Divestment effort fails at General Conference

Bishop Warner Brown of the San Francisco Area views results of a vote during the May 2 session of the 2012 United Methodist General Conference in Tampa, Fla. Delegates overwhelmingly defeated a motion to divest from corporations profiting from the Israeli settlement of occupied Palestinian territories. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey.

General Conference delegates today chose not to require United Methodist Church boards and agencies to divest of holdings in three companies said to profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories.

Supporters of divestment sought to get General Conference to consider legislation, in the form of a committee’s minority report, that targeted Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard.

Delegates voted 614 to 307 to stick with considering a majority committee report that calls on the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits to “explore serious peacemaking strategies in Israel and Palestine including positive economic and financial investment in Palestine.”

Later, delegates adopted that majority report, with 685 voting in favor and 246 against.

There was considerable impassioned discussion before the votes.

“If we’re trying to show that this is the conference of change, it is time to put our money where our mouth is,” said Robert Lee, a lay delegate from Western North Carolina. “It’s time to say that we stand up against the oppressor and join hands with the oppressed.”

Lonnie Chafin, a lay delegate from the Northern Illinois Conference, noted that Palestinian Christians, through the Kairos document, had asked for help through divestment.

“We must support them,” Mr. Chafin said.

He also argued that General Conference should not leave this particular moral decision about investments to the pension board.

Others urged trusting the pension board and questioned the effectiveness of divestment.

“We’re going after the products rather than the users of the products,” said Don House, a lay delegate from the Texas Conference.

He added that General Conference had never singled out companies in such legislation, and warned of a possible lawsuit from investors in such companies.

The Rev. Bob Long, of the Oklahoma Conference, said, “As Methodists we need to do positive things to work for peace in the Holy Land and understand that this is a complicated political issue.”




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