|[Episcopal News Service] The Executive Council of the Episcopal Church directed its Social Responsibility in Investments (SRI) committee to use the church’s investments to encourage positive change in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
The action, which affirms "positive investment" and "corporate engagement," came on October 8 during the council’s fall meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada.
"Our recommendation is not divestment, which I think some people were anticipating," the Rev. Canon Kate J. Cullinane, associate dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis, Indiana, and SRI committee chair, told the council.
Cullinane said that to divest would mean to walk away. "We’re going to stay involved," she told the council.
The council based its resolution on the recommendations in a report from the SRI committee. The report did not recommend divestment because "the goal is for selected companies to change behavior resulting in a more hopeful climate for peace. If the church simply divests, nothing positive has happened."
The council’s resolution fits into the Episcopal Church’s long-standing policy of supporting a two-state solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, said committee member Kim Byham.
Cullinane also noted that the resolution deals with the Palestinian Territories rather than Israel. The committee chose that approach because Israel exists as a state and has a right to have an economy that flourishes. She said that the committee wants to engage in efforts that help Palestinians achieve the same status.
The resolution directed the SRI committee to "engage in dialogue with and, where appropriate, to file shareholder resolutions" with companies in which the church invests who operate in the Occupied Territories and "whose products or services contribute to violence against either side, or contribute to the infrastructure that supports and sustains the Occupation."
Such infrastructure includes settlements and their bypass roads, the security barrier where it is built on Palestinian land, and demolition of Palestinian homes.
The council said that the committee should also use the same tools of dialogue and shareholder resolutions to encourage companies in which the church owns shares that are in a position to support economic development in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The council recommended that Episcopal Church-related bodies which have invested assets join with other religious organizations, denominations and institutions to invest in West Bank and Gaza Strip infrastructure.
The council also recommended that members of the Episcopal Church visit the church’s partners and others in Israel and the Palestinian Territories "in order to understand the complexities of the conflict."
The report upon which the resolution was based came out of a year’s deliberations during which the SRI committee engaged in research, study and dialogue with many groups and individuals. Two members of the committee visited Israel and the Palestinian territories.
Full text of the SRI committee's report to Executive Council is available online at: http://www.episcopalchurch.org/1866_68277_ENG_HTM.htm
-- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service.