God’s bankers: How evangelical Christianity is taking a hold of London’s financial institutions

Posted by Kendall Harmon

The relationship between faith and finance runs deep. Quaker-run banks such as Barclays – founded three centuries ago on Lombard Street – survived when many of their peers crumbled during the crashes of the mid-1700s precisely because of the Christian ethics that underpinned their businesses. More recently, Stephen Green stepped down as chairman and chief executive of HSBC to take holy orders. And over the past decade, a specific type of evangelical Christianity has taken hold of the Square Mile, although only recently has it dared speak its name (at least in City circles). Foremost among them is the Alpha course, whose extraordinary expansion has been funded in part from the deep pockets of former Lazard chairman Ken Costa. k

Founded at Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB) in Knightsbridge in 1991, Alpha has grown from an initial four churches to operate in more than 55,000 locations in 164 countries. It is estimated that more than 16 million people have taken the course worldwide. Jonathan Aitken, Geri Halliwell, Sir Ian Blair and Bear Grylls are all regulars.

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Filed under: * Culture-WatchReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsEconomyStock MarketThe Banking System/Sector* International News & CommentaryEngland / UK* Religion News & CommentaryOther ChurchesEvangelicals

Posted April 26, 2011 at 4:25 pm [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Jim the Puritan wrote:

We’re working hard to do a rollout of Alpha in our city.  Looking at startup in September.  Yes, Alpha is seen as a threat, especially by the mainline churches.  I attempted to invite members of vestry of the largest Episcopal church here to participate.  You would think the Anglican connection would have some attraction. But the invitation was never acknowledged or responded to.  Frankly, that didn’t surprise me.  But like other Episcopal churches here, the congregation has pretty much drained out (2/3 have left since 2002, according to the charts) and other than pushing homosexuality and gay marriage, the church has nothing going on and is on life support.

April 26, 6:57 pm | [comment link]
2. KevinBabb wrote:

Geri Halliwell—Christian Spice? Who’d a’ thunk it?

April 26, 7:31 pm | [comment link]
3. Teatime2 wrote:

At my former TEC parish, Alpha was really popular. I’m surprised to read of the resistance where you are.

April 26, 8:15 pm | [comment link]
4. MichaelA wrote:

Evangelicalism in the broader sense seems to be doing well in the big cities. There seems no reason why a muscular and enthusiastic Anglicanism cannot also do well there.

I am sure the leadership of TEC would see Alpha as a threat - all the better. They can do far more damage from within than they can from without.

April 26, 8:38 pm | [comment link]
5. MichaelA wrote:

Its also great to see that an evangelical Anglican church (Holy Trinity Brompton) can have such impact going far beyond its parish boundaries.

This is another of the large English churches that Rowan Williams runs the risk of alienating.

April 26, 8:39 pm | [comment link]
6. Jim the Puritan wrote:

I think they are scared (and rightfully so) that Alpha would get people thinking and questioning what’s been going on in the parish and other parishes here.

April 26, 8:45 pm | [comment link]
7. kmh1 wrote:

#2: maybe she was inspired by the original Spice Girls (Jerusalem, AD 30)?

April 27, 5:41 am | [comment link]
8. Terry Tee wrote:

Thank you (at # 7) for getting a loud chuckle from me ...

April 27, 10:06 am | [comment link]
9. Londoner wrote:

Recommend looking at the Christianity Explored course…..it is being used widely globally,  a very good alternative to Alpha and based on going through a gospel (Mark).  I like the way it gives seekers clear refs in the bible. Very good course.

April 27, 12:14 pm | [comment link]
10. Londoner wrote:


April 27, 12:18 pm | [comment link]
11. evan miller wrote:

My old TEC parish ran numerous Alpha courses and it was through one of them that our faith came alive for my wife and me.  Following the departure of 80% of the parishioners, including all vestry members, after the Gene Robinson debacle, our new Ugandan/ACNA parish ran two or three Alpha courses and will be doing it again.  The old TEC parish has never held another one.

April 27, 2:11 pm | [comment link]
12. Billy wrote:

I have a memory of TEC a few years ago producing an alternative course to Alpha because it did not like Alpha - but I cannot remember the name of that course.  My memory is that it was not very successful - which is probably why I can’t remember the name.  My TEC church has run Alpha for many years.  We now run it every other year and run a Discovery (like Cursillo but shorter and no overnight stays) course on alternate years.  Both are wonderful for new members and to bring in those not members.

April 27, 3:39 pm | [comment link]
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