US Financial Crisis Won't Change
Adventist Investment Strategy
Lagging economy could affect tithe, say leaders
BY ANSEL OLIVER, assistant director for news, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
inance leaders of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists said September 18 they are not currently considering a change in investment strategy in light of recent economic declines, a move they say is "prudent" considering their long-term focus.
As major U.S. investment banks face harsh economic realities during a global credit crunch resulting largely from a slump in the U.S. housing market, church officials plan to continue a 20- to 30-year outlook for managing the world church's retirement fund investments. The church's ministry and ability to launch new initiatives would be most affected by any decrease in tithes and offerings, said Roy Ryan, an associate treasurer and investment manager for the General Conference.
"We're monitoring the situation," Ryan said. "While it is fair to say that the budget being prepared for recommendation to Annual Council next month is not aggressive, we do feel that it preserves the ability of the church to move forward with its mission."
FINANCIAL NEWS: Roy Ryan fields questions from leaders at the church's headquarters September 18. [Photo: Megan Brauner/ANN]
He later told some 80 church leaders during a regularly scheduled leadership meeting at the world church's headquarters that the economy could be in "uncharted territory." The U.S. government has spent about $600 billion in the last few weeks to prop up financial institutions and proposed an additional $700 billion bailout plan.
"A widely held view is that the housing market has to stabilize and that just hasn't happened at this point," Ryan told church leaders. Until then, he said the church would continue its current investment strategy.
"We feel the portfolios of the church's investments are prudently invested," Ryan said.
General Conference treasurer Robert Lemon told church leaders he thought the market would recover as it has after previous downturns, albeit not as quickly.
"I'm fearful that after this particular drop--because it has such wide underpinning on housing and the availability of credit--he market will be slower to come back," Lemon said.
General Conference President Jan Paulsen encouraged church leaders, saying "None of us is a prophet...but the Lord said, 'Do not worry about tomorrow.' That to me is a very fundamental statement. It's not light-hearted.
"We'll move forward in obedience to the Lord and do the best we can in mission," Paulsen said.
Ryan also offered a word of assurance to church workers and retirees who, in hearing about theU.S. government bailout of American International Group, Inc., a New York-based financial firm, had concerns about AIG’s VALIC unit, which handles retirement accounts for General Conference employees.
“The only thing about retirement that one may say is that the AIG that is in the headlines is not the same as AIG Retirement. One is the parent of the other, but in terms of the retirement assets, [those assets] are not at risk in terms of the parent company having access to those funds.”