Sixth denomination poised to join Credit Union

Nearly one year on - The Very Rev John Chalmers (second from left) helps launch a new credit union which aims to show banks and pay day lenders a fairer approach to finance.

The Church of Scotland has welcomed a decision to allow a sixth denomination to join the Churches Mutual Credit Union which aims to show banks and pay day lenders a fairer approach to finance.

The organisation, which was launched nearly a year ago in London by former Moderator of the General Assembly the Very Rev John Chalmers, Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby, and the President of the Methodist Conference, the Rev Ken Howcroft, has decided to welcome the United Reformed Church.

Members of the Churches Mutual Credit Union (CMCU) voted unanimously at the credit union's first Annual General Meeting in London to extend its common bond, or potential membership base which includes the Kirk, Church of England, Scottish Episcopal Church, Methodist Church and the Church in Wales.

A formal application to extend the common bond will now go forward to the regulatory authorities for approval before going to the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church in July for a final decision about participation.

The Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, convener of the Church of Scotland's Church and Society Council, said: "I'm delighted by the continuing growth of the CMCU and the extension of the common bond to include the United Reformed Church."

CMCU offers ethical investments for regular rainy day savings accounts and larger lump sum deposits, for anyone who holds a recognised position in a paid or voluntary capacity within the churches in the common bond including Church Council members, elders, church employees, and diocesan staff, as well as lay and ordained ministers.

The Credit Union also offers loans from £250-£15,000 for a variety of purposes at competitive interest rates. Membership is also open to churches and charities within the common bond.

Hilary Sams, CMCU chief executive, said: "I am delighted not only that we have voted to include the United Reformed Church within our common bond, making it on course to become the sixth national church to join the CMCU, but to announce also that we will be paying a dividend to savers – a significant achievement in our first year of operation.

"We started from scratch just under a year ago and we now have more than 600 members from all walks of life, and over £1.4 million in savings deposits, a total that is growing every month.

"We look forward to expanding our membership steadily over the coming year and invite all those eligible – not just those who are ordained – to consider joining us."

CMCU president Ven Antony MacRow-Wood said extending the common bond to include the URC represented "another major step forward".

"We are also in exploratory discussions with other denominations as CMCU brings together churches across Britain to further the Archbishop of Canterbury's vision of a stronger and more vibrant community finance sector," he added.

Speaking at the launch of CMCU, Mr Chalmers said the Church of Scotland and its partners were working in the "most practical and appropriate ways for the common good of society".

"It is through the development and support of new, co-operative and mutual projects like this that society can offer more in the way of financial inclusion, added the former Moderator who is the Kirk's Principal Clerk.

"A new player in the marketplace will help to influence the financial services industry, and to put first the needs and consideration of all.

"The Church is perhaps uniquely placed as having a publicly accessible facility in every community in the country.

"Thus, in addition to helping to develop the CMCU, we have been encouraging congregations to form partnerships with their local credit unions, in order, for example, to allow the credit union to use the church hall as a 'branch office', perhaps on a weekly or monthly basis.

"This has allowed more people to access the services that credit unions offer, and has also raised the profile of the credit unions- resulting in more people joining."

Hilary Sams has written a blog on the progress of the CMCU as its reaches its first anniversary.