Leah Beale does not support causes opposed to her values. Because of that, she says, "I have probably missed some very good movies." That's also why she has invested 20 percent of her money in the recently launched FaithShares exchange traded funds (ETFS).

Tom Phillips and Garrett Stevens launched FaithShares in December 2009 in order to provide Christians an easy way to invest in the stock market without profiting from industries such as gambling, alcohol, tobacco, defense, pornography, or abortion. Stevens manages investments for faith-based organizations that want to follow value-oriented guidelines. "They want to grow money and be good stewards," Stevens says. "But we had trouble finding money managers who would do it." So he and Phillips, CEO and president of an Oklahoma investment management firm, created five ETFS.

ETFS are similar to mutual funds. They seek to mimic an index, such as the S&P 500 for large companies or the Russell 2000 for small companies. This approach has tax advantages, but ETFS also trade all day on an exchange like a stock. ETFS, therefore, are available to anyone with a brokerage account.

FaithShares funds make it much easier for Christian investors, says Rusty Leonard, CEO and founder of Stewardship Partners, because they allow more people to invest according to their values. Yet he worries that "their screening is not as deep as a conservative Christian would like." While FaithShares excludes specific industries from its funds, Stevens says, it cannot screen for all company behaviors that Christians might object to, such as providing domestic partner benefits.

FaithShares offers five different funds, each with a slightly different stock selection: Baptist Values, Catholic Values, Christian Values, Lutheran Values, and Methodist Values. Each fund invests according to the recommendations of the denomination listed, while the Christian Values fund includes guidelines from all.

"I'm not overly impressed with a lot of the [financial] stuff we do that's 'Christian,'" says financial adviser Gary Moore. "These guys know what they are doing."

Jerry Webb, a financial adviser who offers faith-based investments to his clients, is less impressed. Webb says the funds are expensive compared with the typical ETF: First-year expenses are .87 percent compared with .10 percent for ETFS that track the S&P index.

However, the expense ratio for FaithShares is much less than nearly all Christian-oriented mutual funds; plus, the funds donate 10 percent of income to charities associated with the chosen denomination. Finally, Webb doesn't recommend that investors purchase funds with track records of less than one year. Fifty-eight ETFS closed their doors in 2009 due to low volume and funding.

Related Elsewhere:

FaithShares has more information on its website.

Recent articles on money & business include:

The Not-for-Profit Surge | Even in tough times, your favorite charities are doing better than anyone expected. (May 1, 2009)
A Surefire Investment | How to pray in the midst of financial catastrophe. (Philip Yancey, February 3, 2009)
Scrooge Lives! | Why we're not putting more in the offering plate. And what we can do about it. (December 5, 2008)

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