Tuesday, June 23, 2009

South from Alaska

After our time in California in May, we decided to take the scenic route home and in so doing celebrate our graduation from Regent College and start to bring a close to our time in Vancouver.

[View the full-screen slideshow]

A special thank you to Steve & Linda, Clyde & Sue, Grandma, and Steve & Annemaree for your unexpected and generous graduation gifts which helped make the scenic-route home possible...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

#1/2 - Jesus saves; the church?

It’s been quite a week in the newspapers and the blogosphere for the world's richest and largest Anglican diocese.” The Sydney Diocese lost $100,000,000.00 due to the downfall of its geared investment strategy, which has suffered at the hands of the global financial crisis.

Post #1/2 – I will present a sampling of what I found online (note, my sampling and mild-reflections are not intended to be neutral)
Post #2/2 – I will present some of my reflections regarding what Jesus was on about and what the church is doing in response

The online sampling:

In a classic SMH headline Millions wiped out by church gambles,” SMH reporter Damien Murphy tries to sketch out some details of the Sydney Anglican dioceses losses. Murphy cites comments (aimed at the dioceses leadership): "Nobody's taking responsibility for this. In other organizations heads would roll"

A 2UE radio interview (embedded in the SMH article) of SMH business columnist Ian Verrender has the following reflections on the church's position: Jesus saves, the church invests; the church has committed the cardinal sin of investing; the church's “boom strategy is likened to investment becomes gambling; the church's investment strategy is lumped-in with the likes of the high-profile failure of the Storm Financial group; and Sydney Anglicans are accused of not taking notice of the bible despite their bible-bashing beliefs.

In a letter to members of the Sydney Anglican church, Archbishop Jensen admits that as the whole market fell, this (gearing) strategy also accentuated our losses resulting in a 50% loss of capital and distribution income.

In a blog post “SMH at it again,” Rev. Andrew Katay steers the issue of investment strategies towards (what seems to be a common response by Sydney Anglicans) attacking what the SMH writes rather than addressing the real issues behind the particular article. Don’t get me wrong, journalistic bias is an important issue and should be discussed, but not at the cost of ignoring the real issues. John Sandeman comments, with helpful insight, on the media’s processes and fact checking capabilities.
Richard Cho (a former Financial planner, now OMF missionary to Thailand) redeems the post (via the comments) by addressing the real issue at hand. Cho asks a really important question (that no one else seems to be asking): I don’t think it is a question of the strategy working for a while and then not working or of hindsight. The question is, what kind of investor is the diocese?

Bishop Forsyth’s personal reflection "Eye of media storm" deals with the investment (and related media) issue this week: I see no problem with putting the money God has given us wisely into investments to increase its value. And even adding to that sum through prudent borrowing and reinvestment. At least not in a moral or theological sense. Forsyth’s views are consistent with the investment approach employed by the SDS board he sits on.

While looking at the homepage of sydneyanglicans.net, I found a reflection by the Archbishop’s brother addressing the question, are “Christians at risk of affluenza?” My citing of this reflection is out of context to be sure, but it is worth considering Jensen's thoughts in the context of an investment strategy that took on immense risk in borrowing to gain. Jensen says For the Christian, affluence is the danger of being “choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life” (Luke 8:14). Little by little, the seed of eternal life, the word of God, is choked out of our lives. The sacrifice that our Saviour made for us, no longer controls our spending patterns or our hearts’ desires. Does "the sacrifice that our Saviour made for us, no longer control" our investment patterns?

Finally, the good ol’ SMH letters from the day after the SMH article was printed… These bring together an interesting conglomerate of opinions on the issue... “why are such profitable institutions tax-free?” “Can we assume that Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen will now take a 50 per cent salary cut in order to help those less fortunate?” “Ah, the House of Jensen crippled by a bad gambling habit. God works in mysterious ways, doesn't she?” Plus, Rev. Nigel Fortescue’s expressed the desire that “Working together to serve Jesus might be better than embedding division.” Fortescue also names and shames a dissenting voice (who is quoted in the SMH article) as looking for scapegoats. Perhaps this dissenter is seeking accountability from the diocese in a disastrous financial situation?