Isaiah 58

Working for Justice and Peace in All the Earth

Author: Dale720240 (page 1 of 3)

Church Council Minutes on C1 and C2

As previously reported, the ELCA Church Council voted at their November meeting to delay implementation of C2 (Human Rights Investment Screen) until such time as the Church Council approves a Social Message.

Below are excepts from the Minutes of the Church Council Meeting, November 10-13, 2016, beginning on page 61 of the minutes and page 64 of the PDF.   This portion of the minutes discusses the responses of the Office of the Presiding Bishop regarding Assembly Resolution C1 and responses from the Corporate Social Responsibility review team.  Note that the first draft of the Investment Screen is slated for presentation to the Church Council at the fall meeting, 2018.

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Response from the Office of the Presiding Bishop (November, 2016)
The churchwide organization’s communication with this church’s members and congregations regarding Israel and Palestine matters is handled through our Peace Not Walls network. Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations in the Office of the Presiding Bishop has provided communication and interpretation of the 2016 Churchwide Assembly’s actions with inter-religious partners as foundational work in support of communications within and beyond this church. Concerning the three requests for communications to the President and Congress, we intend to monitor political developments closely in order to discern the most propitious time for such communications, but we will wait at least until after the election season is completed. We expect to provide a response to the Churchwide Assembly action by the November 2017 Church Council meeting.

Response from the Corporate Social Responsibility review team (November 2016)
In order to meet the call of this memorial, an initial survey of the social teachings of this church indicates that it would be useful to write a social message on human rights to underpin the development of a general human rights screen as requested. It is expected this message could be prepared and sent to Church Council by November 2017. At that point the Corporate Social Responsibility review team will follow the protocol for developing a new screen as outlined in the Policies and Procedure for the Development of Social Criteria Investment Screens. The initial screen development process is projected for the fall and winter of 2017. Some specific work that will be needed includes:
1. Review the relevant social teachings of the ELCA with assistance from the Theological Discernment Team.
2. Additional input along the way from the Peace Not Walls team as well as the Ecumenical and Inter-Religious
Relations team.
3. Review of the scope and prioritization of human rights issues/violations which might be covered in such a
screen.
4. Receive input from the Endowment Fund, Mission Investment Fund and Portico regarding any concerns and impact on their work.
This screen development process will be followed by a first draft for review by Church Council in April 2018. [Emphasis added.] Revisions and additional input will be incorporated, and the screen is projected to come for final action to the Church Council in the fall of 2018. The extended time frame for development allows for multiple consultations due to the sensitive nature of the subject. Due to the urgency of this matter, we acknowledge that prioritizing this work will require that other work assigned to the Corporate Social Responsibility review team and the Theological Discernment team will need to be re-prioritized.

Church Council Delays Implementation of C2

In the published summary of Church Council actions from its November, 2016 meeting, the ELCA Church Council voted to postpone implementation of the required human rights investment screen, mandated by the Churchwide Assembly, until such time as a social message on human rights is developed an approved.

Since the (voluminous) minutes for Church Council meetings are not published for several months after the meeting occurs, it’s a little difficult to know exactly what transpired at this meeting.  Normally investment screens are formed based on ELCA teaching as set out in social statements, and it seems that for some reason the existing Social Statement of the ELCA  “For Peace in God’s World” (1995) , which does address human rights was not considered adequate.

Social messages are described here and differ from social statements in that they are only approved by the Church Council after review by the Conference of Bishops.  (Social statements take years to develop and are voted on by the entire Churchwide Assembly.)

Some Church Council members believe that the Council will be able to vote on the applicable social message by November, 2017.

–Dale Loepp

 

Churchwide Staff Action on C1 and C2 Subsequent to the Assembly (3)

On a final, more encouraging, note on recent Churchwide staff activity related to Israel/Palestine, the Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, Elizabeth Eaton, recently issued a letter to President Obama urging the U.S. not to stand in the way of admitting the State of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations.  The press release and the text of the letter can be read here.

While U.N. membership would be a significant step forward toward achieving the goals set out in C1:

“To urge this church’s members, congregations, synods, agencies and presiding bishop to call on their U.S. Representatives, Senators and the Administration to take action requiring that, to continue receiving U.S. financial and military aid, Israel must comply with internationally recognized human rights standards as specified in existing U.S. law, stop settlement building and the expansion of existing settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, end its occupation of Palestinian territory, and enable an independent Palestinian state.”

…the basic aim of C1, to make aid to Israel dependent on the cessation of settlement activity, has thus far gone unaddressed by the Presiding Bishop and as far as I know, other Church bodies.  Since U.S. already adopted a new 10-year memorandum of understanding with the State of Israel on September 14 (actually increasing military aid to $38 billion), the opportunity to make the views of the ELCA known on this particular issue during negotiations seems to have been squandered.

While encouraging President Obama to not stand in the way of Palestine’s admission to the UN is a development that should certainly be applauded, it should also be noted that C-1 also calls for the recognition of the State of Palestine—a step which would go beyond admission to the UN.

