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Church encouraged to rethink investments

The Church of England's been encouraged to rethink its investment strategy. It comes as it's emerged it put money into a firm that backed payday loan company Wonga. Just yesterday the Archbishop of Canterbury said he wanted to put the organisation out of business. Justin Welby said the Church of England would compete against it, by looking at putting credit unions on its sites.

Speaking to Total Politics magazine he said:

"I've met the head of Wonga and I've had a very good conversation and I said to him quite bluntly we're not in the business of trying to legislate you out of existence, we're trying to compete you out of existence."

However an investigation by the Financial Times is accusing the Church of having double standards by investing in a venture capital firm that helped launch Wonga in 2009.

Lambeth Palace has responded stating:

"We are grateful to the Financial Times for pointing out this serious inconsistency of which we were unaware.

"We will be asking the Assets Committee of the Church Commissioners to investigate how this has occurred and to review the holding in this pooled investment vehicle."

The Church says it didn't realise cash from its pension fund was put into the company which backed Wonga.

Church Estates Commissioner, Andreas Whittam Smith said:

"We don't look every day to see what the individual investments are.

"We will as a result of this episode need to make sure we do because it is a way that our strict ethical guidelines can be weakened."

Jonathan Bartley's a Co-Director of the think tank Ekklesia. He told Premier's Des Busteed on the News Hour the Church has some decisions to make.

The Archbishop received widespread support for his comments yesterday about helping credit unions to force Wonga out of business. But today he said he was "embarrassed" and "irritated" by the revelation. Rt Revd Michael Doe is a retired bishop and chairs the Ecumenical Council for Corporate Responsibility He tells Premier the Church has been caught out.

The Church's Ethical Investment Advisory Group produces guidelines on what the Church's estimated £5.5 billion should be invested in. It has restrictions on organisations which make money through pornography, military products or industries such as gambling, alcohol and high interest rate lenders although there's no blanket ban. Manoj Raithatha is the author of 'Building the Kingdom through Business'.

He tells Premier Christians face tough choices when it comes to finances.

Premier did try to get a further response from the Church of England but the request was turned down.

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