B is for Banking, Business, Barclays and Balby

What’s the connection between all these Bs?

In 1656 the elders of Balby Meeting wrote some advices, in a epistle (or letter) that concluded with the well known (to Friends) and much loved postscript ‘Dearly beloved Friends, these things we do not lay upon you as a rule or form to walk by; but that all, with a measure of the light, which is pure and holy, may be guided: and so in the light walking and abiding, these things may be fulfilled in the Spirit, not in the letter, for the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life’ which is still appended to our Advices and Queries to this day (see January 5).

Among the 20 advices is ’15.That all Friends that have callings and trades, do labour in the thing that is good, in faithfulness and uprightness, and keep to their yea and nay in all their communications: and that all who are indebted to the world, endeavour to discharge the same, that nothing they may owe to any man but love one to another.’. This clearly refers to the advice Jesus is quoted as giving in Matthew 5:37 ‘But let your communication be ‘yea, yea’ or ‘nay, nay’; for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil.'(21st King James Version) or in more modern parlance ‘All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.’ (NIV).

This advice was accepted widely and literally amongst Quakers, although it was not always easy, as Luke Cock observed: ‘… I was to speak the truth from my heart – and before I used to swear and lie too for gain. ‘Nay, then,’ said I to my Guide, ‘I mun leave Thee here: if Thou leads me up that lane, I can never follow: I’se be ruined of this butchering trade, if I mun’t lie for a gain.’ Here I left my Guide, and was filled with sorrow, and went back … So here I found my Guide again, and began to follow Him up this lane and tell the truth from my heart. I had been nought but beggary and poverty before; and now I began to thrive at my trade, ‘

As Luke Cock found, though, it actually led to improved business. The trustworthiness of Friends became well known, leading them also into money lending and, thence, into banking, including Barclays.

I am interested to note that on Thursday Sky News reported ‘Barclays employees who do not wish to adhere to a strict new ethical code of conduct should quit the bank and find jobs elsewhere, its chief executive warned today as he began attempting to rebuild its tarnished reputation.
In a message sent this morning to Barclays’ 140,000 staff around the world, Antony Jenkins said that Barclays had to become “a values-driven business” if it wanted to be “a valuable business” in future.’

I leave you to draw your own conclusions regarding modern banking practices.

3 thoughts on “B is for Banking, Business, Barclays and Balby

  1. Interesting – do we think the fact that Friends today are much less likely than previously to be involved in business, particularly in running businesses, tells us more about a) Friends today, b) the business scene today, or c) something else (e.g. Friends’ attitude to and the modern availability of education)?

  2. Friends today are less likely to be involved in business for a lot of reasons, including:
    many people don’t become Friends until later in life (50+) and have already got a career or retired from one,
    younger Friends today often have a university education (which was not available to earlier generations of Friends who were unable to enter universities due to their religious views) – this makes for a wider choice in how they earn their living,
    many Friends choose careers such as social work or teaching because that seems to give greater opportunity for serving other people than going into business,
    overall, a lower proportion of people in Britain go into business than was the case in the past, so Friends are part of a general trend.
    I went to university to study ‘Accounting and Financial Management’ anticipating working in management accounting when I graduated, thinking that this was useful, gave me good employment opportunities, and made good use of my natural aptitudes. After a year working in industry (as part of a sandwich course) alongside an exploration of Christianity and ‘what God wanted me to do’, I became increasingly convinced that accounting was only counting what could easily be expressed in financial terms, was omitting the vitally important human aspects of al our actions, and that I should be doing something else. Hence opting out of the graduate recruitment process, taking a ‘gap year’ with Community Service Volunteers and ending up working in Social Services. Perhaps I should have tried to change the system instead of dropping out.
    The world still needs to find ways of assessing data to aid decision making that takes account of the most important factors, instead of assuming that money tells the whole story. We need to consider the impacts of all decisions on people, on the environment, on the whole planet – not on our bank balance. We need to remember that, beyond a certain minimal level, money does not make us happy.
    But it’s not easy to see how to do this in practice – it’s hard enough to see the right way forward when buying bananas, or deciding not to buy bananas. The welfare of those growing the bananas, their need for income, the food miles, the health of those eating the bananas, the crops that could have been grown instead, what we might eat instead, to name some of the factors. And then, there are the big decisions …building nuclear power stations or replacing trident, or re-organising the NHS.

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