It's little wonder that Christian mutual fund company Timothy Partners Ltd. and a few Orlando-area investors are upset with Crosswalk.com CEO Scott Fehrenbacher for allegedly undercutting their software that helps religious investors screen their investments. Religious investing is reportedly surging in popularity right now, and now's the time when such software could really come in handy. In the last six months, no fewer than a dozen religious indexes and mutual funds have been launched, reports the New York Post. Only five were introduced in the six months before that. The surge is apparently part of a larger trend in socially responsible investing, which reportedly accounts for $1 out of every $8 "under professional money management" in the U.S. But not all religious investing indices are alike: some Roman Catholics have been surprised to find that some Walt Disney Co. among the "top 30 holdings" in Carlisle Social Investment's Catholic U.S. Market Index while General Electric is excluded for environmental reasons. Not that it matters for most Catholics; the New York Post doesn't mention that Carlisle requires a $1 million minimum, limiting it to dioceses, religious orders, Catholic institutions, and a few very wealthy individuals. Regular mutual funds aren't expected from the company for about three years. Newsday, however, does dutifully report such limitations in its article of religious investing—both articles appeared on Sunday.
For the most part, Newsday notes, the U.S. religious funds and indices are very small. But in Australia, one faith-based group is a major player in the stock market. The Salvation Army has a total investment portfolio of $300 million (US$153 million) in the national stock market, reports The Australian. With its other assets, it's worth far more than $1 billion. "We don't exist to hoard money, we exist to deliver services," Lieutenant-Colonel Brian Hood tells the paper. "Money is put aside into investments to make sure it is well utilized until it needs to be drawn down." In any case, such funds make it a major player in several large Australian companies.
But religious investing isn't all safe, reminds the Chicago Tribune: "Prosecutors and securities regulators say investment fraud schemes, especially those doing business in the name of the Lord, are growing rapidly, stealing larger sums of money every year. Investment frauds that reach investors through religious rhetoric or their churches are stealing more than $1 billion a year, most of it from the elderly." The newspaper focuses special attention on former Baptist pastor Michael Richmond, who recently pleaded guilty to 17 counts of wire fraud. Prosecutors say he bilked 170 investors (40 percent of whom were over 70) out of $8.5 million. (See our Money & Business area for recent Christianity Today coverage of these issues, including investment fraud schemes.)
Go, Crusaders, go
Last year, Wheaton College's decision to retire its 73-year-old Crusader mascot won headlines around the country. Now a Catholic high school in San Juan Capistrano, California, is following suit, but their Crusader mascot hasn't been around as long—the school hasn't even opened yet. Board members came up with the name, but school boosters, behind the $70 million Junipero Serra High School suggested the mascot committee go back to the drawing board.
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