By Stephen Reeves
As the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship continues to highlight opportunities for advocacy in response to usurious lending practices like payday and auto title loans, we are expanding our reach through the addition of Advocacy Outreach Specialists.
CBF has become a national leader in the faith community among those working to reform predatory small-dollar lending practices which often carry interest rates and fees in excess of 400% APR. To further this leadership at a critical moment in national policy development, CBF will deploy five part-time advocacy outreach specialists to five critical states — Texas, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky and South Carolina. These specialists will work to increase engagement of CBF pastors and church members in this advocacy initiative and reach out to other faith communities in their state interested in joining ongoing reform efforts.
Through developing relationships and educating Cooperative Baptists in these key regions, these specialists will equip the broader Fellowship to engage in advocacy by collecting and sharing the stories of individuals who have been negatively impacted by predatory lending. They will encourage advocates to reach out to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) as the bureau develops new regulations which will govern small-dollar lending nationwide. These specialists will also help people of faith show public support of a strong rule through engagement with the CFPB, policymakers and the media. CBF hopes to create a powerful and prophetic public witness by grounding its advocacy work in the mission experience of local churches and their communities.
Jeffrey Howard is serving as the Advocacy Outreach Specialist in South Carolina. Howard is currently also a CBF Leadership Scholar, pursuing his Master of Divinity at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anyra Cano is the specialist serving in Texas. With a background working with Buckner International, she brings a vast knowledge of cross-cultural ministry and advocacy for underserved communities. Cano serves at Iglesia Bautista Victoria en Cristo in Fort Worth, Texas. Contact her at email@example.com.
Sharon Felton is the specialist in Kentucky, and is currently also serving as the minister to students at Faith Baptist Church in Georgetown, Ky. Felton has been working in the areas of education and payday lending over the last few years, and will be continuing these efforts in her role. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In Florida, Pat Anderson will serve as the specialist, and brings unique knowledge of the Fellowship and Florida as he joins the team. Anderson served as coordinator for CBF of Florida from 1990 to 2002 before joining CBF as a missions advocate, speaking on behalf of CBF Global Missions and taking groups of pastors to difficult places where CBF field personnel work. This new venture will extend this advocacy into the local church and community. He also served as CBF Interim Executive Coordinator prior to Suzii Paynter’s arrival. Contact him at email@example.com.
CBF is still searching for an Advocacy Outreach Specialist in Tennessee. If interested please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alongside the Advocacy Outreach Specialists, the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and the Faith for Just Lending coalition are asking that pastors and others who encounter borrowers in their mission or ministry work get involved. Through the easy process of filling out this survey, Faith for Just Lending is working to gather information to share with policymakers. Individuals who are willing to tell their story of personal experience with predatory lending are asked to share their story here.
With this information, Faith for Just Lending will be able to affect change through speaking truth to those in power, sharing stories of real communities facing real issues regarding predatory lending. To learn more about the work of Faith for Just Lending, share your story or endorse the principles of just lending, visit their website here.
In late July, President Obama announced the finalization of new rules designed prevent predatory lenders from exploiting members of the military. The revisions to the Military Lending Act by the Department of Defense will close harmful loopholes and better protect active duty military personnel and their families from financial abuse at the hands of payday and auto title lenders. In large part the rules seek to make more effective a 36% APR rate limit in place since 2006. This positive step in lending reform should prevent military families from falling into the cycle of debt often created by these products. More information on these reforms can be found here.
We are at a critical moment in the national movement for payday and auto title lending reform. I’m excited that the new Advocacy Outreach Coordinators will be adding strength and reach to our efforts. Many pastors and leaders within the Fellowship have worked at the state level for reform; it is now time to help make sure their voices are heard in Washington at the CFPB and in Congress. Having additional Advocacy staff that can help direct these voices is exciting.
After years of working on this issue I’ve come to the conclusion that it really boils down to a simple moral question. For a few borrowers the loans work as advertised and that is great, but for a very large percentage these loans instead set a trap; one that causes devastation for a family and turns a large profit for the lender. We should not allow such deceptive products. The question then is should our laws and our government stand up for vulnerable borrowers trying to make ends meet or on the side of those willing to take advantage of the desperate for profit? It is time we return to traditional values regarding usury and away from immoral debt-trap loans that have done so much damage in our communities. I’m proud that CBF and our pastors have been key national leaders in the establishment of Faith for Just Lending. The incredible consensus among faith organizations proves that no longer will people of faith stand by while our neighbors are exploited for profit. We thank the CFPB for their work, encourage them to propose a strong rule as soon as possible, and call on members of Congress to support and defend the enforcement of new rules.
- Faith for Just Lending
- CBF Advocacy
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- CBF field personnel fights predatory lending in southeast Kentucky with education and advocacy (August 2015)
- CBF’s Stephen Reeves comments on federal proposal to end payday loan abuses (March 2015)
- Cooperative Baptists in Kentucky champion cap on payday loan interest rates (February 2015)
- Kentucky faith leaders push bill to prevent unfair payday loan practices (January 2015)
- Cooperative Baptists urge Congress to support payday loan reform (December 2014)
Stephen Reeves serves as the associate coordinator of partnerships and advocacy for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.