Greening the Christian pound
SINCE Friends Provident established their pioneering stewardship fund in 1984, there has been a growing movement towards ethical investing. Initially, it was mainly about not investing money in pornography, tobacco or gun manufacturing, but “things have changed a lot since then,” says Simon Carlin, a financial planner in Bristol who practices the profession. under the name of Lost Coin.
“At one end of the spectrum now, there are so-called ‘light green’ investments, which are tested against a set of ‘, [ESG] Criteria. You then have a more sustainable or socially responsible investment, where customers want to know that their money is doing good while achieving some growth. And then you have “impact investing,” where social return comes first. “
How have Christian financial advisers played their part in these developments? How have these ethical considerations affected the advice they give, and are they actively leading their clients in a similar or different direction?
Dave Chamberlain, director of Qi Financial Solutions, in Croydon, who sits on the committee of the Association of Christian Financial Advisers (ACFA), says the Christian point of view is that “we are stewards of God’s money, for using it in a way that works for us, but ultimately, more importantly, works for God.
Jon French, a Sidcup-based AW Financial Management partner, acknowledges that there are a variety of teachings about money in the Church, but says that “the one key theme across all the different understandings of Christianity is is Jesus’ teaching that he should not be our goal in life just to amass wealth. The money must be used to provide for our needs, but must also be used for the Kingdom. “
His company’s website selects three of the eight “biblical principles of financial planning” that ACFA promotes: Spend less than you earn, borrow wisely and repay, and plan ahead.
He emphasizes that his job is simply to advise. “When the client is a Christian, part of it will help them explore what it means to use their money in a way that honors God and helps achieve God’s goals for their lives. We are not trying to push people towards what we think is the right way because everyone has different views on money and morals. We would certainly take the example of our clients, focusing on their projects and desires. At the end of the day, we are financial advisers, not pastors or teachers.
Nonetheless, he says, “there are times when it seems appropriate to gently challenge the client, to make him think. Often times, it can be in the area of giving: “Did you think that a tithe of your income would be that much? They may have heard of tithing in church, but never quite put their finger on how it affects their money.
Mr. Carlin (whose company uses the slogan “Find Real Wealth”) challenges his Christian clients “sometimes” about what they do with their money. He encourages them to think in terms of “give, save and spend”, in that order, “on the basis that, yes, we have to spend money – we have to live and everything in between – but all of our money. belongs to God.
NORMALLY, says Mr. Chamberlain, a client comes with a particular problem, such as a debt or an investment. “My starting point would probably be the ACFA Eight Principles, and that obviously brings Bible verses into the conversation. “
“Most of my Christian clients come from a fairly evangelical background and have generally received a fairly good education about money. When you talk about being stewards of God’s money, they get it.
“However, some have a very rigid approach to giving, which is stuck on tithe, and I try to challenge that. It is an Old Testament principle that the New Testament prevails, really, with verses like 2 Corinthians 9: 7 – about giving cheerfully; and 1 Timothy 6:18 – about being generous and willing to share.
Most Christian clients, says French, already know what their principles and priorities are and just want a counselor who understands them. “For a non-Christian counselor, prioritizing tithing over, say, savings or insurance would make no sense, when as Christians we would understand their desire to give God the firstfruits. Again, it won’t be a surprise to us if they suddenly want to donate a large amount of money. And there are times when we will pray with clients, for advice or for wisdom. “
What if a customer takes Jesus’ instruction to the rich young man to heart and feels obligated to sell everything he owns and give the proceeds to the poor?
“I wouldn’t take it at face value,” Mr. Carlin said, “but I wouldn’t say they are wrong either, for who am I to say whether they were prompted by God or not? What I would do is encourage them, if they haven’t already, to test this [conviction] with a trusted friend, and maybe their [church leader], and really make sure before you do anything as extreme as this. I would be more of a sounding board in this kind of scenario.
I storeOne way to invest in social justice, a Kingdom value, is to support humanitarian health programs abroad.
What about Jesus’ injunctions not to worry about tomorrow or “to lay up treasures on earth”? “Some older people come to us and maybe have taken this very strict approach,” French said. “You say, ‘You don’t have much to provide income for your retirement years. How are you going to do it? ‘ There is always the response, “Oh, God will provide for me” and, yes, that is certainly true; but God also gave us ways and means to use our time and talents, to do good in this world, but also to earn money and provide for our needs.
“It’s a very difficult balance. I think the answer has to be guided by the Spirit, which seems right for each individual.
One issue that many Western Christians grapple with, he says, is the threat that money can pose to spiritual health. “We might not be feeling very rich, yet a lot of us are in the top 1% globally, which is a tough place to live when we think about some of the things Jesus said to the rich. of his time. I think it takes a lot of thought and prayer.
SOME of ACFA’s eight biblical principles, such as “Dealing Fairly with Others,” are undisputed. Others are more controversial, suggests Chamberlain. “Spending less than what you earn is quite counter-cultural these days. We live in a society that expects to have it now, to pay later. The same goes for giving generously. My non-Christian colleagues find it difficult to understand why I give what I do.
The most demanding of all is the first: “God owns 100% of everything. How far do you have to go? Should a Christian save some of God’s money for a putative “rainy day,” for example, when other people are soaked today? Should a Christian spend God’s money on private education to give his child “the best start in life,” when other people’s children are just as important to God?
“It’s difficult,” admits Chamberlain. “I don’t think there is anything wrong with private education in itself, but it all depends on your priorities. Are you properly managing the resources God has entrusted to you? One of the challenges of our world, and our country, is the growing divide between the haves and have-nots. “
The last principle of ACFA makes a distinction between providing for the needs of dependents and trying to protect them. “Only God can protect someone,” says Carlin, but some life insurance policies can pay off the mortgage, for example, if the primary earner dies. The authority to which ACFA refers is Paul, in 1 Timothy 5: 8: “Whoever does not provide for his relatives, and especially his own house, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
Oddly enough, ACFA makes no reference to ethical investing, but its three members interviewed for this article are strong advocates. “It’s always been part of what our firm offers to our clients,” says French, “although we don’t stress it at all; we also offer what we call an “unrestricted” wallet – which sounds better than “unethical”. A large portion of our Christian clients invest ethically, but not all. This is obviously their decision.
Mr. Chamberlain estimates that 80 to 90 percent of his Christian clients choose ethical funds; but, again, not all. “It surprised me. Some people don’t see it as a priority. Even within the ACFA, some advisers did not understand this and saw how important it is. Personally, I think this is an integral part of the life of your faith.
Most of his Christian clients look to the more ethical (“dark green”) end of the spectrum. “You don’t really have Christians standing in the middle: either they say, ‘I’m very green,’ or they say, ‘Actually, I don’t mind. “
Mr. Carlin was also baffled by the attitude of some Christians. “I have met some who frankly don’t care about the environment, even though they are in leadership positions in the Church. They almost say, “Well, we’re at the end of time anyway, so what can we do? We will continue anyway. I was so shocked that I didn’t know what to say.
At the last ACFA conference, in 2019, he met members who “always had the mindset that financial performance is all that matters, and if you want to get social return, well you can. donate a portion to charity.
“Things have moved at a steady pace since then,” however. “The mood across the industry has changed dramatically over the past two years due to Covid. Certainly, ESG has exploded in terms of growth, everyone is talking about it, online training all care.
Today, he estimates, probably half of his clients are Christians, and more than half of his clients’ money is invested in ethical, sustainable or impact investments. “We can all see that the global climate is changing, whether we like it or not, and we can all do our part. This includes how we invest our money.