05/24/2010 08:27 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Unitarians Move Investments Over Sudan Conflict

By Fernando Alfonso III
Religion News Service

(RNS) The Unitarian Universalist Association is moving its retirement plan from Fidelity Investments to TIAA-CREF because of differing views on the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.

The church's estimated 2,800 retirement accounts--totaling $173 million in investments--will be moved to TIAA-CREF, a company with similar business values to the Boston-based UUA, said treasurer and chief financial officer Timothy Brennan.

"It stems from the controversy over investing in companies that support the genocidal regime in the Sudan," Brennan said. "About three years ago, there were several articles ... pointing out that Fidelity had investments in several companies, the largest of which were PetroChina and Sinopec, which, through their royalty payments, were supporting the regime in the Sudan that was perpetrating the genocide in Darfur."

Fidelity's conflict of interest in Sudan was the main reason for the change, Brennan said. It was not a quality of service issue.

"Their mandate is to do two things, one is to obey the law and the other one is to maximize profits however way they can do it," Brennan said. "And so we thought it would be valuable for us to look for a retirement plan provider who might be closer to us in values."

Unitarian Universalism draws on Christianity as well as other faiths and beliefs. UUA congregations adhere to seven principles, including "justice, equity and compassion in human relations." The church has more than 220,000 confirmed members in the United States, according to statistics gathered in 2007.

The UUA officially ended its 10-year relationship with Fidelity on May 20 after its board of trustees unanimously approved the change.