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While thinking about what to do with the IBEX website, Hannah asked me what IBEX stands for, or, in fact, whether it stands for anything. The real answer is that it doesn’t, but then again it does. I have told this story so many times in so many different places that we realised it needs to be written down. To cut a long story short, IBEX used to be SHIM. And when it changed from SHIM to IBEX, the name was chosen as the name of an animal because we became very frustrated at trying to find an acronym that would describe what we were.

This led the then team to think of calling it something daft, like Elephant. The reasoning was, I guess, along the lines that if Orange can do it for mobile phone networks and Egg at the time could do it for Credit Cards, then why not? We felt justified in calling it IBEX because my mother-in-law at the time had a book on her bookshelves of “Animals of the Holy Land”, and on the front cover was….. an IBEX.

Howcome IBEX?

But at the same time we absolutely did not want to hide where we were coming from. People do use IBEX as shorthand, but it was always the intention to use the whole title of the Charity, which we spent a long time over formulating. “IBEX – The Churches working with the Economy”. We agonised over every word:

  • The Church or the Churches? We wanted to make it clear that we were ecumenical, and alongside that to make it clear to the wider world that this was more than just “the big building round the corner”.

  • “Working with” or “working in”…. or probably any number of other prepositions? If we used “in”, it might indicate we wanted to “go native” and that the Churches and the Economy were different worlds. Going native – that is people from the Church immersing themselves in the outside world so much that they become separated from the Church – was a big issue at the time with “Industrial Mission”, as this field of work was then usually known. We wanted very much to draw back from that.

  • “The Economy”? This is often called Workplace Mission or, historically, Industrial Mission, but both of those were limiting and did not really describe what we or anyone else was doing. Yes, it was about Chaplaincy and workplace matters, but it was also about economic development, unemployment, Public Issues and any number of other things – an overlap with “Social Responsibility”? yes, very much so, but very much working together as allies.

Problems and advantages of being a goat!

The die was cast. Then it was down to things like logos and letterheads. We were all for using a picture or drawing of an IBEX in some way, until our then chair pointed out that an IBEX has horns – big horns which could clearly be associated with the Devil. That idea fairly swiftly, then, had to be knocked on the head.

But the plus side was that we came to realise that IBEX could stand for “Industry, Business and Economy”, with the “X” representing the Church. I can’t remember if we realised this too late to use it, or whether we just decided not to – the former, I think. But maybe we should make more play of it. One of the main things we were probably trying to emphasise, though, was that IBEX was not doing what it did so that the rest of the Church(es) could ignore it. We wanted everyone else to “own” it, to be interested, to contribute, to do something in their own area, to get involved, to take the rest of the world, of which the Churches (and the wider Faith Communities) are an important part, seriously.

Why the need to change from SHIM to IBEX.

SHIM stood for South Hampshire Industrial Mission. It was registered as a charity in 1977. I was not around then, but I am aware that one of my colleagues in the early days (from 1993 onwards) was the Revd Canon Julian Eagle, and that he had elicited the support of the Church Leaders from all the major denominations in order to form the Charity. Incidentally, one of the signatories of that founding document and constitution was my father-in-law as the Chair of the Methodist District of Southampton at the time – The Revd Donald Lee. I was very careful not to reveal that, though, when I was interviewed for the post I took up in 1993.

But when Julian retired in the late 1990s, The Diocese of Winchester decided to replace his Southampton post with one in Bournemouth. This was taken up by a Baptist Minister, the Revd Adrian Thomas, who had a brief to work in the Bournemouth and Poole areas. This was actually fairly far-sighted from the Diocese, as Poole (alongside two wards of Bournemouth) is in the Diocese of Salisbury. But Bournemouth is not in Hampshire. It used to be many, many years ago, but Poole never has been in Hampshire, so the immediate response to “I’m from SHIM” could well be “What’s that got to do with us, then?” The name had to change.

Incidentally, when we applied to change the name to the Charity Commissioners, the response came back that the original SHIM constitution would not be accepted by the Commission for a Charity if submitted at that time. We therefore had the choice of leaving the name and the constitution in place and adopting “IBEX” as a trading name, or of developing a new constitution and registering it to change the name. We decided to do things properly.

So this is how registered charity number 273551 came to be called “IBEX – The Churches Working With The Economy”.

Areas where IBEX works with

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