New Church Investment Group to form equity fund for endowments, foundations

January 26, 2011

The creation of a new independent investment fund aimed at growing resources for the mission of Episcopal churches was announced Jan. 21 at the inaugural board meeting of the Church Investment Group (CIG).

The meeting, which brought together bishops, clergy, and laypeople with significant investment management experience, represents a new milestone in stewardship of church resources by Episcopalians.

"Forming a private equity fund to benefit the mission of the church is something many people have wanted to do for a very long time," said David R. Pitts of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, founding chairman of the CIG board.

"By pooling their investments, dioceses and parishes with endowment and reserve funds will gain increased access to more areas of the market and, potentially, returns that can be significantly larger," Pitts said. "Ultimately, this effort should make considerably more money available for the church's mission."

Immediate past chairman of the board of the Church Pension Group, Pitts is a longtime national lay leader in numerous Episcopal ministries, including the Episcopal Church Medical Trust board and Episcopal Relief & Development. He is chairman and CEO of Pitts Management Associates, Inc.

The inaugural meeting, seen as a major step forward, was hosted by Diocese of Atlanta Bishop J. Neil Alexander, who will serve as the CIG's vice chair. He has been part of an advisory group gathered in early 2009 by Susan Lee Vick of the Diocese of Northern California.

"CIG is being created to serve the mission of the church," Alexander said. "That means we are committed to socially responsible investing. Our goal is to provide a means by which the many endowment and reserve funds of the church can be aggregated, and thereby be positioned in the market to get better returns."

This premise has been vetted and well received in the Episcopal community, said Vick, who has been named CIG's chief development officer.

"I've visited with leaders in dioceses, cathedrals, parishes, seminaries, schools, senior communities, and charities, and response to the idea of an endowments alliance has been overwhelmingly positive," she said.

Lee Hogan, co-chair of the Anglican Health Network and a member of St. Martin's Episcopal Church, Houston, Texas, also took part in the meeting. He said the new board talked about the financial difficulties being experienced around the church, whether due to "restricted growth, a poor economy that's making stewardship difficult, or poor investment performance of their foundations. This is not just a propitious time to form CIG but, more importantly, it is a time that we must succeed."

Mary Babson, a member of St. Chrysostom's Episcopal Church in Chicago, Illinois, who will serve as board treasurer, said, "The potential of the CIG to help generate increased resources to be deployed by parishes, dioceses and other entities of the Episcopal Church is truly exciting."

Membership of the founding CIG board includes: Allen Barnett (secretary), chief of finance and operations for the Diocese of New York; Amy Domini, CEO of Domini Social Investments, LLC, and author of "Socially Responsible Investing, Making a Difference and Making Money"; the Rev. Lang Lowrey, interim president of General Theological Seminary in New York; Quintin Primo III, CEO of Capri Capital Partners; Thomas Quinn, CEO of CornerCap Investment Counsel; the Rt. Rev. Gregory H. Rickel, bishop of the Diocese of Olympia; and the Rt. Rev. Stacy F. Sauls, bishop of the Diocese of Lexington.

The Church Investment Group anchors its mission in General Convention Resolution D018, authored by Diocese of Connecticut Bishop Ian T. Douglas and approved in 2009, Vick said. "That this is a grassroots movement is demonstrated in the generous contributions of launch capital by diverse dioceses from around the country."

First-round funders of the Church Investment Group movement include the dioceses of Atlanta, Boston, Long Island, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and Texas.

For information on CIG, becoming a founder, or future investment participation, contact Daniel Dice, executive director (danieldice@aol.com or 404-877-8081), Church Investment Group: 644 W. Peachtree St., Suite 300, Atlanta, GA 30308.