Episcopal Church USA Rejects Divestment
In a vote which took place at the 78th General Convention in Salt Lake City, leaders of the the Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) rejected a resolution calling for divestment from companies that operate in Occupied Palestine and for a boycott of settlement products.
The resolution and the introductory statement that accompanied it, both submitted by the newly formed Episcopal Committee for Justice in Israel and Palestine, pointed to a “new political landscape” in which the Israeli government has rejected peace talks and one in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to prevent the formation of a Palestinian state, and urged the church to reevaluate ten year old policy which encouraged dialogue with companies rather than Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS).
“At this juncture, in this new landscape, our purpose is to help end the Occupation and to assure civil rights and equality for all the peoples of Israel and Palestine. The Church’s approach should be straightforward: boycott, divestment, and sanctions are tools of nonviolent peacemaking that put the weight of our corporate dollars behind our commitment to justice. The Church’s financial portfolio can again be used as an instrument of political change,” the statement said.
That particular statement refers to the Church’s stance against apartheid in South Africa, a commitment also mentioned in the accompanying foreword by South African Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
“You proved with us in South Africa that only economic pressure could force the powerful to the table. As you have courageously done before, may you once again witness to the cause of Christ’s justice to free the oppressed and by so doing to liberate the oppressor so that these two peoples can finally be reconciled and live together in dignity, security and peace,” the retired bishop said.
Leading up to the vote at the General Convention, the floor was opened for public testimony, and several people spoke in favor of the resolution, arguing that the Church’s policy of positive investment is not adequate. Members of the Episcopal Committee for Justice in Israel and Palestine have yet to comment on the disappointing vote.
The decision comes just days after the United Church of Christ overwhelmingly passed a divestment resolution, and within hours of the Mennonite decision to table a resolution of the same nature for two years.