The coronavirus pandemic and the economy are moving in opposite directions: as the virus spreads, the economy contracts. Only when the virus is contained and lockdowns abate can we work our way back to economic growth. There is, however, another understanding of economics that is already guiding us in hope-filled directions.
Our word “economy” comes from a Greek term meaning “household management.” In its original usage, being “economical” meant ensuring that the needs of all household members were provided for in an equitable manner. This applied to both individual households and the collective community of households. Such an economic understanding is consistent with the Pension Boards’ vision of providing “benefits and services from the intersection of faith and finance.”
Although the language of faith and finance is recent, our commitment to the values that underlie it is not. Beginning in the 17th century, church members from the UCC’s predecessor bodies established relief societies to provide safety nets for clergy, and for the widows and children of clergy who died young. That tradition continues today through the provision of emergency grants and various forms of income supplementation for those who serve the UCC, both clergy and lay. You are members of our “household,” and we strive to distribute resources in ways that both meet needs and assure dignity.
We are also committed to an equitable and just management of resources in the larger “households” of society and the global community. The Pension Boards has long been a leader in the areas of sustainable investing and corporate social responsibility. Justice-oriented investments include green bonds, which address key areas of concern in climate change, and sustainable bonds, which focus on housing, healthcare, social inclusion, and poverty reduction. We have long excluded certain industries from our investment portfolios but are increasingly measuring and rewarding companies that protect human rights and the environment. In addition, we engage corporations directly, holding them accountable for the impacts of their environmental, social, and governance practices.
The challenges to the political economy during this pandemic are indeed real. At the same time, the faith economy of household management continues to thrive at the Pension Boards. Our commitment to acts of mercy and justice, continuing a centuries-old tradition adapted for a new day, are enshrined in our recently adopted Faith and Finance Ministries Mission Statement:
The Faith and Finance Ministries of the Pension Boards-United Church of Christ proclaims and lives out the good news at the intersection of faith and finance by: