General Synod Statements: Socially Responsible Investing

In 1985, the General Synod sent out a document entitled “The Church’s Peace Witness in the U.S. Corporate Economy.” This document held that:

When the church enters the investment markets, however, it is entering a particular culture in a particular way. The church becomes a participant in the economic life of the greater society. This participation need not be troublesome in and of itself. Through its economic involvement, the church may offer a significant witness in and to its society. The investment of church funds in secular enterprises may be salutary for the society as a whole. Church investment capital may help create jobs; useful products; and opportunities for scientific research, growth of knowledge, and the relief of human misery. Indeed, the church lives not for itself but for the world. The reformed tradition has emphasized that the essential role of the church in society is not to enhance its own resources but to glorify God, witness to the Lordship of Christ, and transform this present social order according to the vision and values of Christ’s Kingdom.(MGS 1985: 57)

The 2001 General Synod adopted resolutions for socially responsible investment, which include:

  • Shareholder initiatives—based on the positions of General Synod, shareholder initiatives have covered a variety of issues including dioxin pollution, foreign military sales, distribution of pornography, and banking practices in a democratic South Africa.
  • Investment screens—enacted by the General Synod when all attempts to change a policy have failed, or when the product or business in question will in no way advance the vision and values of Christ’s kingdom. Screens have been enacted against industries involved with tobacco, alcohol, and gambling. Investment levels in companies involved with the nuclear weapons industry will be at the minimum level necessary to initiate shareholder resolutions in those companies.
  • Mission investments—investments which attempt to promote the values and visions of Christ’s kingdom. Begun in 1970, the purpose of such investments was to empower minority communities by investing in appropriate banks, etc. (MGS 2001: 68-69)

The 2002 General Synod affirmed the resolutions of the 2001 General Synod concerning socially responsible investment.

In 2014, General Synod called for a review of all RCA investments, and for the divestment of any investments in private prison corporations. No such holdings were found. In 2016, General Synod added screening language to the RCA’s investment policies, ensuring that no funds will be invested in for-profit prison corporations in the future.