More churches exploring mission responsibility through investment

Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC, 2017.

Churches across the globe are exploring how their investments can be an instrument of mission and advance goals of racial, economic and ecological justice.

In a presentation during a World Council of Churches webinar on 11 August, Rob Fohr, director of the Office of Faith-Based Investing and Corporate Engagement for the Presbyterian Church (USA), shared insights on socially responsible investing.

Faith-based investing uses the three pillars of socially responsible investing—screening, shareholder advocacy, and community investing—to express faithful stewardship of investment resources.

In June 2020, the Presbyterian Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment signed onto a statement calling for the investment community to help put an end to systemic racism and foster racial equity and justice.

The statement, which was developed and circulated by a group of investors from the Racial Justice Investing coalition, acknowledges that systemic racism has deep roots in the US and calls on the investment community to take specific steps to make things better.

The statement says in part, “We recognize that the investor community has contributed to and benefited from racist systems and the entrenchment of white supremacy. We therefore take responsibility and commit to hold ourselves accountable for dismantling systemic racism and promoting racial equity and justice through our investments and work.”

Fohr also mentioned the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, which was founded by American Protestant churches in 1971. Now the center is comprised not only of Christian traditions but Jewish and Muslim representatives as well as other values-based assets managers.

Fohr also addressed environmental racism through the lens of corporate engagement and social responsibility.

An action from the 223rd General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) stated the church will: “Listen to the perspectives and voices of people most impacted by environmental racism with awareness to cultural diversity domestically and internationally.”

In addition: “In accordance with the Gospel, position the church’s approach to environmental problems to include response to include responses to the voices most directly impacted by environmental racism.”

Last year, members of the Mission Responsibility Through Investment visited two communities in Louisiana and Detroit. The Chien Indian Tribe in south Louisiana shared their suffering as a result of coastal erosion brought on by canals constructed for the oil and gas industry, and the ensuing debate over whether and how to relocate entire communities.

In Detroit, Michigan, residents living near the Marathon Petroleum Refinery endure daily pollution, an environmental and health hazard with little or no response from the company after calls for assistance. The refinery is one of nine companies targeted by the Mission Responsibility Through Investment for corporate engagement on environmental standards and expectations.

The webinar at which Fohr spoke was the third of the WCC series “Churches on the road to an economy of life and ecological justice.” Other speakers included: Rev. Yusuf Tarigan, from the Ate Keleng Foundation, Indonesia, Nerise (Kakay) Pamaran, from the Union Theological Seminary, Philipines, Nana Francois, from FaithInvest, and Cynthia Abdon-Tellez, from the Mission for Migrant Workers, Hong Kong. The online event was moderated Athena Peralta, WCC programme executive for Economic and Ecological Justice, and Annalisse Eclipse, WCC intern of Economic and Ecological Justice project.

The next webinar, “Powered by faith – Churches promoting renewable energy and climate protection,” will be held 18 August.