General Board of Pension and Health Benefits Divests From Security Firm

Students in Palestine Protest at Security Checkpoint, Photo courtesy of Michael Loadenthal creative commons

Students in Palestine Protest at Security Checkpoint, Photo courtesy of Michael Loadenthal creative commons

The United Methodist Church’s General Board of Pension and Health Benefits is divesting its investments with a company for the first time due to Israel’s illegal settlements and military occupation.

The church’s General Board of Pension and Health Benefits is selling its stock in the U.K.-based G4S, which provides equipment and services for Israeli prisons, checkpoints and settlements in the West Bank. The Methodist board, which manages an investment portfolio of $20 billion, has $110,000 in G4S shares, church officials said Thursday.

“This is the first time that a United Methodist general agency has included human rights violations related to Israel’s illegal settlements and military occupation in a decision to divest from a company,” said David Wildman, executive secretary for human rights and racial justice at the church’s General Board of Global Ministries. “It’s part of our efforts at examining how we are approaching human rights issues and the longstanding Israeli occupation and settlements.”

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Caterpillar and Hewlett-Packard are two other companies with investments that have come under scrutiny in the past. Divestment action was voted down at the 2012 General Conference in Tampa.

Advocates for divestment say that Caterpillar supplies the bulldozers and earth-moving equipment used by the Israel Defense Forces to clear Palestinian homes and orchards; that Hewlett-Packard provides, sometimes through subsidiaries, biometric monitoring at checkpoints and information technology to the Israeli Navy; and that Motorola supplies surveillance equipment to illegal settlements in the West Bank and communications equipment to the occupation forces.

In two separate votes, divestment was defeated by a 2-to-1 ratio. Susanne Hoder, a Methodist from Rhode Island and a spokeswoman for a group for divestment, the United Methodist Kairos Response, said: “Though we did not get the decision we hoped for, we have succeeded in raising awareness about the persecution of Palestinian Christians and Muslims. We have awakened the conscience of the churches and pointed out the inconsistency between our words and our actions.”


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The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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Jeff Morrison

In Genesis, we find very plain language from God concerning the treatment of Israel. “Now the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, From your family And from your father’s house, To a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Genesis 12:1-3 NKJV) We also need to look at… Read more »

mitchell chapman

I am involved with Jews For Jesus since the 70s. Three years ago I got involved with crescent project. We need to share the gospel with the Jew and with the muslim. Let us pray they both convert to Christ and bow down to the Lord of Host. Jesus is the only way to get to Heaven.


Wow. This is more meddlesome left-wing activism by people who really don’t know what they are doing, having not bothered to get a comprehensive understanding of the historial facts surrounding this matter. Whether or not the West Bank Israeli presence is truly illegal is a matter of some debate since the Israeli army is there owing to Arab aggression.


This is not a left-wing issue in the UMC, but one that refreshingly “crosses the aisle.” In recent years, including at General Conference 2012, conservative, moderates and evangelicals have supported economic advocacy such as divestment and boycott as principled action for United Methodists regarding the Israeli Occupation. There is no serious debate of the illegality of the Israeli settlements, or the 85% of the Separation Wall that is has been built on Palestinian land rather than on the internationally recognized border of Israel. See the European Union decision in 2013 that all EU member nations may not have any accord,… Read more »


Your comments do not appreciate the actual history of why Israel went into the West Bank. This has become a political issue and facts have taken a back seat to activist zeal. And the non left wing entities you mention are going along with this because they don’t want rabid left-wing zealots and Arab activists breathing down their throats threatening bad PR, boycotts, etc. There actually IS some serious debate about the legality of the Israeli presence, maybe not among anti-Semites at the UN and the EU, but among serious-minded people who have actually studied the issue going back to… Read more »

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