“We are never consciously investing in prohibited investments”: Anglican church

Anglican Church is not wealthy and does not invest in “sin”

2001. The Anglican Church in New Zealand invests socially, and social responsibility is of high priority. Chief Executive of Trust Investments Management Ltd, Peter Jansen, says the Anglican Church is not a wealthy church and does not invest in sin, in response to a 2 September Sunday Star Times article that investigated the Church’s finances.

The Sunday Star Times said the Anglican Church amassed $396 million in core assets and “began an aggressive push to commercially manage them.” Mr Jansen says the figures refer to Anglican special purpose trust funds used for religious and charitable purposes. He says the mainstream Church itself is represented by the general parishioner based in NZ who do not have access to income from large investment funds.

“The trust deeds of these funds normally direct that the investment income shall be applied to the specific purposes. That money is not available to the general church in New Zealand,” Mr Jansen explains.

“The majority of funds required to run the Anglican Church in New Zealand come from parishioner general giving.”

Operating costs include parish ministry stipends, the running of the parish, food banks, outreach programmes, and a small amount is put aside to run the central diocese of the church.

Many of Trust Investments’ client trusts were established by leaders of the churches and other organizations over a hundred years ago. When trusts were formed, they were established for specific purposes. Mr Jansen says the particularly good stewardship of those funds has created the funds that are available today.

“We can’t really count that as money belonging to the church.”

Trust deeds can only be changed if the original purposes of the trust cannot be fulfilled, or it is impractical to do so. They can only be changed by order of the High Court or by a private Act of Parliament.

Mr Jansen says one example of funding through the special purpose trusts is the Anglican Trust for Women and Children, “that fulfils a real need in today’s society.”

The core assets of the trusts managed by Trust Investments Ltd include international equities, New Zealand and international fixed interest, bonds, New Zealand cash and property. Their clients include Anglican Church trusts and other charitable trusts.

Over the last eighteen months Trust Investments has invested in international equities and the Sunday Star Times speculated whether its biggest share fund was invested in “sin” stocks such as casinos and arms manufacturers.

Mr Jansen explains that a negative screening test prohibits investments in armaments, gambling, alcohol, tobacco, and pornography. Prior to selection of their New Zealand investments, they apply the negative screening test to ensure they do not include prohibited investments.

“We are never consciously investing in prohibited investments,” Mr Jansen says.

Trust Investments have also made their views known to their international fund managers of equities and bonds.

“We cannot protect client trust funds by ourselves selecting international equities from New Zealand. We do not have the skills, the expertise nor do we believe that we can purchase a broad range of equities throughout the world.

So, we need the expertise overseas to manage the investment portfolios to reduce risk.”

Mr. Jansen says they have mandated managers to manage their international portfolio for capital growth. Trust Investments push to influence the managers of international equities to not invest in prohibited investments.

Mr Jansen is currently working on behalf of the Anglican Church with representatives from other denominations, such as Methodists, Presbyterians, and Quakers, to try and develop common ethical guidelines by which investments can be selected. The Conference of Churches Aotearoa New Zealand want to produce something that is robust and meets the needs of its constituent bodies.

“The entire world is conscious of the whole ethical investing world.

“What matters is that we are able to fulfil the investment mandate that we have been given by our clients and that is a continual stable flow of income and preservation of capital while at the same time ensuring where possible we invest ethically.”

By Peter Veugelaers.

Published 2001, Challenge Weekly

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