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November 26, 2004

The Church of England and Ethical Investment

Posted by Peter Mullen

Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen - Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill and Chaplain to the Stock Exchange - examines the Church of England's ethical investment policy, and finds it morally vacuous.

The Church of England is to begin investing in breweries. This will be widely regarded as good news but, as usual with announcements from the church, it is enclosed in a cloud of ambiguity. The Bishop of Worcester, deputy chairman of its Ethical Investments Advisory Group (EIAG), says,

"There are some things which Christians might do, such as drink alcohol, but we should not encourage them by making money out of it."
Why not if it's not a sin? Here we have a precise example of the refusal to put one's money where one's mouth is.

The entire notion of ethical investments is flawed with inconsistencies and non-sequitur. For instance, the church adopts a lofty tone on the subject of armaments:

"We generally accept the right of nations to defend themselves; [but then], We do not invest in aircraft, naval vessels, helicopters or tanks".
Pea-shooters and water-pistols are probably OK then. This policy is not feeble-minded but unethical too: for the refusal to invest in combat equipment might make it impossible for a nation state to resist attack or invasion by the forces of a malign dictatorship. Weapons are neither good nor bad in themselves: it all depends on who is wielding them. On its current policy, if the Battle of Britain were about to begin, the C. of E. would pray for victory but refuse to invest in Spitfires.

There are surprises in the church's investment portfolio.

"In order that we should not be identified with any political viewpoint, investment is normally avoided in newspapers."
There is an easy solution: why not invest in papers of differing political allegiance? The church's claim to no political viewpoint is laughable, for every official pronouncement these last forty years demonstrates a very obvious political bias favouring the Left in social and foreign policy and latterly signing up to all the superstitions of Political Correctness.

Some statements from the church's EIAG are not merely muddled and prejudiced but sinister. The church will not invest in companies

"…whose management practices are judged unacceptable"
. It reminds me of Stanley Baldwin's response to the bishops when they offered to help in industrial relations: "
You can help deal with the miners if you'll let the NUM revise the Athanasian Creed".
But the claim that the C. of E. is competent to evaluate management practices is a joke, given its wholesale squandering of resources and the sale of the fine old vicarages which have wasted the contributions of churchgoers. It is also presently presiding over a three-way schism.

Finally, insult is added to moral and financial incompetence as the church admits it forks out £180,000 per annum for ethical investment guidance - yet they say they can't afford the parsons. Well, that little sum would pay for nine of us.

Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen is Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill & Chaplain to the Stock Exchange.


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The ethical investment industry is quite entertaining. What is most interesting about all the ones I've come across is how they have a sort of one-size-fits-all approach. They sell themselves as not investing in, say, arms manufacture and GM products. Assuming that those who might have a problem with arms dealing also have one with GMO.... talk about off-the-peg ethics!

Posted by: Jimmy McQueen at December 1, 2004 07:40 PM
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