Welby fails to cast out money lenders

Religion and money lenders have long endured a tortured relationship, with one's attitude to the other often characterised as hypocritical by those who view the wealth of established churches as at odds with their teachings.

Ian Monk: 'The moral high ground turned out to be a slippery slope as it was revealed the Church was an investor in Wonga.
Ian Monk: 'The moral high ground turned out to be a slippery slope as it was revealed the Church was an investor in Wonga.

So it should have come as little shock to the supposedly worldly-wise Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby that his attack on Wonga, replete with scriptural parables, was also littered with PR pitfalls.

Compete them out of business, quoth the preacher man, breathing fire, brimstone and a moral market solution at Wonga. It won him instant praise for demonstrating leadership relevant to the real lives of those left with mountainous piles of interest by payday loan merchants using chummy TV ad characters as cartoon shields for naked commercial intent.

For a glorious moment Welby seemed to have achieved an immaculate PR fusion of the spiritual and temporal, blending ancient with modern.

This time the casting out of the moneylenders went global within minutes. Yet no sooner was the gospel preached across the news networks than it was denied.

The moral high ground turned out to be a slippery slope in the age of instant rebuttal as it was revealed Welby's Church of England was an investor in Wonga.

The fact the oil trader-turned Archbishop had apparently neither asked the question nor been made aware of this terminally inconvenient fact is one of the more bizarre communication breakdowns in two millennia of Christianity.

Welby v Wonga, intended as a walkover, suddenly turned nasty for the Archbishop. Cast out into the wilderness, Wonga was able to use slick PR to promulgate its endorsement by a Church that had put its money where its leader had said angels should fear to tread.

Who was the fool who let the Archbishop rush in?

The gaffe also threw an unwelcome spotlight on the Church's multi-billion-pound investment portfolio and its vast land and property assets.

Verily, the PR road from the pulpit to hell is paved with good intentions unless advice is sought before the journey.

Ian Monk is founder of Ian Monk Associates and a former executive at the Daily Mail and The Sun

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