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Stop predatory lending: A statement from Bishop Ough

Then Jesus went into the temple and threw out all those who were selling and buying there. He pushed over the tables used for currency exchange and the chairs of those who sold doves.  He said to them, “It’s written, My house will be called a house of prayer. But you’ve made it a hideout for crooks.” Matthew 21: 12-13 (CEB)

Photo: Rev. Karl Kroger, Piedmont Grace UMC discusses the resolution to become a coalition partner with South Dakotans for Responsible Lending at the 2016 Annaul Conference session held in June 2016. Photo by jlynn studios.

United Methodists in the Dakotas, like United Methodists around the world, embrace a "rule of life" handed down to us from John Wesley, the founder of our evangelical, spiritual and social holiness movement.  The core elements of this "rule of life" are:                                                                        

Do no harm,
Do good, and
Stay in love with God.

These core truths are expressed in one way or another by every faith tradition.  These are the core truths that give rise to the United Methodist Church's firm and unwavering position against excessive payday lending.

At the twenty-third session of the Dakotas Annual Conference, the body approved a resolution concerning predatory lending in South Dakota. Members voted to become a coalition partner with South Dakotans for Responsible Lending. You can read the full resolution beginning on page 39 of the 2016 Journal Volume I.

For years, the payday lending industry have been permitted to charge an average of 574 percent annual interest. This has added to the growing debt problem of many our our neighbors. These lenders prey on some of our must vulnerable populations including, low-income families, the elderly, minorities, military personnel. And others desperate for cash. This is morally wrong and inconsistent with our historic United Methodist prohibition against the “giving or taking of usury” Social Principles of The United Methodist Church: The Economic Community.

Payday loan customers are often face with an impossible decision—pay for an over-priced product or not meet an important need. South Dakotans for Responsible Lending is a bi-partisan coalition that seeks to cap payday, car title, and installment loans at an annual interest rate of 36%.

Today’s payday lending practices are not just financially irresponsible; they are morally reprehensible. It is imperative that persons of faith who seek the common good for all of God’s people work together to cap the interest rate and stop those who charge 574 percent interest.  Just as Jesus did with the practices of the moneychargers found in the New Testament (Mark 11:15-17, Matthew 21:12-13).

I respectfully encourage you to witness to your neighbors, families and friends regarding this issue to vote “yes” on Measure 21 and “no” on Constitutional Amendment U. For more information, go to captherate.com. Here are several resources for your use.

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, resident bishop, Dakotas-Minnesota Area of The United Methodist Church