Presbyterian Church May Reconsider Divestment

The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) may suspend its highly-publicized process of divesting church stock from multinational corporations that profit from the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine.

According to the Presbyterian News Service, the denomination received nearly 20 recommendations dealing with the divestment issue to date, the majority of which call for the church to rescind its process of phased, selective divestment.

Divestment became an issue within the PC(USA) in 2004 after the church’s General Assembly agreed to launch a process to identify, engage, and possibly divest from companies profiting from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The denomination owns a multi-billion-dollar portfolio of investments that is overseen by its Board of Pensions and the Presbyterian Foundation. The portfolio includes stock in five companies – Caterpillar Inc., Citigroup, ITT Industries, Motorola, and United Technologies – that are now being “engaged” in the selective divestment process.

The church has since received letters of protests and even arson threats from people disagreeing with what they view as an unfair targeting of Israel in what is a bilateral conflict.

The denomination’s 2006 General Assembly, slated for June, is the first Assembly since 2004 and could prove a turning point in the church’s controversial policies on the Mideast conflict.

"The Presbytery of Eastern Virginia respectfully overtures the 217th General Assembly (2006) to propose that the resolution from the 216th General Assembly (2004) regarding phased, selective divestment of stocks be suspended," stated an overture from the Presbytery of Eastern Virginia.

"It is our prayer that our denomination will seek balanced, positive overtures for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, instead of directing negative actions at only one of the involved parties," the presbytery added in its rationale for the overture.

Most overtures follow along the lines of rescinding the process of divestment. Other overtures, meanwhile, confirm the divestment process or call for a two-year hold on any actions.

The GA deadline for overtures with financial implications is Apr. 17; for those with no financial implications it is May 1. Overtures are taken up during the General Assembly – the church’s highest legislative authority.