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With this year's battering of Wall Street financiers, Christian-owned banks, credit unions, and investment houses are looking like a safer place for investors and ministries to park their money.

Deposits are up 12 percent this year at the Evangelical Christian Credit Union (ECCU). While the stock market was suffering its worst one-day loss since 2001 in September, the Christian Community Credit Union (CCCU) added 200 accounts, swelling its membership to nearly 30,000.

"We don't do residential mortgages or investment vehicles that have underlying mortgages," commented Mark Holbrook, president of ECCU, which manages $3 billion in assets. "We do banking and loans for ministries. The vast majority of churches and ministries are fundamentally sound."

"We've never made any subprime loans," said CCCU CEO John Walling, pointing out it has had no write-offs in 32 years of offering church or ministry loans.* "We have very low losses; our delinquencies are less than one percent."

The problem is centered on the housing sector and at Wall Street's upper echelons, said Rusty Leonard, founder and CEO of Stewardship Partners Investment Counsel of Matthews, North Carolina.

Since there isn't much representation of Christian financial firms in those arenas, he doesn't expect to see much impact from the Wall Street mess.

"Christian firms, financial and otherwise, are generally better off because they tend to avoid debt and speculative practices," Leonard said.

There are exceptions. Two Christian-owned banks in Atlanta have failed since last year, most recently Integrity Bank in late August.

Whether the Christian financial industry could imitate Wall Street's merger climate remains to be seen. While no one Christianity Today spoke to was aware of any ...

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September 2008

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