Dr Laurie Guy
I, LAURENCE DAVID GUY of Auckland, Vice Principal solemnly and sincerely SWEAR:
1. I am the Vice Principal (Academic) of Carey Baptist College at Auckland.
2. My academic qualifications are LLB (Hons), MA (in history), PhD (in history), MTh (in New Testament).
3. I began training as a Baptist pastor in 1971 and have been in full-time Christian ministry as pastor, missionary and lecturer since 1974.
4. I have been a lecturer at Carey Baptist College since 1991 and have taught extensively in the New Testament and in Church History. I am now Vice Principal (Academic) of the College. I am the author of Introducing Early Christianity: A Topical Survey of Its Life, Beliefs & Practices (Downer Grove Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2004).
5. I have read the Code of Conduct for Expert Witnesses in the High Court and agree to abide by it.
6. I have been asked to give my opinion on whether the objects of the Liberty Trust and the way it operates is fundamentally for the advancement of religion.
7. I have read the objects as set out in the Trust Deed for Liberty Trust of 18 April 1989. I have also read the decision of the Charities Commission dated 15 April 2010, which declared that the Liberty Trust was to be de-registered as a charity.
8. I understand that:
(a) The purpose of the Liberty Trust is to teach the Bible’s financial principles nationwide, and to validate them in practice by providing a company, Ark Resources Ltd, with a fund to lend for the purpose of enabling recipients of loans to own their own homes or for churches to build or expand their plants. Such loans are to be interest free;
(b) A community of people has contributed to Liberty Trust for 21 years under the covering of the Whakatane Baptist and Liberty Life Churches;
(c) The Trust has loaned approximately $18.8 million to date to over 250 families, churches and individuals from Kaitaia to Riverton, more than half of whom have repaid their loans;
(d) Each recipient of a loan will save paying bank mortgage interest;
(e) Some loans are made to needy persons who have not previously donated to Liberty Trust or have donated only small amounts;
(f) leaving that category to one side, to qualify for an interest free loan:
- the borrower must have been donating to Liberty Trust for around 10 years or so; or
- the borrower must be nominated by someone who has been so donating for around 10 years; or
- the donor has advised the trustees that they are free to use the available loan money for some worthy purpose.
9. Christian faith/understanding is rooted in:
(a) the teachings of the Old Testament;
(b) Jesus Christ, his life and teachings;
(c) the teachings of other first-century Christians embedded in the New Testament.
10. The Old Testament is deeply concerned with human well-being as well as matters of divinity. Thus the New Testament can sum up those teachings either as a dual command to love one’s neighbours as well as God (Luke 10.25-27) or even simply to love one’s neighbours (Romans 13.8-10).
11. The Old Testament concern for well-being is summed up in the word shalom, which means much more than our word ‘peace’. It is expressive of wholeness in all aspects. This wholeness is not simply a wholeness of the individual but also a wholeness or well-being of the whole community, of every person, of every sector.
12. The New Testament does not alter such an emphasis, but assumes it and builds on it. Fundamental to the Christian gospel is the notion of the kingdom of God (Mark 1.15; Matthew 6.33). This concept is explained as the outworking of God’s will on earth (Matthew 6.10). This outworking includes attitudes of sharing, mutuality etc. The earliest church embodied this in radical sharing of possessions (Acts 2.44). While such radical living did not continue (or did not continue universally) later on, the principle of mutuality was a core value of the Christian church, expressed by St Paul in 2 Corinthians 8.12-15.
13. The biblical witness (Old and New Testaments) does not have a western distinction between secular and sacred. The Christian religion is concerned with the whole of life. Christians should not only believe but put into practice their beliefs. St James exhorts Christians to be doers of the word, not hearers only (James 1.22).
14. To divorce teaching from practice is artificial and directly contrary to the fundamentals of Christianity and the teachings of Christ.
15. The Old Testament teaches that lending within the community of faith should be interest free, see (Deut 23.20, Nehemiah 5.7).
16. A major teaching emphasis in the New Testament is that Christianity is vitally concerned with the proper use of money, with giving, with generosity etc.
17. This concern for generosity carried over into the early church of post-New-Testament times. Justin Martyr (c.150AD) wrote: ‘We who above all else loved the ways of acquiring riches and possessions now hand over to a community fund what we possess and share it with every needy person’ (Apology 1.14). Tertullian (c.200AD) wrote: ‘Family possessions, which generally destroy brotherhood among you, create fraternal bonds among us. One in mind and soul, we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another. All things are common among us except our wives’ (Apology 39). This led to the early-third-century document, The Apostolic Tradition, indicating that the church criterion for bestowing Christian baptism was the involvement of the candidate in a life of humanity and compassion (chapter 20). All this points to the Christian message being focused as much on the concerns of humanity as much as ‘other-worldly’ concerns.
18. The church most in continuity with the early church and its principles is the Roman Catholic Church. There has been a strong strand of social justice and radical sharing exemplified in that church’s teaching and practice, expressed in well-known figures such as St Francis of Assisi and Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
19. Teaching applying Christian principles to housing can be found in a collective New Zealand Catholic bishops’ statement issued in June 1983 (reprinted in Chris Orsman & Peter Zwart (eds), Church in the World: Statements on Social Justice Issues 1979-1997 by New Zealand’s Catholic Bishops, Wellington: Catholic Office for Social Justice, 1997, 43-47. A copy of this is annexed marked “LG1”.
20. In my opinion the operation of Liberty Trust is fundamentally religious and in conformity with the teachings I have referred to above. It is facilitating the sharing of financial burdens that are increasingly difficult to carry outside the community and the promotion of shalom. A guiding principle is Galatians 6.10: Let us work for the good of all, and especially those of the family of faith”.
21. The concept that those who support the Trust may in the fairly distant future also be eligible to receive a loan if they then qualify for such a loan is in no way inconsistent with the Christian principle of a community providing mutual support to those in need. As I understand it, no person who donates to the Trust has any right or entitlement to receive a loan and many who donate have no expectation of or requirement to receive such a loan. They also never receive back their donation.
22. Liberty Trust practices advance the cause of the Christian religion by being an attractive example to others, and this helps to attract people to the Christian faith.
23. Further, by providing them with interest free loans, this frees up Christians and their resources for God’s service.
24. I recognise that not all of the loan recipients are necessarily Christian but, to the extent they receive interest free loans, this is a tangible expression of the Christian gospel. There could be no doubt in the recipient’s mind that Liberty Trust is a Christian organisation acting out what it sees are Christian principles.
25. In my opinion, the benefit that donors/loan recipients may receive is not an end in itself but an integral out working of Christian teaching espoused by Liberty Trust which teaching is rooted in the Old Testament as confirmed by Jesus and the writers of the New Testament and as has been, in various ways, lived out by Christian communities down through the ages.
26. I recognise that Liberty Trust does not serve the whole of society but only a section of it. Government provision of assistance has historically been to provide benefits across all of society. In today's world, however, the government has commonly recognised that blanket impersonal assistance is not always the best way to deliver help and has increasingly looked to the charitable sector to deliver much of this help even though the charity is serving only a sector of society. The idea is that a significant sector of society is being helped and that if a partchwork of agencies do their part in different ways then the overall outcome is better than a blanket approach. If other bodies develop plans to do something of what Liberty Trust is doing, then collectively this will serve to provide major help to a large part of society.