Wikio - Top Blogs - Religion and belief

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Transparency and authenticity

Today's sermon at St Stephen Walbrook was entitled Transparency and authenticity. The podcast of this sermon can be found in the sermon section of the London Internet Church website:

In May I will be leading the Memorial Service for Robert Fell at St Martin-in-the-Fields. In 1974 Fell became the first Chief Executive of the Stock Exchange and later went on to help regulate Hong Kong Securities.

He writes in his memoirs: “My first meeting … was on the consequences of the Burmah oil collapse. The next day, my first full council meeting was about how to deal with the financial crisis. Two days later, on January 6th … was the day of the City’s Epiphany Service. I attended with the Chairman and Deputy Chairman. As we walked down the aisle the Deputy remarked that he did not see Burmah Oil on the Order of Service. But when we reached our pew no three men ever knelt in more fervent prayer … As I knelt I could hardly have anticipated that my regulatory experience (over the next decade) would encompass the ‘hammering’ of one major London firm and the suspension of two others, the murder of a banker, three suicides … the jailing of two exchange chairmen and an assortment of bankers and, as a last straw, the sentencing to eight years imprisonment of the Crown Prosecutor who dealt with most of the commercial crimes I had uncovered.”

Most of what he was referring to happened whilst he was in Hong Kong. A cartoon published in Hong Kong depicted him as a knight in shining armour riding to the rescue of the banking system. He was called ‘a one-man cavalry’ who brought corruption into the light, even when it was dangerous to do so, and by doing so saved Hong Kong’s financial reputation from international oblivion.

In today’s epistle (Ephesians 5.1-14) a similar level of transparency is being commended for our own personal lives: ‘… you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light … and find out what pleases the Lord.’

Jesus, our Lord, is the light of the world. He is God fully revealed in human form, so shows us what God is actually like as well as revealing all that we, as humans, can become. We come into the light of Christ by comparing our lives to his. As we do so, inevitably we find that we fall short; that our capacity to do what pleases him (by living out all goodness, righteousness and truth) is less than his capacity for these things. Our reality, as our Gospel reading states, is that we are divided people. As St Paul so accurately states in Romans 7: ‘… what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.’

So coming into the light of Christ initially reveals our fallibilities and failures to be Christ-like. As a result, if we are to be transparent in the light of Christ, we make our humble confession to Almighty God truly and earnestly repenting of our sins.

But the light of Christ does not just expose and make visible our fallibilities. When we learn what pleases our Lord (which is all goodness, righteousness and truth; or, as our confession says, intending to lead a new life by following the commandments of God, walking in his holy ways and living in love and charity with our neighbours) we are then illuminated by him and become a light to others. This is what Jesus means when he tells us to let our light shine before others, that they may see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven.

In today’s business terms we would call this being transparent. One business dictionary definition of transparency is a “lack of hidden agendas or conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required for collaboration, cooperation, and collective decision making.” That is essentially what Bob Fell brought to his work in the City and in Hong Kong. The true purpose of transparency is not simply to appease regulators, to increase profits, or to please shareholders. The true purpose of transparency is authenticity. This is the quality of being genuine, and ultimately of being trusted, which allows your message to be heard and believed.

The Church of England has recently been accused in the press of hypocrisy – a lack of authenticity – over its statements on the Living Wage. When told that the Church was full of hypocrites, Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, replied, "Not full – there's still room for one more." Of course the Church doesn't always live up to the standards of the Gospel. That’s why we regularly and consistently confess our sins and shortcomings.

But, as Canon Dr Angus Ritchie has written, “I'm glad the Church is speaking out on these issues. If it wasn't for the lead of our Bishops – and the powerful grassroots work of churches … many more people would earning poverty wages and living at the mercy of Britain's loan sharks … It would be a disaster if the Church stopped speaking out, silenced by fear of the next negative headline.”

May we, like Bob Fell and our Bishops, continue to practice transparency and authenticity, while acknowledging our own shortcomings, and do so even in the face of accusations of hypocrisy.


Crux Fidelis Kng John IV of Portugal.

No comments: