Art Ally, founder of the Timothy Plan family of mutual funds, has an incredible story few people know about. It all ties into how he came to be known as one of the foremost experts of Biblically Responsible Investing (BRI) and why this financial path is so crucial.
Before BRI became the common term, it was called values-based investing, morally responsible investing or Bible-based investing. But the purpose was the same: to give Christians an alternative to worldly investing.
There are differing versions of how BRI came to be, but it’s fair to say it wasn’t until Art Ally and Mark Minnella (a Christian financial adviser) co-launched the National Association of Christian Financial Consultants in 1998 that the moniker stuck. The new association gave Christian advisers a forum to come together, worship and figure out how to change investors’ ideas about investing.
I’m the daughter of Art Ally — so let me share his story and why it’s important.
From nothing to success. Art’s grandfather, Rashid, was an immigrant from Liftaya, Homs, in the Syrian Arab Republic. As a boy, he tended camels for the family. Rashid arranged passage to the United States to avoid conscription into the Turkish army during World War I. He was inducted into the U.S. Army in 1917 and discharged in 1918 — and, as a result of his service, was granted American citizenship.
After his wife died, he remarried in America. In 1926, Rashid brought his two sons (Ali and Hamuda) to the U.S. to live with his American family in Ohio.
Art’s father, Ali, could not speak or understand English. When he came to America at age 14, he was placed in the fourth grade in the Cleveland city schools. He was humiliated by having to sit at a desk much too small for him; he was by far the oldest in his class. He had a very hard time at school and ultimately quit in the sixth grade.
Still dealing with a lack of English proficiency and having barely three years of formal schooling, Art Sr. managed to find a job and marry. Working for a bakery at about $15 per month, he overcame incredible financial challenges. He knew he was in trouble one payday when the heating bill was more than his paycheck. He took a second job with the Berthold & Grigsby florist shop as a clerk.
Art Ally felt called to write a guide for people to truly understand what God says about money.
A born entrepreneur, he’d buy flowers from the shop so his wife could make corsages that they sold in front of nightclubs. Art Sr. caught the eye of Herman Pirchner, owner of the Alpine Village restaurant, who asked him if he’d work for him as a waiter. He later was promoted to maître d’ at the Sheraton-Cleveland Hotel. Through the years, Art Sr. met several presidents, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford.
“Understanding the nature of numbers.” Art Sr.’s son, Arthur Douglas Ally, was born in 1942, the middle child of five. He was brought up in a three-bedroom farm home in Cleveland. He helped with farm chores and sold flowers with his mother.
He excelled in school and had an incredible knowledge of numbers, often referring to his love of “understanding the nature of numbers in the universe.”
In high school, he fell in love with his future wife, Bonnie. In 1960, he needed to borrow money from her to repair his car — and often jokes it was cheaper to marry her than to pay her back. They’ve been married 57 years. His beginnings were humble and modest, but he always looked ahead to see how he could improve his family’s economic well-being. With that came many moves and many financial roles, including branch manager of Shearson Lehman Brothers’ Boca Raton, Florida, office.
In 1974, he became a certified public accountant for about four years. From 1978 through 1991, Art Ally earned more security licenses than most financial advisers would even attempt, including (formerly certified) financial planner (1985–1997), plus an additional eight licenses.
Higher purpose. Today, with over 40 years of financial experience and over 20 years as a pioneer of Biblically Responsible Investing, Art Ally would be considered by most people to be “the expert” in the field.
Maybe he would, too, if it weren’t for that knock on his door by an evangelist in the late 1960s. That’s when he and his wife accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. And that’s when they met the Real Expert.
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Art Ally says it has taken many years to fully understand what it means to be and live like a Christian. Because of his faith, he’s emphasized at Timothy Plan (and through the distributor Timothy Partners Ltd.) that the real “chairman of the board” is Jesus Christ Himself.
There were many ups and downs and outright miracles that accompanied Timothy Plan’s founding and the rise of BRI. The staff went without paychecks for weeks at a time. At one point, the firm was about to shut down for lack of funds. Art Ally went into his office to pray — and in the very last hour of the deadline, the money came in.
Biblical stewardship. Art Ally is passionate about the unborn and about biblical stewardship. His pro-life leadership is legendary.
Over the years, he took risks. He moved his family all over the U.S., reaching higher at every turn. At one point, when he was already a successful financial planner, he felt a calling to run for state representative in Orlando. He ended up losing by only six votes, but was told by his firm that no one would be allowed to run for office again. This prompted him to leave the company and start his own financial planning office.
In 1992, at age 52, he took another leap of faith. He and his wife sold their house and his financial practice and started the first biblically responsible mutual fund geared to help pastors provide for their families in retirement. It was a very uncertain time. But that’s the definition of faith — and without faith, it’s impossible to please God.
In 1994, they launched the Timothy Plan family of mutual funds. Timothy Plan’s first marketing piece contained a penny with the following question: “How much money is OK to have invested in abortion or pornography? The answer is simple. Not a penny.”
Over the years, Timothy Plan grew, adding more mutual funds. After a decade of success, in 2004 Art felt called to take a leave and write a guide for people to truly understand what God says about money. He co-authored the Biblical Stewardship Series with Randy Alcorn, Howard Dayton, and others. He was so passionate that he sold the six-book series at cost and trained financial advisers to teach it to others. Today, the series is impacting the lives of homeschoolers and their families all over the country and equipping the next generation with crucial knowledge about God’s view of money, investing and giving.
The future of this type of investing. Over the years, the BRI field has expanded. Timothy Plan itself recently hit the $1 billion mark in funds under management and now has 13 different funds, all of which are screened to ensure that they are biblically sound.
Other BRI firms have arisen; Christians now have more investing alternatives that reflect biblical values. As Art Ally likes to point out, this has been an incredible journey that has enabled him to live out his convictions. He hopes people in this arena will come to understand that everything is God’s and that it’s our responsibility to honor Him in all that we do.
It’s not just about making money. Helping Christians to be faithful in all areas of their lives, including investing, is what Timothy Plan is about.
I’m proud of my father. As his youngest child and only daughter, I have worked by his side since 1992. Although his enthusiastic convictions can sometimes drive me a bit crazy, I know he’s doing it all to honor God.
Cheryl Mumbert is vice president of Timothy Plan and creative director for Timothy Partners, Ltd. Her grandfather, Arthur Ally Sr., passed away in 2003.