By Jennifer Oldstone-Moore
On January 21, a group of students from The General Theological Seminary attended a dinner and conversation at the invitation of the Trinity Institute. Those present were Shana Kaplanov, Matthew Welch, Hershey Mallette, Jennifer Oldstone-Moore, Charlie Bauer, Tommie Watkins, Jr., and Austin McGehee. The event was part of a larger three-day conference called “Creating Common Good” which addressed economic inequality and theological resources for addressing problems that arise from economic issues. In his plenary address during dinner, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, stated, “The more pie you have, the more responsibility you have; with wealth there is a greater potential for wrong.” He noted the importance of the church as a source of moral authority in the question of the use and distribution of wealth, a responsibility also noted—perhaps surprisingly—in the Financial Times. In the question and answer period that followed, General Seminary middler Tommie Watkins, Jr., asked whether the church should even concern itself with the very worldly concerns of money and finances; the Archbishop replied that Christ brings salvation to the whole human being, “including the wallet.”
Table discussions followed the address. At each table were students from General and other seminaries, and theologians who work on economic, environmental and social justice issues. Discussions considered the danger, power, and potential inherent in financial resources, which can lead to creative and life giving ways to live the Gospel, or can generate fear and anxiety even among the wealthy. Conversations explored possible theological resources and responses these questions. Overall, the conference served to remind us of the importance of engagement with, and witness to, the world in authentic and creative ways.