May 1, 2017 by Presbyterian Foundation
Caring for God’s Creation
INVESTING IN CLIMATE CHANGE SOLUTIONS
For the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) climate change is not just a conversation to be had, but a pressing issue to be addressed. As stewards of God’s creation, how can we be both responsible and proactive in our attempts to stem the rising tides?
The Presbyterian Church is not alone in such concerns — hundreds of denominations, private endowments and institutional investors are studying how their investments can best be leveraged and mitigate the negative effects of climate change. The Board of Trustees of the Presbyterian Foundation, in their June 2015 meeting, sought a positive approach to addressing these concerns.
“We started talking with the Board and asking, ‘What are some positive actions we can take that actually bring about change on the consumption end?’ shared Anita Clemons, Vice President, Managing Director of Investments.
“We may criticize Exxon and Chevron for profiting from burning fossil fuels. However, we continue to drive our cars and fly in planes which changes nothing,” she continued.
As a response to this, the Foundation board of trustees committed that at least 1 percent of the Foundation’s permanent endowment fund holdings will be invested in companies working on climate change solutions and engaged Cambridge Associates to help identify these investments.
“We told them we wanted to have clean energy investments in our portfolio,” continued Clemons. But not just any clean energy investments.
“Our endowment fund provides funding for mission all over the world, ranging from schools to poverty programs to food pantries,” said Clemons. “Given the track record of clean energy investing to date, we didn’t want to invest in anything that would have any negative impact on this mission work.” Because of these factors the Foundation sought investments that are both ‘clean’ and ‘solid.’
After much research Cambridge came up with the first two investments − good investments, with good cash flows, that are also ‘doing good.’ The first is LL Capital which finances residential clean energy projects. The second is True Green which installs and manages commercial solar projects.
LL Capital allows for individuals to use PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) Financing — providing loans to upgrade residential spaces to be more energy efficient.
True Green has already converted major retailing space into clean energy by installing commercial grade solar at various locations across the United States.
“We hope that the General Assembly will continue to be concerned about climate change,” said Clemons. “We also hope that the GA will look at the efforts we have made trying to be good stewards, making responsible investments that are also good to the environment.”
The Foundation hopes to have the entire 1 percent allocated by the next General Assembly in 2018. The 1 percent allocation would represent approximately $6.5 million. Based on the size of the commitments with LL Capital and True Green, the Foundation expects to invest with two to three more clean energy managers in the near future.
“We must invest prudently, which is why we are not rushing to put the entire amount in one investment,” explained Clemons. “Our responsibility is to maintain fiduciary excellence while being faithful to the social witness principals of the PC(USA).”
The Presbyterian Foundation believes that its investments can both do good and do well. Through practices of impact investing, corporate engagement, and use of positive and negative screens, the Foundation seeks to manage all aspects of the funds entrusted to us in accordance with God’s call for faithful stewardship. Care for God’s creation is one element of this stewardship. This story is one in a series about ways the Foundation is using its investments to work for greater change in the care and keeping of the earth we inhabit.
Apply Now for Church Financial Leadership Grant
The Presbyterian Foundation is accepting applications for a newly established Church Financial Leadership Grant. Grant applicants must be a pastor, commissioned lay pastor (CLP), or leader of a 1001 New Worshiping Community within the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Funds are available for those pastoral leaders seeking to gain a better understanding of church financial vitality and management of their congregations.
Building Generosity in a Financially Challenged Church
By Chris Willard with Warren Bird
Mobilizing a church toward generosity is a challenge anywhere. But what about in a church where many people struggle financially?
My friend Dr. Stacy Spencer, Senior Pastor of New Direction Christian Church in Memphis, Tennessee, seems to have cracked the code on leading people to be generous givers despite their financial circumstances.
Stacy reminds his people of the Macedonian church in 2 Corinthians who were poor, but were “filled with abundant joy that is overflowing in rich generosity.”
“When we remind people of how good God is in terms of His providence, and when I remind them that prosperity is anything above daily bread, people have a resonating joy and realize there’s always somebody worse off,” Stacy says. “We remind people that although we are struggling financially, we are nowhere in comparison to people in third world countries who don’t have clean water, or don’t have a roof over their head or dirt for floors.”
“We always try to keep a broader view on what real poverty looks like and how blessed they are — even in the midst of their struggle.”
With that foundation, New Direction generates generosity in some practical ways that are changing its people and impacting its community.
The Other 90 Percent
Stacy says New Direction not only focuses on giving 10 percent of tithes and offerings, but also on what to do with the rest. They teach their congregation how to overcome things such as generational poverty and bad financial habits.
The church hosts workshops on credit cleanup, how to save money and creating budgets. They focus especially on avoiding predatory lenders such as check-to-cash, title loans and pawn shops that thrive in low-income neighborhoods.
“We have to teach people how to avoid things that would keep them in poverty,” Stacy says. “These things are new to people who come from generational poverty, and nobody has told them how to properly save or think about the future.”
New Direction leaders determined years ago that tithes and offerings wouldn’t be enough to pull off the economic and community development they wanted to spearhead.
The church created a Community Development Corporation (CDC) to help restore the community through government and foundation grants and programs that meet social needs.
Under New Direction’s CDC, the church launched the Eden Square Project, which took over a 43-acre crime-ridden, drug-infested housing project and reclaimed it with initiatives that include:
- An accredited charter school (elementary, middle, high)
- A performing arts center that doubles as a storm shelter that government agency FEMA helped build
- A work development program that helps people get living-wage jobs
- Affordable housing with Habitat for Humanity, with plans to add an assisted living center
People are Inspired to Give to Mission
I think the most inspiring thing New Direction does to build generosity is challenge people to give generously to a cause — despite their financial circumstances. Stacy sets the bar high.
“People don’t give to maintenance, they give to mission,” Stacy says. “We try to focus on the mission God has called us to. And I’m reminded of Proverbs that says when you help the poor, God helps you.”
“When you help the poor, God pays you back.”
Stacy saw that play out in an amazing way. Recently, Compassion International brought its mobile experience to New Direction, and Stacy wasn’t sure how people would respond to helping international children with basic needs, when they have so many needs of their own.
“When I preached on the need for us to help rescue kids out of poverty, my folks responded by sponsoring over 500 kids,” Stacy says. “Compassion was blown away. I was blown away.”
It all reminds Stacy of another early church in Corinthians that, although in extreme poverty, “begged Paul to help” with his mission. Stacy believes other churches in disadvantaged neighborhoods can do the same with a strong theology and a challenge to meet the needs of others.
“Be inspired with what God is doing here.” Stacy says. “He can do the same thing anywhere.”
Generosity Strategies and Tactics is an ongoing series brought to you by Leadership Network thanks to a grant from the Lilly Endowment. To learn more go to www.leadnet.org.
Refresh and Renew Approach to Church Giving and Ministry at Big Tent Workshops
At Big Tent 2017 at Washington University in St. Louis, the Foundation will offer a number of workshops designed to help both lay people and pastors refresh and renew their approach to church giving and ministry. Our Ministry Relations Officers and other staff will also be available to meet with you one-on-one.
Contact a Ministry Relations Officer for assistance with stewardship in your congregation.