New book aimed at financial advisers and their clients focuses on this growing field
“You don’t have to be a Christian to want to invest your money in companies that make the world a better—not worse—place. But Christians and Jews have additional insight through the Scriptures that all our money—and our time—belongs to God, not just the money we tithe, or the time we spend in worship.”
These are the words of Timothy Plan founder Art Ally in a chapter of a new book published by The Signatry, a Kansas-based global Christian foundation that specializes in financial stewardship. The 169-page book, Investing & Faith: The Impact of Faith-Based Investing, leads off with a history of the field by Ally.
Beginning with John Wesley (1703-1791), Ally chronicles various figures in history who counseled Christians to put their money where their values are. He then tells his own story about how the Timothy Plan became the first Biblically Responsible Investing mutual fund:
“In 1992 I had a very nice practice going in Orlando (Covenant Financial Management) and a 14-year career as a financial consultant and branch manager, but I felt called by God to make a change. I was very active in the pro-life community but wanted to do much more for God’s Kingdom.
“My hot button was the fact that, while pastors in denominations often had decent retirement plans, the pastors from independent churches were left high and dry. So, I began to put together a retirement program geared to helping them on a national scale.
“I soon realized that I could not use companies that trafficked in sin when these pastors were preaching against the evils of abortion and pornography from the pulpits. I looked around for a system that would screen out offenders and allow for building biblically responsible portfolios, not only for pastors but also for other Christian investors. But I found little that reflected biblical principles. A few socially screened funds excluded alcohol and tobacco, but none screened for issues such as abortion and pornography.
“After two years of research and development, in March 1994, we launched the Timothy Plan, a mutual fund based on a founding commitment that we would never compromise biblical principles. We have been true to that vision throughout, and I believe that’s why God has allowed us to proceed and grow.”
In addition to Ally and Signatry President Steve French, the book has 13 other contributors, including Cassandra Laymon, Hillary Sunderland, Jason Myhre, Jeff Rogers, John Silverling, Rachel McDonough, Mark Regier, Chad Horning, Dwight Short, Loran F. Graham, Brian Cohoon, Harry Pearson and Bill High. Here are a few more excerpts.
Taking the Abortion Issue Personally
Rachel McDonough, a Certified Financial Planner and a Certified Kingdom Advisor, tells her own story about how she gravitated toward Faith-Based Investing.
“Many of the faith-based investing concepts were new to me, but I couldn’t claim total ignorance,” she wrote, noting that she recalled discussions about how vulnerable people were to vices such as alcohol abuse and tobacco during hard times.
“Then there was the issue of abortion. If any issue hits close to home, it’s this one. My grandmother was raped in the 1950s. She was not a Christian at that time. Still, she courageously fought to keep that baby. … She had the righteous determination to protect the unborn life of my mother, no matter what it cost her personally. So how was it that I only two generations later, could be so indifferent to her legacy that I didn’t even bother to ask if some of the profits in my portfolio might be coming from the business of terminating unwanted babies?
“The cold, hard truth was extremely uncomfortable. I had been investing God’s money in the campaigns of His enemy, businesses that preyed upon human weaknesses and exploited the poor through slave labor.”
Over the next four years, McDonough “integrated biblical wisdom into my practice” and never looked back.
Surprised in Africa
Steve French had been a longtime successful investor and owner of a legal auditing firm but felt himself called to do more for God’s Kingdom. He joined a board of a nonprofit ministry that trained missionaries and provided it office space in his building.
“While it’s a much longer story, my wife Debbie and I found ourselves investing in missions work in Africa,” he writes. “Before you think this was some noble effort, let me tell you I had no interest or desire in going to Africa. None. But I had some friends who tricked me into going … They convinced me that I was the only one who could go and solve an existing problem … The trip opened my eyes to the developing world and its Kingdom needs in a way that changed my family forever!”
He eventually went on to join The Signatry, which was founded by Bill High. French notes that “my business needed to be aligned with my Kingdom investments. For only one of these will last.”
A Huge Opportunity
Brian Cohoon, a Kentucky-based Certified Financial Planner practitioner, shares how he became convicted after reading Randy Alcorn’s book “Money, Possessions and Eternity.” He also studied the Scriptures with fellow advisor Dan Hardt, a pioneer in faith-based investing who helped popularize the term biblically responsible investing, or BRI.
Noting that the United States has 105 million self-identified Evangelicals, 68 million Catholics and 4.6 million mainline Protestants, Cohoon says the opportunity to effect change through morally-centered investing is huge.
“There is nearly $10 trillion in portfolios owned by Evangelicals living in the United States, $6.5 trillion owned by Catholics and $4.6 trillion owned by mainline Protestants,” he writes. This combined $21.1 trillion in investments supports “abortion, pornography, and other activities that do not align with biblical values. Imagine the impact if we could align these portfolios with God’s priorities.”
That was exactly what Ally had in mind when he pioneered BRI with Timothy Plan’s launch in 1994.
“You can’t give if you haven’t got,” he writes in “Investing & Faith.” “We now have the potential to earn returns on our money without being vested in things that are contrary to the love and mission of Christ. With the options available today and the knowledge of those options, you’re either working for God or against Him. God enables us to allocate His resources, but it is our responsibility to allocate funds in a way that honors God.”