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Book on ‘faithful investing’ features MRTI committee chair Joseph Kinard


Practices of various denominations highlighted in collaborative guide

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — When Joseph Kinard talks about the need for socially responsible investing by faith communities, he likes to refer back to the Matthew 25 story in which Jesus talks about the importance of caring for “the least of these.”

To fulfill that requirement, “you need to be responsible in your investing and be able to put your money to work,” said Kinard, chair of the Presbyterian Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI).

Kinard, who made the comment during a phone interview, is one of the experts who’s contributed material for the book “Faithful Investing: The Power of Decisive Action and Incremental Change” (Church Publishing Inc., 2019).

The book, edited by fundraising executive James W. Murphy, is designed to “help faith communities begin to reflect, discern, and consider various investment approaches and options that incorporate moral, ethical, and faith-based values,” according to the foreword by Donald V. Romanik of the Episcopal Church Foundation.

It centers on this question, according to the book: “How does a religious organization become a faithful investor, while, at the same time, ensuring that the funds entrusted to its care and custody generate returns and income to support mission and ministry for years to come?”

The book is an ecumenical collaboration with financial leaders from various denominations providing input.

“It is our belief that no single denomination, organization, or individual has all of the best answers when it comes to the topic of investing, and certainly each of us can learn much from our other Christian ‘cousins’ and their experiences,” Murphy writes in the introduction.

Experts in the book include the Rev. William Somplatsky-Jarman, a former staff member for MRTI, the faith-based investment committee of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). During his tenure with MRTI, Somplatsky-Jarman helped to devise ecumenical strategies to put pressure on banks lending money to South Africa during apartheid.

In “Faithful Investing,” Somplatsky-Jarman is one of three authors of a chapter that explains basic concepts and terms, such as “diversified portfolio,” “liquidity” and “pooled funds.”

The chapter also states that Christians are “called to consider how the power of our voices and our money can promote a more just world that provides for the flourishing of all,” and adds, “As investors, we can speak against systems that exacerbate inequality and injustice.”

Joseph Kinard chairs the Presbyterian Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI)

The book includes a case study from Kinard and Murphy that highlights how multiple denominations, including the PC(USA), have handled issues related to socially responsible investing over the years. The case study discusses a phased selective divestment process by the PC(USA) related to companies doing business in Israel.

That section of the book also provides some history about MRTI, which was created to implement General Assembly policies on socially responsible investing by engaging corporations in which the church owns stock. That engagement includes various strategies, such as voting shareholder proxies, filing shareholder resolutions, having dialogues with companies and recommending actions that corporations should take in order to be responsible.

Corporations “can provide positive work environments and things of that nature, but they can also damage the natural world,” Kinard said in a phone interview. “They can pay less than living wages, and they can produce some harmful products, and so when that happens, the church must respond. MRTI stands at the nexus of value and values as we pursue our corporate engagement process to change behavior.”

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