ECUSA House of Bishops Consider Divestment

The bishops of the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) considered the possibility of divesting from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, during the September 24-28 meeting of the House of Bishops in New York, New York.

“As there has been much speculation in the press about the position of the Episcopal Church regarding investments in Israel, we are providing these facts in the interest of clarity about this important and complex issue,” the bishops wrote in a statement released Oct. 1.

Penned by the Rt. Rev. C. Christopher Epting, deputy for Ecumenical And Interfaith Relations,
and the Rev. Canon Brian Grieves, director, Peace And Justice Ministries, the statement alluded to the possible misunderstandings that can arise from divestment, and specified that the church values an “ongoing relationship with the Jewish community.”

Nonetheless, the bishops said the church will still be considering “socially responsible investment” and divestment as a means to speak their voice.

“The Anglican Peace and Justice Network, representing the full 77 million member Anglican Communion, issued a statement September 22 in Jerusalem following an eight day visit to Palestine and Israel. While that statement did not refer to the issue of divestment, the Network will make a report in June 2005 to the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) that may include a recommendation about social responsibility in investments,” they wrote.


“The ACC would consider that report and in turn recommend policy to the individual Anglican provinces. It would then be up to those provinces, including the Episcopal Church, USA, and their governing bodies to reach their own policy decisions. In the case of the Episcopal Church, that would mean the Executive Council and/or General Convention,” it continued.


The bishops’ statement was made only one week after the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) finished a meeting with top Jewish leaders concerning the divestment issue. The PC(U.S.A) voted earlier this year to divest from companies profiting from the separation barrier between Israel and Palestine, and has since been scrutinized for its actions.

The following is the full text of the ECUSA bishops’ statement:

Statement of the Rt. Rev. C. Christopher Epting, deputy for Ecumenical And Interfaith Relations,
and the Rev. Canon Brian Grieves, director, Peace And Justice Ministries

As there has been much speculation in the press about the position of the Episcopal Church regarding investments in Israel, we are providing these facts in the interest of clarity about this important and complex issue. In doing so, we want first to reiterate our long-standing support for the peace process in Israel and Palestine, and for a two-state solution that guarantees recognition and secure borders for both. We value our ongoing relationship with the Jewish community both on interfaith and public policy issues. We continue to believe that it is important to distinguish between what we consider to be legitimate criticism of Israeli governmental policy and action and the impropriety of anti-Jewish prejudice which we deplore.

Specifically, on the issue of investment in companies that operate in Israel:

The Anglican Peace and Justice Network, representing the full 77 million member Anglican Communion, issued a statement September 22 in Jerusalem following an eight day visit to Palestine and Israel. While that statement did not refer to the issue of divestment, the Network will make a report in June 2005 to the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) that may include a recommendation about social responsibility in investments. The ACC would consider that report and in turn recommend policy to the individual Anglican provinces. It would then be up to those provinces, including the Episcopal Church, USA, and their governing bodies to reach their own policy decisions. In the case of the Episcopal Church, that would mean the Executive Council and/or General Convention.

The Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) committee of the Episcopal Church met for a regularly scheduled meeting September 24 and 25 in New York City. The committee considered the statement of the Anglican Peace and Justice Network and studied the Church's social policies related to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. It also reviewed perspectives on the Presbyterian action for a selected divestment strategy from Israel in response to its ongoing Occupation of the Palestinian people in the West Bank (which includes East Jerusalem) and Gaza. At the request of the Episcopal Church, the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism wrote to the committee regarding the recent action of the Presbyterian Church, USA, which formed part of the committee's review.

In response to existing Church policy, SRI decided to:

recommend to the Executive Council -- the Church's governing board -- in November that SRI spend the next 12 months investigating what corporate actions might be appropriate with companies that contribute to the ongoing Occupation, especially in the areas of home demolitions, settlement building and the separation wall. SRI will also spend this period seeking dioceses and congregations that may be interested in being partners in this effort.
continue to better educate itself on the subject of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in partnership with the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East. It will also welcome input from the wider Church, ecumenical and interfaith partners and others, including the American Jewish community. The committee recognizes its primary responsibility to implement existing policies of the Church adopted previously by its General Convention and the Executive Council.