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I have been following with dismay the findings of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry. It is bad enough that deceit, exploitation and fraudulent practices took place, even worse that outright lying to clients and even to ASIC occurred and appalling that such behaviour seemed to be explicitly endorsed by boards and executive officers as a normal part of their business practices.

It appears that lack of integrity and honesty is rife in our society; that the greed is good epigram spoken by Gordon Gekko in Wall Street over thirty years ago has taken root in our world. Greed may by good (in the short term) for those who prosper from rapacious actions, but it is very bad indeed for their victims as the Royal Commission is revealing.

The word ‘integrity’ means ‘wholeness’ or ‘of one piece’ in the original Latin. People of integrity show consistency between actions and words, between promises and delivery, between personal morality and public actions. Integrity is in short supply, and not only in the financial services sector.

We have seen in another Royal Commission how church people, even leaders in Anglican Churches, have lacked integrity;
putting institutional or personal advantage before living consistently with their Christian profession. Jesus himself has no time
for such people. In some harsh words he denounced those who misled children, saying that such people are better in the  bottom of the ocean with a millstone round their necks. Further, the risen Jesus describes the church in Laodicea, which was so proud of its acquisitions, as bare and naked and warns them that, unless there is immediate change, he will spit them out of his mouth like rotten food.

Real Christians act with integrity. All their words and actions match their baptismal identification with Christ. They follow Jesus
in suffering loss or mistreatment rather than harming others. They genuinely trust Him, rather than exploiting loopholes or lying in order to build up treasure on earth. Most people reading this column think of themselves as real Christians, so we soberly need to do what my own financial advisor calls a ‘health check’. Do we live our lives according to the character that Jesus desires? Do people know we can be trusted? Do they know that we will keep our word, even to our own detriment? Do they know that we don’t put people down behind their backs while acting sweetly in their presence? Such a health check makes us squirm a bit, doesn’t it?

If this is required of every ordinary Christian, how much more is integrity needed by those in leadership in the church. When
the Apostle Paul describes in 1 Timothy 3 the personal, relational and spiritual qualities necessary for a Christian leader, it is
all about character, not skills or experiences or qualifications. In discerning a new diocesan Bishop, the absolute first criterion
should be a Christian character that is above reproach. Only then should synod representatives start to evaluate other skills or
experiences.

Are you praying earnestly for a shepherd after God’s own heart, a person of Christian integrity, and will you do all you can to bring this about?

Bishop Trevor Edwards