Iis it possible Financially successful and be a virtuous Christian? Followers of the world’s largest religion have debated this question for more than 2,000 years. Recently, the debate has heated up. The management of Christian funds, once outsourced to professionals, is now an ethical minefield whose negotiations have implications for the here and now, not just the afterlife.
Christian investors fall into three main camps: those willing to enter into ESG partnerships (ESG) types; those who vehemently opposed them; and Roman Catholics. Dave Zellner, who manages $24 billion for Wespath, the de facto investment arm of the American Methodist Church, topped the list. He described his job as finding “the intersection between good business practice and church values.” Wespath lends to the poor for housing projects at market rates. It works with shareholder advocacy lobby groups around the world, including a coalition called Climate Action 100+, which encourages energy companies to stop carbon emissions.
American evangelical Robert Netzly is Mr Zellner’s mirror image. His firm, Inspire Investing, manages $2 billion. It tries to apply “biblical principles” to all choices.Last year Mr. Netzly gave up ESG hashtag, saying it was “weaponized by liberal activists to advance their … social-Marxist agenda”.but he agrees ESG Argues that non-financial criteria should be used to consider investments—he just uses different criteria, such as whether the company supports abortion, such as providing travel expenses for employees for the procedure. He was also active in shareholder activities, pushing the bank to accept business from religious conservatives. The Christian investment industry could be strong if mobilized properly, he said. He estimates that US Catholics and Protestants hold about $21 trillion in stocks and bonds.
Across this divide is the Roman Catholic Church. In November, Cardinal Peter Turkson issued the Vatican’s highest-level statement on the flow of funds. It lists 24 things to avoid abetting as much as possible: addictive products and pornography; embryo research, which conservatives hate; and genetically modified seeds, opposed by ecological leftists. In the United States, Catholic bishops have issued their own rules, a document that some conservative scholars have called confusing.
Dylan Pahman of the Acton Institute, a religious think tank, argues that the church has gone too far into economics. For example, while it is right to cherish the planet, energy policy involves trade-offs, and calculating them is not a matter of theology, he said. Given the hostility of today’s debate, his voice is likely to remain.
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