N.C. Baptist Convention entrusts assets to firm that promotes LGBT equality

Gay advocacy group cites contradiction

N.C. Baptist Convention entrusts assets to firm that promotes LGBT equality

Faith in America Founder Mitchell Gold and Faith in America Spokesperson Dr. Jack McKinney talking with Southern Baptist Convention President Bryant Wright at the SBC convention in Phoenix, Arizona in June.

See story in Associated Baptist Press

Faith in America, a gay advocacy group based in North Carolina, calls on the N.C. Baptist State Convention to explain its close association with a financial firm recognized nationally for its strong support of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals and their families.

The financial firm, Morgan Stanley, has been recognized for its strong support of full equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans. John Mack, Morgan Stanley's former CEO who currently serves as chairman of Morgan Stanley's board of directors, has endorsed marriage equality.

A Morgan Stanley subsidiary, Graystone Consulting, is employed by the N.C. Baptist Foundation to manage the foundation's assets, reported at $128 million in 2009. The N.C. Baptist Foundation is the financial investment arm for the N.C. Baptist Convention. Its web site states the foundation is "committed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to serving North Carolina Baptists and others in generating an increased awareness of Christian estate stewardship principles as a means of financially undergirding churches, institutions, and mission endeavors on a permanent basis."

"You cannot escape the hypocrisy," said Brent Childers, executive director of Faith in America. "Here is an anti-gay religious organization that tells its churches that they will be expelled from the convention if they affirm or support LGBT people. But yet when it comes to managing the tremendous financial blessing God has bestowed upon North Carolina Baptists, they turn to a company that not only affirms LGBT people and all their human dignity but whose top executive actively supports the fight for their equality, including marriage equality.

"What the N.C. Baptist Convention says is bad for its churches and members obviously isn't bad for the convention."

Morgan Stanley has been identified by Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay advocacy organization, as a national partner in HRC's mission of ensuring LGBT equality. Morgan Stanley has consistently scored a perfect 100 percent on the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index and the HRC has awarded Morgan Stanley the Corporate Equality Award "For Outstanding Leadership and Service to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community."

The N.C. Baptist Convention at its annual meeting this week endorsed an anti-gay constitutional amendment that will be on the North Carolina 2012 primary ballot in May. In addition, the state convention elected Rev. Mark Harris of Charlotte as its president. Harris, who has stated he believes homosexuality is a sin and therefore something he hates, has said he will be working as president to pass the anti-gay amendment.

Harris authored an amendment to the state convention's articles of incorporation, which was filed with the N.C. Secretary of State's office last year, which reads "Among churches not in friendly cooperation with the Convention are churches which knowingly act to affirm, approve, endorse, promote, support or bless homosexual behavior."

In a 2008 interview with the Charlotte Observer concerning Faith in America Founder Mitchell Gold's book about the harm caused to gay youth by religion-based stigma and hostility, Harris said argued homosexuality is a choice. Last June, Southern Baptist heavyweight Albert Mohler told delegates at the Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting in Phoenix, Ariz. that he does not believe homosexuality is a choice. Gold and other Faith in America representatives were at the convention in Phoenix and spoke with SBC leaders about the harm caused when religious teaching is used to promote rejection and condemnation toward LGBT people, especially youth.

The N.C. Baptist Foundation's disclosure statement says that Morgan Stanley's Graystone Consulting assists the foundation in "guarding against investments in assets contrary to Baptist faith and beliefs." The foundation's investment policy reads "With regard to socially responsible investing, the Board of Directors characterizes the investment management of Fund assets as a process of avoidance; that is, the Board of Directors believes that it will be meeting the needs of the North Carolina Baptist Foundation, Inc. and society by avoiding companies which may harm society in one or more ways."

"Judging from the anti-gay sentiment coming from its incoming president and the convention's endorsement of a constitutional amendment whose sole purpose is to place a moral and religious stamp of disapproval on the lives of gay and lesbian people, you wouldn't expect the N.C. Baptist Convention to have a strong supporter of LGBT equality managing its assets," Childers stated.

"While it may be somewhat hypocritical, we are encouraged by the fact the N.C. Baptist Convention would place that kind of trust in a financial company that is regarding as such a strong advocate for the full human dignity and full equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals. It's close relationship and trust with Morgan Stanley should signal to North Carolina's 1.4 million Baptists that LGBT equality, including marriage equality, harms no one except gay and lesbian individuals and their families."

The Southern Baptist Convention Foundation, the financial investment arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, uses Merrill Lynch as its financial adviser for its $179 million in total assests. Merrill Lynch has been recognized by The Advocate, an LGBT national magazine, as one of the most gay-friendly firms in the United States.