Committee 13: Stewardship & socially responsible investing

money and with plant growing from it

Today’s daily office lectionary contains this zinger from the Gospel according to St. Luke: “…provide yourselves with purses that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” It’s a timely reminder as the General Convention talks about financial matters, whether it’s our budget or where we invest our money. These resolutions all concern investing. Alas, there were no resolutions about stewardship more broadly, but perhaps that’s because it’s something we do rather than legislate.

In any case, many of these resolutions deal with ESG (Environment, Social, Governance) investing, sometimes called ethical investing. I’m a huge fan. I’m proud to say that Forward Movement moved its entire portfolio into ESG investments a few years ago. Our outside advisors tell us that our returns have been near what they would have been had we not done this. But even if ethical investing had a financial cost, it’s the right thing to do. As a church, we should not desire ill-gotten gains, and we should seek for our money to do good. On a personal note, during the pandemic, I moved all of my personal investments into ESG stocks & bonds. I want to retire with a clean conscience, and I want my money to do good.

I mention all this because the Episcopal Church has been strangely reluctant to move our money into ESG investments. Frankly, I don’t understand why this is even a question. I’d also like to see the General Convention direct the Church Pension Fund to move all of its funds into ESG investments. We have considerable wealth in the Episcopal Church. If we look at our where heart is right now based on where our treasure is, it’s not great.

So let’s move our hearts into God’s kingdom by moving our treasure there. On to the resolutions.

 

A028 Support for Freedom to Consider Ethical Issues in Investing. Full text. Likely vote: NO, unless amended.

This resolution variously reaffirms, affirms, laments, and encourages but actually does very little. Instead of saying ESG is good, it would be better to direct that we move funds. Passing a resolution like this might make some feel better, but it will change nothing.

 

A029 Divest from Fossil Fuels. Full text. Likely vote: YES.

This resolution also expresses and encourages, but it has tangible actions, too: in that it directs “that any and all investments in companies in fossil fuel industries remaining in the DFMS portfolio be sold by December 31, 2024.” Yes, please. Let’s not profit from the poisoning of our planet.

 

A030 No Investment in Certain Weapons. Full text. Likely vote: YES.

If passed, this resolution sets an investment policy for the Episcopal Church. It’s worth quoting in full: “That DFMS shall not invest in any company or corporation that is engaged or involved in the production, use, or stockpiling, or the sale, transfer, or export of, any weapon or weapons system, or any key component thereof, whether now existing or developed hereafter, that can cause or lead to mass or indiscriminate injury or death to civilians or widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure, including, without limitation, biological weapons, chemical weapons, nuclear weapons, weapons that injure by fragments which are not detectable in the human body (non-detectable fragment weapons), incendiary weapons, blinding laser weapons, anti-personnel mines, cluster munitions, and lethal autonomous weapons, or any other weapons or weapons systems or key components thereof that are excessively injurious or have indiscriminate effects.”

War is evil, so let’s not profit from it. Instead, let us sell our sword stocks and invest our money in plowshares.

 

A163 Affirming the Ongoing Work across the Episcopal Church in Consideration of Ethical Issues in Investing. Full text. Likely vote: NO, unless amended.

This resolution comes from the legislative committee, apparently based on A028. It also affirms and encourages and so on. It has the beginnings of language that would actually direct reinvestment. If the committee can add some more teeth to this to move money, rather than merely talking about it, I’m all in.

Photo by micheile henderson on Unsplash

2 Responses

  1. John Miller says:

    Something to consider about the Fossil Fuel industry from someone on the inside. 1) 80% of domestic oil production is done by privately held companies (my company is still held 100% by the children of its founder for example). It is a very boom and bust business and unless you are at the very top, it is not the kind of thing markets are good at funding. 2) The amount of crude oil pumped out of the ground *always* matches the amount used. The oil market is very efficient and price sensitive. Storing the stuff is nasty business and expensive. Therefore, the absolute best way to ensure less oil is pumped is to stop burning it.

    To that end, I suggest that A029 be amended to add companies like Ford, GM, Stellantis, Boeing, Airbus; companies engaged in the manufacture of the products that create the demand for fossil fuels are far more connected to the rate of oil production than are the companies that produce it.

    A second action that would also have far more impact than selling off a microscopic percentage of Major oil companies would be to invest the funds in green technology start-ups. Shell will not even notice that TEC left the market, but a wind, solar, or grid storage company could secure a first round of funding with the amounts TEC has to invest.

  2. DOnald says:

    John,
    Thank you for your informed, helpful perspective.
    Donald (Not a General Convention Deputy)

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