Dear friends in Christ,
I’ve long been intrigued by ethical ways to use money for the good of the world. Of course, one choice is to make donations to organizations who seek the improvement of the common good.
There are also ways to make money while also using our money for good. For example, ethical investing puts money in companies with ethically sound practices to support those who are doing good in the world. There are funds which make micro-loans to people in developing countries to help them start enterprises that can be sustainable and support their economic improvement; one can invest in these funds and sometimes get a modest return on the investment. We can buy bonds that underwrite green energy projects, and these bonds may generate income like any other bonds.
I’ve been thinking about churches and their wealth recently. Should our goal be to seek the highest possible return? Or should we temper financial gains with moral and ethical interests. Can we do both?
At Forward Movement, we reinvested our modest investment fund a couple of years ago. Before we had a typical balanced portfolio with policies that were primarily oriented around financial return. After considering several options, we put our entire fund in a balanced ESG (environmental, social and governance investing) portfolio of stocks, bonds, and other instruments. This means we hope to do good with our money. By the way, since we made the switch, our financial performance has exceeded our previous benchmarks. (So it doesn’t always have to cost something to do good, though it often will.)
I’m not here to give financial advice. Talk to someone who does finance for a living to get financial advice!
But I am here to raise questions. Can we, as a church, change the world with our wealth? Can we encourage our members to pool their money to change the world?
Imagine if the church offered alternatives to predatory payday lending programs. Imagine if the church created investment funds to support the launch of small businesses by racial minorities and other groups who may not find financial support in our current systems. Imagine if we bought bonds to support transformational infrastructure, sustainable resource development, and green energy. There are many ways we could use our money to change the world.
Any time we want to change the world, we can start in our own hearts. At our house, we began with our retirement investments. We’re nearly done switching all of our money to ethical or socially conscious investing. We give money to the church of course, but also to other organizations doing good.
Are you using your money to change the world for the better? How is your church doing?
More from our ministry:
Online Course: What Every Vestry Member Needs to Know about Money with The Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania
Book ideas for churches and small groups: Learn more!
A book of pray and practice: Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book