Volume 11.3 – Religion in the workplace

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By Lord Griffiths of Fforestfach

This is the 2007 Hugh Kay Memorial Lecture, printed here by kind permission of CABE. Lord Griffiths notes the extraordinary growth of the ‘Faith and Work movement, particularly in the USA, and makes a valuable distinction between Faith Based, Faith Neutral and Faith Friendly Companies. He concludes with a personal challenge to Christians to follow their divine calling at work through integrity, service and the development of people.

It is a great pleasure and privilege to be invited to give this eighteenth Hugh Kay Memorial Lecture. I knew Hugh Kay well and respected him greatly. He was a talented journalist, broadcaster and writer, and while a person of great faith he never hid his own struggles, not least from the problems of ill health with which he suffered most of his life. I owe him a great personal debt because as the director of the Christian Association of Business Executives he was the person responsible for encouraging, then prodding and finally insisting that I write on the subject of wealth creation and business. As a result it is a great honour to be invited to give a lecture in the memory of someone I counted a real friend. The subject I have chosen for this lecture is ‘Religion in the Workplace’.

The word religion could easily have been replaced by faith, which
would have made it more inclusive, informal and less emotionally charged, or by spirituality which would have made it seem less dogmatic, prejudiced and divisive. I have chosen religion, however, because it is a more challenging subject to relate to the workplace than either faith or spirituality. Some religions, in particular Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have a clear theological underpinning, an ethical teaching about what is right and wrong, holy days which are to be observed, and in the case of Islam certain clothes which should be worn and times at which prayers should be said; and along with Judaism dietary practices which must be observed, all of which have implications for the workplace.

For any believer to start with there is the question of discovering exactly what his or her religion says about work, business and wealth creation, something incidentally which is
far easier said than done. The three Abrahamic religions have as the basis of their faith a theology which includes among other things a certain view of the created world, the nature of the human person and the significance of work. Other religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism may not have so clearly developed a theology but they certainly have insights which need to be explored.

On the basis of this teaching an individual who takes their faith seriously will wish to explore how it relates to issues raised by the particular workplace in which they find themselves. What does it mean for example to show integrity in a financial transaction? How does a partner in a leading international accounting, law or investment banking firm maintain an appropriate work – life balance? How does the idea that ‘my word is my bond’ apply in a fastmoving negotiation? How does…

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