Bridging the Spiritual and Secular Divide in the Financial World

MDiv candidate Gregory Louis discusses his summer field education placement
News Greg Louis2021

For third-year MDiv/MSW student Gregory Louis, an unconventional summer field education placement at the privately owned investment firm Glenmede Trust Company affirmed that his faith is relevant in the secular world.

“I’ve always been interested in the intersection between the secular and the spiritual, and have found that this is quite explicit in the finance space, because clients often want to invest with their ethical and spiritual leanings in mind,” Louis says.

Louis met Gordon Fowler, president and CEO of Glenmede Trust Company and a member of the Princeton Seminary Board of Trustees, in 2018 while working as a teacher at St. James School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Louis approached Fowler with the idea for the field placement, then submitted his application to Princeton Theological Seminary’s Office of Field Education and Vocational Placement for approval.

Louis worked in the Endowment and Foundation Advisory department of Glenmede and participated in leadership training. He met regularly with Fowler, who funded the placement, and together they explored management styles using historical narratives and considered their respective moral and ethical ramifications. Louis also joined team and foundation meetings where he gained insight into the philanthropic process and corporate social responsibility. Louis’ research project on faith-based values investing will serve as a resource for Glenmede’s Sustainable and Impact Investing team.

“Greg is a great listener and questioner with very strong leadership skills,” Fowler says. “I was intrigued by his proposal to better understand how Christian spirituality overlaps and integrates with the business and investing worlds, and that's something I think a lot about myself. We also can benefit from different perspectives and I thought Greg could bring that to our company.”

Louis says he wanted to complete one of his field education placements outside the church because “as ministers we don’t always connect with people by waiting on them to walk into our church doors and discussing scripture.” Though he originally perceived finance as stringently secular, he can now more clearly see the connection between this placement and his faith journey.

“Corporate social responsibility and philanthropy in the financial world began with spiritual people prodding the finance sector to consider what is good for society,” he says. “I’m now more certain that investing in my faith life will help me to be a justice worker.”

Louis also learned about the nature of corporate life and soft skills like time and personnel management, and staying on task amidst competing demands. In addition, he met individually with Glenmede employees, clients, and partners to learn more about their vocational journeys and motivations for their work.

After seminary, Louis wants to focus on working with individuals and institutions to ensure that people receive the help and support they need. Where he aims to land is undecided; right now he is focused on receiving the theoretical exposure and honing technical skills.

“I want to serve people both inside and outside the walls of the church with a deeply grounded spiritual consciousness, and with people who approach matters of social welfare with rigor,” Louis says. “As I reflect, this is what attracted me to Glenmede in the first place.”

Educating faithful Christian leaders.

Senior Pastor, Asbury United Methodist Church, Atlantic City, NJ

Latasha Milton, Class of 2018

“My passion is doing what I can to empower and liberate people who are hurting. PTS has made me a better person and pastor because it’s given me the tools to better serve the oppressed and marginalized.”