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Presbyterian Mission Agency Board sends MRTI recommendations to General Assembly

MRTI proposes divestment from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola Solutions

February 7, 2014

LOUISVILLE

After a similar recommendation was not approved by the 220th General Assembly (2012), the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board is recommending that this summer’s 221st Assembly vote to divest from three companies until “they have ceased profiting from non-peaceful pursuits in Israel-Palestine.”

The Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) proposes that Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions be added to the General Assembly Divestment List.

MRTI has been engaged with these companies since 2004, following General Assembly directives that year. This engagement has taken the form of proxy voting, dialogue with companies, shareholder resolutions and public appeals. Divestment is the final step in the process if companies don’t modify their behavior to comply with General Assembly policy. 

“We have regretfully concluded that further dialogue … will not be fruitful and we are therefore regretfully recommending divestment from these three companies,” said Elizabeth Terry Dunning, chairwoman of MRTI. “We have attempted … to be faithful to the assignment that the General Assembly gave the committee in 2004 and has updated at every successive Assembly.

“What we all want is shalom—peace,” she said, acknowledging that the long process has been painful for both those who oppose divestment and those who had hoped it would happen sooner.

Caterpillar sells heavy equipment used by the Israeli military and contractors to destroy Palestinian homes and farmland and to construct segregated roads and the Separation Barrier, MRTI states in its report.

In addition to profiting from biometric scanners used at checkpoints, Hewlett-Packard sells hardware to the Israeli Navy and manages its information technology, including that related to the ongoing naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Motorola Solutions provided an integrated communications system to the Israeli government, which uses it for military communications. It also provided ruggedized cell phones to the Israeli Defense Forces to use in occupied territories and sold wide-area surveillance systems to be used in the Israeli settlements.

During the board’s discussion Feb. 6, Roger Gench, vice chairman of the Justice Committee, praised MRTI’s work but expressed concern about what divestment would do for interfaith relationships between Presbyterians and Jews.

Raafat Zaki, corresponding member, questioned what failing to act would do for ecumenical relationships with Christians in Israel/Palestine and interfaith relationships between Presbyterians and Muslims. He also said that he is bothered by protests against divestment from Presbyterians employed by the three companies, questioning what role self-interest plays when talking about human rights violations.

“Translate that to every situation in which human rights are in question,” he said.

Board member Clark Cowden asked the General Assembly to consider whether it is holding the right position. If he, like MRTI, had been working on a project for 10 years without accomplishing his goal, he would be forced to ask himself, “Was I doing the wrong thing?”

  1. William Van Keuren and others interested in using investments to encourage peace in Israel-Palestine, please contact me for a media release on the new Occupation-Free Fund of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. thanks, Jan Orr-Harter, Chair, PPF Endowment Investment Committee 8172913952 or JanOH4 at aol.com

    by Jan Orr-Harter

    March 25, 2014

  2. A large par of investments by my wife and I are with New Covenant Trust Co, with instructions to them to comply with the approved list of investments as recommended by MRiT. However, I am forced to ask Is the heavy equipment sold used only for destructive attackes on the Palistinians or has such equipment other uses? Obviously it does. Likewise, is the navel equipment used only for the Gaza blockade? Of course not. I think we need to take a better approach to foster a more peaceful conclusion to the Middle East question. We need to look at ourselves and some of our own government actions in the Middle East and fix our own short comings. Our whole military engagement has been nothing short of a disaster and has done more to create hatred and violence than almost any thing else happening in the last decade. Not with standing any of my beliefs and opinions, we will continue to be guided by the MRIT approved investment guidlines.

    by William Van Keuren

    February 12, 2014

  3. Ahh - I found the link to the divestement companies - excellent!

    by Beth Sarsfield

    February 7, 2014

  4. I applaud MRTI for wishing to not support war efforts, no matter how well intentioned. I also applaud MRTI for trying to work with the companies before deciding not to support them. My personal understanding of our Christian mission is aligned with these endeavors. It is important to note that the thoughts and wishes of the employees of these companies are not our business, as their requests may not be "self-serving" but prayerfully developed based on their own understanding of the bible. One question - I am planning new personal investments - how do I find a list of companies so that I can invest responsibly? And for divested companies, is there a list of those and the reasons for divestment? That way I can decide for myself how to invest responsibly. Thank you for this important work. Beth

    by Beth Sarsfield

    February 7, 2014

  5. With a very inflammatory issue, it would be helpful if the PNS reported the facts rather than what the PNS wishes happened. In fact, the PMA did NOT recommend that the GA divest. It "sent" the MRTI recommendation to the GA. As correctly reported by The Presbyterian Outlook, "Matt Schramm, a pastor from Michigan and chair of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, asked the board members to consider whether they thought MRTI had done the work the General Assembly had instructed it to do – not whether board members necessarily agree with the recommendation. 'Our question is, ‘Has MRTI done its work?’ 'Schramm said.

    by John Wimberly

    February 7, 2014

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