Going to Church on Wall Street to Talk About Ethical Economics

By Becky Garrison 2-02-2010


During Trinity Institute's 2009 conference "Radical Abundance: A Theology of Sustainability," presenter David C. Korten stated the obvious irony that he was promoting his forthcoming book while standing at the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street. Given Episcopalians' aversion to talking about money (except on Stewardship Sunday), I wondered how a group of Anglicans situated at Trinity Church in New York City, as well as 76 global partner sites, would respond to this year's topic, "Building an Ethical Economy."

Those interested in the exploring the intellection themes behind the intersection of faith and economics should peruse the Institute Web site for additional resources as the presentations and panel discussions given by Rowan Williams, the 104th Archbishop of Canterbury, Sir Partha Dasgupta, and Kathryn Tanner contained ample food for reflection. Also, all are invited to participate in "Building an Ethical Economy: Spirituality and Practice," a live Webcast and chat with Mike Schut, author/editor of Money and Faith: The Search for Enough and Simpler Living, Compassionate Life: A Christian Perspective on Thursday, Feb. 18, 2010, at 1 p.m. EST.

But after a full day of lectures, I found salvation thanks to Rev. Billy. Watching Rev. Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir sing the evils of capitalism at a Killing the Buddha event reminded me that we need to move from awareness to advocacy and direct action. So what will those present at this conference both in person and virtually, as well as those who will access this very timely material via their Web site, do with this information?

The recent issue of Trinity News titled "What is God's Economy" highlights some ways Christians can respond to this current economic crisis. For Rowan Williams, that witness is equally important in 2009. "The Christian, I think, is going to be saying constantly, 'Well, there actually is an alternative,'" he says. "It may begin very locally. It may begin in a cooperative enterprise in the community, in a credit union, in a farmers' market. It may begin in very small ways of just showing that not everything is a zero-sum game in economics. We can put our energies, put our imagination behind those local enterprises and simply show it can be different."

When I heard Jim Wallis speak at the New York City launch of his book tour, he described how we're at the beginning of a potential new movement among people of good faith to move their money from the big banks who have behaved so badly to more local banks and financial institutions that have better served their communities. So what would happen if those who participated in this conference examined their investments and placed their money in institutions that were more socially responsible?

BTW -- The books in my "to read" pile that I just happened to pick up as reading material for the subway to and from conference were If the Church Were Christian: Rediscovering the Values of Jesus and Jesus Freak: Feeding Healing Raising the Dead. Coincidence? I hope not.

portrait-becky-garrisonBecky Garrison will be speaking at "The Evolving Church: Kingdom Economy" in Toronto on April 10, 2010.

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