[Episcopal News Service — Indianapolis] The House of Bishops, concurring with deputies, have overwhelmingly supported a resolution on positive investment in the Palestinian Territories. But the bishops agreed to postpone indefinitely the conversation on corporate engagement.
Resolution B019 affirms positive investment “as a necessary means to create a sound economy and a sustainable infrastructure” in the Palestinian Territories. It also calls on the church to support “the Jewish, Muslim, and Christian study on peace with justice in the Middle East,” and produce an annotated bibliography of resources.
Resolution C060, which calls on the church to engage “in corporate social responsibility by more vigorous and public corporate engagement with companies in the church’s investment portfolio that contribute to the infrastructure of the Occupation,” was tabled after Bishop Sean Rowe of Northwestern Pennsylvania called for the conversation to be postponed indefinitely. The deputies had passed that resolution on July 9, but it would have required the bishops’ consent.
Bishop Ed Little of Northern Indiana said that Resolution C060 troubles him. “We just passed a positive and solid resolution in B019,” but C060 “is somewhat confusing as the Episcopal Church already has a policy of corporate engagement and that policy has served us well. Adding this resolution to the package will confuse the wonderful clarity in B019.”
That policy calls the church to “positive investment” and “corporate engagement” as recommended in the 2005 report of the Social Responsibility in Investments committee that was endorsed by Executive Council.
Bishop Pierre Whalon of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe serves on Executive Council’s Committee on Corporate Social Responsibility, the successor to SRI. He acknowledged that the Episcopal Church already does “vigorous corporate engagement” as directed by that report.
Bishop Marc Andrus of California, who served on General Convention’s National and International Concerns Committee that has considered the legislation on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and proposed the two resolutions, said that B019 affirms the local voice of the church. He said that the Episcopal Church needs to honor the requests of Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem Suheil Dawani “and the fragile Christian population and all the people there.”
B019 reaffirms the church’s official policy, based on resolutions passed at its previous General Conventions, committing to a two-state solution in which a secure and universally recognized state of Israel lives alongside a free, viable, and secure state for the Palestinian people, with a shared Jerusalem as the capital of both.
Former West Missouri Bishop Barry Howe, who serves on the board of the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, said that this was the result that that organization, which supports the diocese’s social-service institutions, had hoped for.
Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire urged passage of C060, saying that the language is “remarkably moderate. It asks for more vigorous public engagement. This is very much like the last resolution in its moderate tone.”
Bishop John Tarrant of South Dakota urged opposition to C060. He spoke about the town of Rawabi, currently under construction north of Ramallah in the West Bank, that will provide opportunities for affordable home ownership, employment and education. Tarrant said that the project, envisioned by a group of Palestinian businessmen, would inject about $80 million into the Israeli economy.
“It gave me the sense that there are Palestinians that understand the importance of mutuality if the two states are going to exist side by side,” he said.
He reminded the house of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s charge for Episcopalians “’to go as emissaries…to go into the world of God’s dream.’ I believe there are Palestinians and Israelis now that are going into the world with God’s dream.”
Bishop Charles Bennison of Pennsylvania said the movement to support boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel “is unwise. We need more, not fewer, economic ties to Israel. The more isolated Israel becomes the more dangerous the situation becomes.”
Following the bishops’ decision, Deputy Newland Smith of Chicago, who served on the legislative committee, told ENS that he is disappointed in the bishops’ decision. “The church has been doing some work [in corporate engagement], but it has been very private, and the resolution (C060) called for more robust attention for a just peace in Israel and Palestine. The committee made it clear they did not favor divestment.”
Smith was among five committee members who on July 9 signed a minority report that expressed “disappointment that the 77th General Convention has not gone far enough in considering measures that would increase awareness and advocacy toward ending the Occupation of Palestine.”
Alex Baumgarten, director of the Episcopal Church’s Office of Government Relations, told ENS that General Convention “has made clear that the achievement of a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians is a priority for the whole of the Episcopal Church.”
Resolution B019, he said, calls for an extensive and in-depth conversation to evolve in the church over the next triennium, “and it makes clear that this is a conversation that can and must include people of all perspectives on the subject. It makes clear that a just peace for Palestinians would also be a just peace for Israelis and would be in the interest of both peoples and the world.”
Earlier in the week, the National and International Concerns Committee considered 14 resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that ranged from calling the church to support more intentional economic investment in the Palestinian Territories that would support the creation of a future state to asking the church to divest from Israeli companies that profit from the occupation of Palestinian land.
After hearing public testimony and considering all the related legislation, the committee proposed its resolutions for consideration by the houses of General Convention.
Previous stories on resolutions and public testimony related to Israel and Palestine are available here.
— Matthew Davies is an editor/reporter for the Episcopal News Service.