Joining a credit union allowed one Church of England bishop to fulfil his ambition of cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Buying a racing bike for the arduous 1,000-mile journey was beyond the budget of the Rt Revd Adrian Newman some years ago when he was Dean of Rochester but Bishop Adrian’s credit union gave him a loan for the bike – and later helped him when the family television broke down, with a loan for a replacement.

Now Bishop of Stepney, Bishop Adrian said joining a credit union makes sense for people with secure financial circumstances as well as those with limited access to mainstream credit.

 “A healthy community finance sector is in everybody’s best interests. It’s clearly important and vital from the perspective of justice - for those with limited access to mainstream credit, where for lack of realistic alternatives people find themselves propelled through the doors of money shops and payday lenders.
But for those with a more secure set of financial circumstances, there are some very good reasons to switch to a credit union as well. I have always loved the fact that the money in my credit union gets re-cycled around my local community in the East End of London, creating or preserving jobs and benefiting the common good.

But he said joining a credit union should not be viewed as simply a form of “fluffy benevolence”. In his case, a credit union had provided him with a “really useful” source of low-cost credit.

Bishop Adrian, who is a member of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s task group on responsible credit and savings, was one of the first Church of England clergy to recognise the value of the credit union movement. He has been a member of different credit unions around the country for more than 23 years. Now more than a third of Church of England bishops are members of credit unions.

He said one of the problems that credit unions need to tackle is their low profile in the UK. He has welcomed the publicity brought to credit unions by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev Justin Welby and hopes the the task group will continue to increase public understanding of the credit unions.

“Part of the problem is very simple – credit unions are virtually unknown in the UK, ask people on the street if they know about credit unions and the research is stark – 7% say yes, and 93% no.”

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