Money for Nothing and the Bishops for Free

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This entry was originally posted July 9, 2009 as part of the website “Slouching Towards Anaheim.”

“We are made so that what is given to us can be given in return.” -Rowen Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury

For those of you who don’t know, The Archbishop of Canterbury is the highest office a person can hold in the Anglican Communion. He could be compared in celebrity (though not in power) to the Pope in the Catholic Church. Having him visit is a pretty big deal.

Many would have liked to hear him speak about full inclusion of homosexuals into the church and the bonds of affection between the Episcopal Church and the rest of the Anglican Communion, as that is certainly the hot issue. However the panel gathered together this evening was focused on the global economic crisis and how economy effects other elements of ministry (mainly service to the sick and needy, and the environment).

I had never even heard his voice before, let alone a full speech (why is it that in my head, the Archbishop of Canterbury didn’t have a British Accent?). I found him exceptionally well organized, well spoken, and poetic. I took notes in hopes of conveying what I believe was a very sound message about how to approach global economic repair. The following is overly paraphrased. My apologies to the Archbishop, who said it all way better than this:

We did not suffer a crisis of finance, but a crisis of truth. “We have been lying to ourselves.” There is no getting back to normal, because normal does not exist. Normal was a set of practices that were dysfunctional an dishonest. Instead we must:

  1. Seek transparency in our relationship building. Build on a foundation of trust and openness.
  2. Recognize limit. Profit does not come without cost. We must be mindful of what costs are suffering at the hands of profit.
  3. Some good things can only come from mutual attention. Some things are only great when they are shared by the whole. A choir or band does not rely on everyone being happy and going after the biggest and best, but on everyone doing what is needed. “What can be done does not have to be done.” And turning things into abstract figures, numbers on a screen, does not incorporate what it means to live with other people in the world.

With these specific ideas in mind, there are five ideas about behavior that we can pursue:

  1. A few final thoughts:Move away from the ‘making money’ model of economics and into an economy of trust. We must re-define wealth, remembering that the word stands not for money but for well-being.
  2. Remember that caring for the environment is a crucial component in a healthy economy, not a luxury of one.
  3. There is a relationship between democratic governments and international economy. We must determine what the proper form of that relationship is and what sanctions are required to maintain it.
  4. We must examine how international organizations focused on economics and justice can and should help the process.
  5. Most countries are currently engaged in emergency plans intended to kick start dead economies. But we must look beyond right now and ask what the REAL economy must be able to do after these kick starts are over.
  1. In politics, skepticism is good, but cynicism is not. Cynicism in politics cannot ask questions because it assumes all the answers are lies.
  2. The government should not be relied upon to solve all of our problems. In fact, the church will likely be instrumental in the rebuilding of the global economy.
  3. We need to encourage businesses to support and work on the communities in which they are actually located. The benefits of this are too numerous to be named.

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