benefits or look for work. We are shaped by our understanding of a God who “has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty” (Luke 1: 53) and a gospel message which began as a proclamation of “good news to the poor.” (Luke 4: 18)
We are thus well placed, with other industrial mission groups, to bring a particular, and possibly unique, perspective to shaping the economy which may emerge in the “new normal.” We share in the aims of the letter sent by Workplace Chaplaincy Mission UK to denominational leaders around the country (“Workplace Chaplaincy and the COVID-19 pandemic” - http://www.bcuim.co.uk/application/files/2515/9213...).
Responses to the 2008 financial crisis prevented imminent collapse but failed to put us on a path toward inclusive and sustainable growth. Public and private debt have continued to grow, and those who were least to blame for the crisis bore much of its costs as the government pursued austerity policies, either by reducing benefits or cutting services. Meanwhile asset values grew and income and wealth inequalities both widened.
One welcome message from government has been that there will be no return to austerity policies. Austerity has been a beguiling but misguided approach, prompted by a simplistic perception of a need to “balance the books”, as if a sovereign nation’s economy were the same as a household budget. Time will tell whether the government has the resolve to avoid it and create an economy which is responsive to the needs of all its participants.
Without careful, deliberate and targeted action the pandemic is likely to increase poverty and inequality, further painfully exposing the precariousness of much work, and the challenges which confront the young as they seek to access the opportunities they desperately need.
However, Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director of the IMF, has written, “I believe that despite the pain and suffering that the pandemic has caused, we can aspire to transform our world. We have a once-in-a-century shot at building forward better: a world that is fairer and more equitable; greener and more sustainable; smarter and, above all, more resilient.” (Blog, “The Next Phase of the Crisis: Further Action Needed for a Resilient Recovery”, 15 July 2020).
That is a vision which we share, one which we believe is aligned with God’s kingdom purposes for his world, and one to which we will add our voice in promoting.