Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly to Again Consider Israeli Divestment Proposal

A recommendation to divest from companies that do business with the nation of Israel will be considered by Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) at its General Assembly this summer.

The largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States will again entertain a divestment proposal, after narrowly voting down a similar measure in 2012.

David Brog, executive director for Christians United For Israel, told The Christian Post that PCUSA's consideration of divestment directed punitive action toward the wrong Middle Eastern nation.

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"If the Presbyterian Church wants to divest from a Middle Eastern country, they should consider Iran, where Christians are hanged; or Iraq, where they are bombed; or Egypt where they are shot; or Syria, where they are beheaded; or Saudi Arabia, where they are banned," said Brog.

"The idea that the Presbyterians would divest from the only country in the Middle East where the Christian population is actually protected and growing is obscene. If the MRTI (Mission Responsibility Through Investment) succeeds in their efforts, they will render Israel less able to protect its diverse citizenry from terror attacks and will tragically soil their hands with innocent Jewish, Christian and Muslim blood."

The recommendation to divest came from the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment, which asked for Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions to be added to the General Assembly Divestment List.

In a statement, MRTI Chairwoman Elizabeth Terry Dunning said that dialogue-based efforts to resolve their issues "will not be fruitful."

"We have regretfully concluded that further dialogue … will not be fruitful and we are therefore regretfully recommending divestment from these three companies," said Dunning. "We have attempted … to be faithful to the assignment that the General Assembly gave the committee in 2004 and has updated at every successive Assembly."

Last month, the MRTI sent a report to the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board recommending that three companies be added to the denomination's General Assembly Divestment List. The MRTI argued that the three companies were in violation of PCUSA's policy of only being connected to businesses pursuing peaceful endeavors in Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

"The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) policy on socially responsible investing was established by the 1971 General Assembly," reported Kristena Morse of Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries.

"In 1976, the Assembly established the framework for corporate engagement, which includes proxy voting, dialogue with companies, shareholder resolutions, public appeals and, as a final step, divestment."

William Somplatsky-Jarman, Social Witness Ministries coordinator with the Presbyterian Mission Agency, told The Christian Post in an earlier interview that PCUSA does not do business with many other companies for "moral reasons."

"It should be added that the Board of Pensions and the Presbyterian Foundation/New Covenant Funds also proscribe investments in alcohol, gambling and manufacturers of hand guns," said Somplatsky-Jarman.

"We are focused on companies involved in non-peaceful pursuits (roadblocks to a just peace) as defined by the General Assembly."

The 221st General Assembly of PCUSA will be held in Detroit, Mich., June 14-21.

In 2012, at the 220th General Assembly, PCUSA delegates narrowly defeated a divestment resolution, with 333 voting against, 331 voting for, and two abstaining.

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