Ethical Church Shopping

When we go to a supermarket or shop, many brand names often call for our attention. Sometimes we choose a product because of price, or a deal. But more and more often people are making choices based on their values.

That might be a fairtrade banana, coffee, or bar of chocolate; it might be because we want our milk organic or in glass bottles rather than single-use plastic; it might mean buying a more expensive ethical t-shirt over a cheaper fast fashion item. Marketers know that for many consumers values are becoming as important as price.

Yet when it comes to churches we often make our choice for other factors. Maybe they have a great worship band, a trendy preacher, or it's where all the other students go. We might not look at their values or ethics and ask – do they fit with mine? Many of us will happily shop around for a fairtrade coffee in a reusable cup, but are happy to accept whatever the church serves (and in a single-use plastic cup too!)

Jesus in his sermon on the mount said, “let your yes be yes, and your no be no”. What I think he meant was that we need to be people of integrity. We cannot say we are ethical and socially aware, and yet be part of a church community where these values are not consistently held. This doesn't mean I want monochrome churches, or churches where there is no diversity; sometimes we need to be the change we wish to see. But we cannot sit happily in a church that consistently ignores our key values without at least speaking up. 

So when you arrive at your university this Autumn, why not take some time to do the research into what a church believes:

  • Do they have a values statement?
  • Do recent sermons include women preachers, and people of colour?
  • Do they clearly state a commitment to being open to or affirming of same sex relationships and trans* people? (Check out the Honest Church toolkit for more resources in this area!)
  • What do they post on their social media? 
  • Do they have a doctrinal basis or “what we believe” section of their website? Does it align with your beliefs?
  • Do they have a link to a denomination or network of churches, such as the Evangelical Alliance or the Baptist World Alliance? What does the denomination or network believe?

Michael Shaw is married to Katie and lives in Plymouth. He is a accredited Baptist Minister, and Minister of Devonport Baptist church, and is the free church Chaplain at Plymouth University.