guest blog: worshipping with just investments

Helen Boothroyd has been passionate about justice and peace issues all her adult life, sparked by studies in A level geography on urban poverty in early 1980s Britain, and developed at University as she learnt about the even greater economic and social injustices faced by sisters and brothers around the world.

This passion led her to be a resident staff member of the Iona Community; to co-author and edit Holy Ground: Liturgies and worship resources for an engaged spirituality; and to her current work as Social Responsibility Development Officer for Churches Together in Cumbria and the Church and Membership Relations Officer for ECCR – the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility.

In this guest blog she urges us to ‘speak truth to power’ and to recognise that we have to tackle injustice at the big picture level – as well as reaching out to those affected on the ground. And she challenges us to consider how individuals and  churches can examine their investments and pray and act for wider change (particularly during National  Ethical Investment Week – 14- 20 October 2012).

Helen Boothroyd

I believe now as I did when I first encountered it then that life-sucking poverty in the face of obscene wealth is a moral scar on our human landscape and that tackling inequality, nationally and globally, is essential and urgent in the struggle to overcome poverty.

I am a member of the Iona Community whose justice and peace commitment includes the words “We believe that the Gospel commands us to seek peace founded on justice, that costly reconciliation is at the heart of the Gospel and that work for justice, peace and an equitable society is a matter of extreme urgency”. I do indeed believe this passionately.

I can’t understand how it’s possible to be a follower of Jesus Christ without feeling called to try to change the injustices of the way the world works.

These injustices aren’t natural; they’re created by people. And people can change them. People like us. Ordinary people working together for justice. I think that’s what Christians are called to do.

Most of the big justice, peace and environmental issues of our age focus around the unholy alliance of money and power.

Behind the arms trade; behind trade and tax injustice; behind the resistance to tackling climate change; behind the scandal of the global AIDS lottery – behind all these are transnational global companies: some worth more in dollars than many countries and with vastly more power than most of the governments whose strings they pull on the stage of global politics.

So if Christians are to have a real effect on tackling the injustices of the world I think we need to engage with these companies.

It’s tempting to say we should have nothing to do with them. That we should simply fight against what they’re doing to hurt the poor and the planet.

But if we take this purist line do we stand any chance of bringing about real change? I don’t think so.

Did Jesus ignore or fight those who stood in the way of the coming of God’s Kingdom? No. He talked with them, argued with them and challenged them – in keeping with the tradition of the Hebrew prophets.

I think we need to do the same.

We need to speak the truth to power. Based on knowledge not on ignorance; a genuine understanding not just a preconception. We need to believe we can make a difference. We need to look for real ways in which to effect change.

One of these is by decisions about what we do with our money.

We’ve seen the difference we can make as consumers, particularly through the spectacular success of the Fairtrade movement.

We can also make a difference as investors.

When we open a bank account, when we pay into a pension fund, the money we commit will be invested in the stock market, in project finance, in companies. We may not think of ourselves as shareholders but nearly all of us are one way and another.

Most of us don’t know what our money is invested in. But we can find out and we can make choices: to change banks, to choose an ethical pension scheme, to engage with those companies our money supports and ask them to improve their policy and practice.

This is true of us as individuals and individual congregations. And it’s also true of our denominations. The big church funds have millions of pounds invested in the stock market. They therefore have a powerful shareholder voice.

I work for the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility (ECCR). ECCR promotes economic justice, human rights and environmental sustainability. We do this by undertaking research, advocacy and dialogue to encourage companies to meet higher standards of corporate responsibility and transparency, and by assisting faith communities and their members to encourage companies to do this through ethical and positive-impact  investment.

There’s lots of information about our publications, current work and actions people can take to support it at

We’re a membership organisation and very much welcome new members, both individuals and organisations such as dioceses, Churches Together  groups, religious orders and justice and peace groups. I’d be delighted to hear from anyone interested. You can email me for more in more information about joining ECCR at

Just like Fairtrade Fortnight, National Ethical Investment Week (14-20 October 2012), now in its fifth year, gives the opportunity for people and churches to explore how they can make investment choices that help bring about a more just world.

This year ECCR has again worked with UKSIF (UK Sustainable Investment and Finance) and CCLA  (a specialist investment management company for faith organisations and charities) to produce an Action Guide for Churches for National Ethical Investment Week (NEIW), which has just been published (July 2012). You can download this from together with a longer anthology of additional resources. (Both feature the Sanctuary’s wonderfully relevant worship resources.)

The Guide outlines some of the ways in which your church groups could get involved in NEIW through:
• Publishing Church church newsletter articles on ethical investment.
• Focusing an act of worshipyour worship around the issue.
• Holding a study group or talk.

I hope that many Christians will be able to use these worship resources in their churches this October to show that we are all called and empowered to make a difference and effect real change in our world through the choices we make about our money.

Sometimes we can feel overwhelmed by the scale and complexity of the injustices of the world. But let’s remember that every one of us can make a real difference through the decisions we make every day.

It’s individuals and communities that suffer from injustice. And it’s individuals working together in community that can bring about change.We are more powerful than the sum of our parts. Our small actions are a vital contribution on the journey to justice.

The Sanctuary’s resources featured in ECCR’s publications for NEIW are taken from our Written prayers for economic justice If you’ve been challenged by Helen’s article, you might like to look at these, and our creative prayer for rededicating our finances as well as ECCR’s resources.

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