Thursday, May 25, 2006

Divestment from Conflict - Investment in Peace

One of the things that excites or inflamed people about the Presbyterian Church is something called "Divestment."

Sounds so very boring.


It is a plan that was approved in 2004 for the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest its holdings in companies profiting from Middle East conflict and war. So far, not a dime of our $8 billion dollar portfolio has actually been divested. But we have identified five companies that profit from the Mid-East conflicts -- Caterpillar Inc., Citigroup Inc., United Technologies Corp., Motorola Inc. and ITT Industries Inc. How much the church has invested in those companies has not been disclosed.

The companies do business that either assists the Israeli military or supports the infrastructure of Israel's West Bank settlements. Caterpillar, for instance, sells heavy equipment used in the demolition of Palestinian homes. Caterpillar says it has no control over how its products are used.

It seems to me that the issue of divestment has been largely misunderstood -- with many Jewish groups claiming Presbyterians are anti-Semitic and are divesting themselves of Israel.

As much controversy as this has created, I am pleased that the church is trying to avoid a bias toward Israel or Palestine -- but instead seeks a bias toward peace, which I believe was the intent of the 2004 proposal.


Blogger Angelique said...

I am glad that your church is trying to do the right thing but I am sadden that it sounds great on paper but in reality it doesn't exist, yet. I am all for divestment because there is nothing that expresses your displeasure than not spending your money on a company whose ideology conflicts with yours and I believe that is well within your right even though others may not agree with you.

11:49 PM  
Blogger niebuhrian said...

Reality in the PC(USA) means atleast two years in a committee to decide what to do next ;). However, my understanding (and I was at the initial GA when this was brought up, I think) is that the divestment paper was more about identifying and bringing back to the GA a proposal for divestment. I am glad the identification portion is complete, but I am not sure what will happen when an actual vote on divesting the funds occurs (this is my fuzzy understanding of where the denomination is right now). Furthermore, there is some confusion in the church about the theology of divestment, there seems to be too many literal "Revelationists" (left behind types) that believe divestment will ruin "God's chosen land" and "divest" us of our eternal reward... Unfortunately, bad theology is given this voice because they speak louder than those of us who wish to press for peace...

grace and peace

12:14 AM  
Blogger Pastor Lance said...

The other problem with the issue of divestment is that the PCUSA has almost no stock in those companies. The "Pension Fund" and "Foundation" are separate not-for-profit entities that are bound by US law to certain fiduciary responsibilites. To divest and hurt to funds could mean that the fund managers go to jail.

It is one thing to divest your own money but quite something else to divest someone elses money. The majority of people in the church I serve would be against the PCUSA divestment. Isn't it interesting that something that seemed so simple is in reality VERY complicated.

12:32 PM  
Blogger DennisS said...

Talk of divesture had its time and place. The tide has turned though, and the PCUSA needs to recognize that. Israel isn't putting up new settlements - left and right. In fact, they have pulled out of a few areas.

Fifteen years ago the media almost always reported the activities of Israel as being in the right. Now they realize that there is another side to this.

There's a long way to go in regard to issues in the Middle East. A cease-fire agreement of a year and a half ended in the last 24 hours with Israel shelling a beach. But, the PCUSA cannot affect things at this point be divesting of these specific companies. Our efforts will best be spent elsewhere.

Let's drop the divestment decisions and discussion, as they aren't productive.

9:24 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home