Giles Fraser is always worth listening to. He is that wonderful and too-rare thing: a thoughtful man of faith who is living in the world rather than in a vacuum of his own certainties. This walk of faith is inevitably tricky. The messy contradictions of the world have to be responded to on an individual basis. What one loses in the crisp certainty of the fundamentalist, one more than gains in a more risky but authentic, relevant daily expression of that faith.
James Featherby is also always worth listening to. He is exactly the same wonderful and too-rare thing that Giles Fraser is. James walks this risky and authentic path as Chairman of the highly relevant Ethical Investment Advisory Group to the Church of England (EIAG). His approach was outlined in this Guardian article earlier this week.
In this Thought for the Day response, Giles concluded that James Featherby and the EIAG had ‘accepted’ the ways of the world through its management of its investments. Over the last 4 years, we have worked alongside the EIAG, observing that they do not accept these ways. They instead respond to the messy contradictions and complexities of the Church’s financial investments in the most thoughtful and strategic manner.
Indeed, the EIAG are, behind closed doors, one of the City’s most effective and respected voices for systemic reform. They challenge at the highest level, on behalf of the poor and marginalised in our society, a financial system that too often sticks its blood funnel down their necks – as Wonga too often does. They are committed professionals with whom Rev Fraser would wholly align and approve. They reject the status quo and fight, fight, fight for change. They do it, necessarily, in a way that reflects both their faith values and their judgement of the best way to achieve change – by, as Giles advocates, working within the system whilst steadfastly refusing to accept its moral flaws.
There is a contraction between the faith that Giles stands for and the certainty of the judgement that he has passed on the work of the EIAG. This fault line creates an excellent opportunity for the work of the EIAG to become better understood within the Church. There is no question that Rev Giles Fraser and the thousands who share his faith and the daily challenges of expressing it in our world have much to bring to the work of the EIAG. There is also no question that the EIAG have much to bring to the church, to help them to more deeply understand some of the systemic faults in our financial system, and the levers for bringing about the deep change that is needed. Both Giles Fraser and James Featherby are earnestly committed to this. Both bring unique strengths and resources to the task. As I noted at the outset of the World Cup, systems change (like church) is a team sport. I hope that James and Giles are able to make common cause in working to create a financial system that serves all of society, rather than most of society serving the financial system.