Episcopalians Scuttle Anti-Israel Divestment

The Episcopal Church appears unlikely to follow in the footsteps of the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (USA) in adopting a policy of divestment from companies that do business with Israel. On the same day that the Mennonite Church USA voted to delay consideration on a divestment proposal for another two years, Bishops in the Episcopal Church meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah have rejected similar resolutions.

 

Speaking on the day of the vote, Bishop Sean Rowe of the dioceses of Bethlehem, PA and Northwest Pennsylvania cited the opposition of Jerusalem Bishop Suheil Dawani as influential in the defeat of divestment proposals.

“The conflict in that part of the world is very complex,” Rowe assessed. “Divestment would aggravate the peace process. This convention has adopted a number of calls including for restorative justice, divestment would work against that.”

“There is a desire not to do unintentional harm to the people we are trying to help,” said Bishop Dean Wolfe of Kansas. “Divestment harms the most vulnerable people.”

Resolution D016 “Being Socially Responsible Investors In Palestine and Israel” would have directed the church’s Executive Council Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) to “develop a list of corporations that provide goods and services that support the infrastructure of Israel’s Occupation.” The list would have been updated annually.

The resolution called upon the Executive Council to “identify a list of products made and businesses present in illegal settlements” and direct the Council to “continue to monitor its investments and apply its CSR policy to any possible future investments in companies identified.”

The resolution was introduced by The Very Rev. Walter Brownridge, Dean of St. Andrew’s Cathedral Honolulu in the Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii.

Another divestment-related resolution, C012, was discharged. The resolution proposed by the San Francisco-based Episcopal Diocese of California would specifically divest church holdings in Caterpillar, G4S, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions. The four companies named all provide non-lethal products and services to the Israeli Defense Forces.

A third resolution proposed by the Episcopal Diocese of Hawaii, “Work for Justice and Peace in Israel-Palestine”, C003 was also discharged by bishops. The resolution called for the church to adopt a policy of “selective divestment or a No Buy policy of any holdings in Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Motorola Solutions.”

Bishops did concur with the House of Deputies in adopting resolution C018, “Pursue Justice, Peace and Security in the Holy Land”. Sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington (DC), the resolution expresses “solidarity with and support for Christians in Israel and the Occupied Territories.”

The final version of the resolution affirms the work of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem in healing, education, and pastoral care; and the work of Christians engaged in relationship building, interfaith dialogue, non-violence training, and advocacy for the rights of Palestinians.

Episcopalians are urged in the resolution to make pilgrimages to Israel and the Occupied Territories and calls for the allocation of $15,000 for the church to produce a video and study guide based on the experiences and learnings of pilgrims to the region and Christians living in the region.

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