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The chair of the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment, the Rev. Kerri Allen, concludes her leadership role

Allen says she has continued hope for MRTI’s role in holding companies accountable

by Shani E. McIlwain | Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Kerri Allen

The Rev. Kerri Allen, outgoing chair of the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment, reflects on the often faithful yet sometimes misunderstood work of the committee she led.

In the conversation excerpted below, Allen discusses her experiences advocating for social justice within the corporate sphere as Presbyterians and as Reformed Christians. She emphasizes the necessity of influencing corporate change and prioritizing marginalized voices in decision-making.

Allen highlights community engagement as crucial in addressing climate change and stresses the importance of agility and responsiveness in navigating global events. She underscores the role of the Holy Spirit in guiding committee members’ efforts toward positive impact in the public sphere.

Allen, the deputy to the president of Princeton Theological Seminary, took some time out to reflect as her time on MRTI comes to an end:

Presbyterian News Service: Your colleagues wanted to express their appreciation and give you flowers as your tenure as chair of MRTI draws to a close. I’m curious to learn more about your journey to this role.

Allen: I joined the committee from the Advocacy Committee for Women and Gender Justice, not entirely sure what to expect. However, it turned out to be some of the most meaningful work I’ve been involved in for our church, making a tangible impact in advocating for justice. I appreciate that our process allows our church to be intellectually honest. That is to say, when things make their way through our process, the investing entities can implement them. Many organizations say one thing and when you look under the hood, it’s not what they said. I have pride in the PC(USA) being intellectually honest and not just virtue signaling.

PNS:  In your own words how would you describe MRTI?

Allen: I would describe our work as advocating for the social, theological, and ethical values that we hold dear as Presbyterians and Reformed Christians, but within the public sphere and specifically through engagement with corporations. The Calvinist perspective I embrace affirms God’s presence across all spheres of life, which compels us to be active in these various arenas. This includes our engagement in the corporate world. One aspect I appreciate about the Reformed tradition is its acknowledgment that God’s Spirit is omnipresent, guiding us in all facets of life. Recognizing this, we seek to be led by the Spirit in all that we do.

PNS: Often, you undertake this faithful work, yet many in the pews are unaware. How would you inspire people to broaden their thinking beyond the traditional church service, aligning with the broader concept you mentioned earlier about being reformed, engaging in all spaces of life?

Allen: For our committee, the focus lies in how we engage with publicly traded corporations in the United States where we have financial holdings. This involves collaborating with partners to amplify our influence at the negotiating table, significantly increasing the impact of our capital and shareholder votes. Our approach brings our theological values into corporate boardroom discussions. While there are numerous avenues for engaging in justice beyond socially responsible investing, MRTI’s particular lane emphasizes our commitment to this work. It’s crucial for congregations to support our efforts and align their asset management with these values. Many congregations utilize our proscription and divestment list, integrating these decisions into their church and presbytery governance to reflect our denomination’s principles in their investments.

PNS: What’s your hope for the future?

Allen: I’m very enthusiastic about the upcoming leadership transition with the Rev. Marci Auld Glass and the Rev. Dr. Fairfax Fair. Both are exceptional leaders whom I believe will bring continuity while also injecting new passions and energy into areas where MRTI can expand its impact.

What’s particularly crucial is our recent adaptability and responsiveness amidst rapid changes, especially highlighted during the pandemic era and the constant dynamics of the 21st century. With continuous social media presence and evolving global challenges like AI advancements and significant elections ahead, our ability to pivot and respond effectively remains vital. As global authoritarianism trends, particularly in the U.S., it underscores the urgency for corporations to feel pressure from a united coalition advocating for ethical standards and social justice.

Learn more about the Rev. Kerri Allen here.

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