Israel-Palestine: Convention supports positive investment

Bishops agree to postpone indefinitely debate on corporate engagement

By Matthew Davies
Posted Jul 10, 2012

[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.


Comments (5)

  1. Norman Ewers says:

    I was, to say the least, dismayed that the House of Bishops, while it agreed with the House of Deputies that positive investment is necessary to create a sound economy and a sustainable infrastructure for our Palesinian brothers and sisters (BO19), saw fit to postpone indefinitely consideration of Resolution CO60, which called for a more vigorous public and corporate engagement with companies in the church’s investment portfolio, because the ECUSA already has a policy of corporate engagement “that has served us very well” The record does not support that claim. Positive investment in occupied Palestine is all well and good; unfortunately it will come to naught unless our brothers and sisters are rescued from apartheid Israel’s brutal occupation, colonization and seige of their homeland. The ECUSA, if it is to be a Christain voice for peace and justice in the Middle East, cannot afford to “postpone indefinitely” consideration of a (much) more vigorous public and corporate role in the effort to bring peace to the Holy Land. It must find the moral courage to join the growing international BDS movement and to add its voice to those calling for the U.S. to end its economic, political and military support for Israel until it agrees to a just and lasting peace with the Palestinian people.

    1. Marlene Talbott-Green PhD says:

      Yes, it is dismaying, this postponement to consider Resolution C060. It would seem to me that it is true that the record doesn’t support the claim that the policy of corporate engagement “has served us very well.” I would like to know the rationale for why the bold affirmation for positive investment, against the arguments for divestment, was followed by this rather limp anti-climax to table or postpone indefinitely consideration of a more bold statement of public and corporate role to bring peace to the Holy Land. Is it really a lack of moral courage or of some less sinister political or other reasons why the resolution ended not with a bang, but a whimper? Please, somebody enlighten me?

  2. Karen Hershey says:

    From the article — “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.” ”

    I noticed the above quote refers to B019 only. The article is confusing because the comments about B019 and C060 are woven in together instead of dealt with separately. My question is, how did the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem and the local population feel about C060? Is it THEIR will not to have passed it? I also notice that it is said “the policy of corporate engagement has served us very well.” Who is the “us”? The American Episcopal Church? or the Palestinian Christians and other locals? I echo the plea for more enlightenment please.

  3. Katerina Whitley says:

    The Presbyterians put us to shame. Very sad.

  4. Christina Davis PhD says:

    How long will we go on lacking the courage to force a balance? Would you like your children and your children’s children to grow up in a refugee camp? How many more settlements will cover over how much more land and what will be left for a Palestinian state? What kind of livelihood can families have when their ancient orchards have been bulldozed? No, I’m not anti-semitic but I’m amazed at how blind everyone is to the realities in the land! The longer we wait, the less hope there is of any success at peace, and the longer we wait the more violence WE help engender. I’m afraid all the justifications above sound like semantics to me.

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