An article in the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday detailed the concerns and reactions of the Anglican church to their significant losses in the GFC, which have led to them needing to cut back signifcant ministry positions and activities. The question was raised about why they experienced those losses – were the losses they experienced God’s judgement in some fashion, or is God testing them? Has the Anglican church become too reliant upon ‘mammon’.
Well, I’m not wanting to point the finger at the Anglican church. They like many, were caught up in the bull market and all the accompanying advice prior to the GFC. For example, back then, a company that had low borrowing (low ‘gearing’), was criticised for having a ‘lazy balance sheet’. After the GFC, companies with little or no debt were praised for not succumbing to the mentality prior to the GFC, and ‘lazy’ balance sheets became very sought after. Instead of being lazy, they were now prudent and safe.
From my perspective, the Anglican church was trying to do something sensible prior to the GFC – in hindsight its clear that high gearing was not the way to go about it, but they appeared to be using investment to raise revenue rather than constantly appealing to the hip pockets of their members alone, reducing the need to pressure people to meet expensive program goals.
The Anglicans are looking at what they should do in the future to avoid these kinds of things happening again. One of their decisions appears to be to pray more.
Is it sensible for church organisations to invest to raise revenue? All investment involves some level of risk; higher returns inevitably involve higher risk – this is what was being ignored by most people before the GFC. What kind of financial goals should churches be willing to fund? What kind of financial commitments are wise for a church? Should churches borrow money for some goals, for example? Are any of these issues for us as individuals?
Personally, I don’t think they were being ‘judged’, although the GFC was an inevitable consequence of a system that had let greed and passing on of responsibility go too far. Many people suffered in the fallout from actions by some of the cowboys out there; many people trusted others with their finances and paid a high price. There are definitely lessons to be learnt. Most of us are probably reliant upon things other than God, and we get a real reminder of that when those things shatter. Should we be immune from disastrous mistakes due to our walk with God – should we expect that if we pray we won’t make mistakes, or is part of our walk to go through those hard things hand in hand with Jesus?