A Reformed Understanding of Usury

This report and its recommendations are in response to the following referral:  2004 Referral:  Item 10-09.  On Preparing a Policy Statement on Usury in the United States - From the Presbytery of Utah (Minutes, 2004, Part I, pp. 60, 798-99).

The 216th General Assembly (2004)'s referred Item 10-09, an overture from the Presbytery of Utah as amended (Minutes, 2004, Part I, pp. 60, 798-99), to the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy to investigate the question of usury in the United States and to prepare a resolution for the 217th General Assembly (2006) that would achieve the following:

 1. More clearly define the sin of usury for the 21st century. 

  2. Suggest parameters (for example, a certain APR or a quadrupling of the amount of the original loan within a short period of time) beyond which Presbyterians could agree that the sin of usury was taking place. 

  3. Encourage Presbyterians to become aware of usury laws in their states and to advocate for stricter limits and enforcement when necessary to protect the poor. 

  4. Develop ethical criteria consistent with the Reformed Tradition for evaluating usury laws and other legislation to address various forms of lending such as payday loans, sub-prime loans, predatory lending, and cashback tax preparation arrangements. (Minutes, 2004, Part I, p. 798)

 A Resolution group was formed from across the church representing the church in age, sex, race, and geography.  It included persons with backgrounds in administration, banking, biblical studies, theology, ethics, business practices, education, and finance.  The Reverend Dr. Cam Murchison served as consultant.  It examined the understandings of usury in Scripture, in church history generally, and in The Book of Confessions particularly, as well as in the recent history of the United States.  It also identified ethical criteria consistent with this Reformed tradition for assessing laws and practices in relation to usury.

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