Christians must stand up to payday lenders, says bishop

(AP)

Following the lead of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Bishop of Ludlow has joined in the campaign to support credit unions as a fairer alternative to payday loan companies.

Bishop Alistair Magowan, lead bishop in the Diocese of Hereford, is urging congregations to support their local credit unions.

He has spoken out against the strategies of payday loan companies who target those on a low income and encourage them to take out short-term loans with huge hidden charges and extortionate rates of interest.

In a letter that has gone out to all parishioners in his diocese, he calls for Christians to actively work against the debt that leads to borrowers becoming "bound and entrapped".

"The heart of the matter is providing alternatives and standing up to any and everybody who by their practices enslave others," he writes.

He added that everyone had a duty to be concerned about the ways in which unscrupulous loan companies conduct their businesses.

Credit unions have attracted the strong support of the Church of England because they provide credit at competitive rates and serve as a fairer and more affordable system for borrowers.

Bishop Magowan made an impassioned plea for all those in his diocese to research their local credit union and begin investing in it, noting that Christians are called to love those around them in a practical way.

"Acting in a way that helps a person live within their means or helps them when they are beyond their means is love in action. This is the kind of love God shows and has given us in Christ," he asserted, referring to the Biblical command to "love thy neighbour".

His words echo those of Bishop of Jarrow, the Right Reverend Mark Bryant, who recently joined the debate, saying: "There is a real imperative for us through our local churches to see how we can best serve the most vulnerable members of our community."

He has announced plans to roll out a scheme to enable parishes in his diocese to better build links with their credit unions in early 2014.

Bishop Magowan is hoping that his parishioners will start to take action, particularly in the run-up to Christmas, as many individuals and families in the UK will be looking for short term loans for the holiday season.

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