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Credit Unions and the Church

Thursday February 11 2016

Charles Sim calls on churches and members to consider credit unions as an ethical form of finance.


I first became involved with Credit Unions when the Strathclyde Regional Council Employees Credit Union opened for business in 1991 and I joined almost immediately.

As someone who firmly believes in working co-operatively, the concept of credit unions appealed to me. I became a volunteer workplace representative/loans officer, then a member of the credit committee and eventually became chairperson of the credit union board
 of directors.

Credit union membership has helped me in many ways.

Like all credit union members I have benefited from the services my credit union provides – a secure place to save and a fair place to borrow.

But also, through my volunteering,
 I was able to access further education and achieve accredited qualifications. This enabled me to deal with the financial services regulators that control our nation’s banks and building societies.

Although it was a huge undertaking for the volunteer board, it was reassuring for our members that the credit union had to undergo the same close inspections that also apply to banks. Fortunately we always passed muster, unlike some banks I will not mention by name!

But perhaps the greatest pleasure in 
all my years of involvement with the credit union movement is watching people improve their lives if in financial trouble or just save for that important family event.

Over recent years there has developed
a tendency for credit unions to be seen as the ‘poor man’s bank’ but we in Scotland know that credit unions are more than that. I want to see credit unions as the lender 
of choice for people from all walks of life.

Knowing that a Credit Union is a safe haven for savings and a fair place to borrow from, I can recommend membership 
to readers; and at the moment for all Ministers, Elders and Kirk employees our own Credit Union, Churches’ Mutual Credit Union is worthy of consideration.

Churches’ Mutual is an ecumenical partnership which includes the Anglican and Methodist denominations and a prime instance of the Kirk leading by example in demonstrating a different way of doing money.

Some people may wonder how I reconcile my faith with advocating a movement that is fundamentally about saving to borrow. For me, access to fair banking, affordable finance and ethical savings is a justice issue, and as a Church we should be passionate about justice.

Charles Sim is an elder at New Laigh Kirk, Kilmarnock

This is an abridged version of a feature in February’s Life and Work. Subscribe here.