–Dale Loepp

Churchwide Staff Action on C1 and C2 Subsequent to the Assembly (2)

Subsequent to the ELCA’s publishing its video on Churchwide Assembly actions, the Peace Not Walls unit published a helpful list of FAQs/Talking Points about C1 and C2 (including the text of the Memorials) that can be accessed here.

While providing a great deal of useful information, the FAQs also reiterate Secretary Boerger’s mistaken characterization of divestment, as I previously discussed here.  The ELCA Staff’s view of divestment is explained in FAQ 12:

“What is the difference between investment screens and divestment?

Divestment is the act of selling an asset for the purpose of implementing either financial, legal, or social goals without consideration of investment returns.”

While this statement may be an adequate dictionary definition of divestment, it really doesn’t accurately reflect how divestment currently works in the companies working to practice socially responsible investing in the U.S., since no fiduciary can legally ignore a “consideration of investment returns.”

One way that the ELCA approach actually does differ from BDS resolutions that several other churches have adopted is to leave the development of the “do-not-buy” list up to the Corporate Social Responsibility Review team.  The recent announcement that GS4 will leave the Israeli market due to BDS pressures (it remains to be seen if this will actually happen, to be fair) points to the wisdom of not having the Churchwide Assembly, which only meets every 3 years, work to maintain and debate the components of such a list.

Beyond the mischaracterization of divestment, another disappointing development revealed in the Peace Not Walls FAQs was the ELCA Churchwide staff’s refusal (thus far at least) to make public the names of any companies subject to the screen once it’s developed (see FAQ 15).  One of the most common questions I receive when I speak on this topic to parish groups is whether the ELCA can’t help “regular parishioners” become more socially responsible in their investing, particularly in light of the wording of C2: “To encourage ELCA members, congregations, synods, agencies and institutions to engage in shareholder advocacy in support of human rights, exercising the right of a shareholder to submit resolutions at a corporation’s annual meeting.”

If the ELCA is indeed contractually bound to only disclose this information to select clergy, as is implied in FAQ 15, then it’s probably time to either renegotiate the contract or look for a different consultant.

Ethical investing is everyone’s responsibility.

–Dale Loepp

Churchwide Staff Action on C1 and C2 Subsequent to the Assembly (1)

The first significant action from the Churchwide staff came in the form of a video from ELCA Secretary Chris Boerger, which can be viewed on this page.

https://www.elca.org/ChurchwideAssembly

Relative to C1 and C2, there are two significant inaccuracies in this video.  The first is Secretary Boerger’s mischaracterization of C2 as an action concerning “companies supporting the State of Israel.”  In actuality, the wording of the Memorial states that the Church should develop: a “human rights social criteria investment screen based on the social teachings of this church and, in the case of Israel and Palestine, specifically based on the concerns raised in the ELCA Middle East Strategy.”  The concern of the ELCA is with our own investments in companies that profit from the illegal occupation of the Israeli Government and Military, NOT with the much broader (and much more easily misconstrued) notion of “supporting the State of Israel”.  Further, the sense of the Memorial is that it should be applied to other areas of human rights abuse, beyond the occupation of Palestine.

Second, did or did not the ELCA pass a memorial on divestiture?  Secretary Boerger adamantly disavows reporting that the ELCA had acted to adopt “divestiture” and again uses the phrase “companies supporting the State of Israel”.  Secretary Boerger goes on to say that divestiture would require that the ELCA “sell all assets in companies…supporting the State of Israel.” While this makes for perhaps a nice sound-bite description of the nature of divestment and the divestment/BDS movement among churches, the reality in practice is much more complicated.

Divestment in practice typically has a number of steps stretching over a period of years.  The first is developing a “do-not-buy” list of companies that are considered violators, setting materiality thresholds for investments in the companies on the do-not-buy list, and identifying any existing potentially problematic investments.   Any existing investments in companies on the do-not-buy list are not usually sold immediately, for two good reasons.  The first is that the investment manager is still held to fiduciary standards of financial responsibility for the organization; market conditions will always dictate the timing of any sale of stock.  The second reason for delaying an immediate sale is that such a sale  forfeits  any leverage encouraging the company to divest from the occupation through shareholder action (also keeping in mind that the BDS movement is about divesting from the occupation rather than selling investments in companies that “support the state of Israel.”)

Immediately selling your HP stock—as one example—does nothing to encourage HP to divest from the occupation.  HP has plenty other buyers for your stock at the ready and would probably also love to be rid of any stockholders who make waves.  Putting HP on a future “do not buy” list is a continuing sign that the company doesn’t meet the church’s/organization’s social responsibility criterion, plus the list encourages members of of that church/organization not to invest in the corporation.

In short, companies want to avoid any ongoing bad publicity; they usually could not care less about who owns their stock.

So again, did the ELCA adopt divestment?  I think that fact remains to be seen.  To the extent that an ELCA investment screen mirrors common investment practices surrounding divestment, then I think we could say accurately “yes.”  But because the details of the screen have yet to be put into place, it’s difficult to say how closely ELCA action will follow that of other churches that have adopted BDS-like resolutions.  But to adamantly state that the ELCA has NOT adopted a divestment approach is, to my mind, simply inaccurate.

If C2 is indeed not a divestment resolution, as Churchwide staff keep claiming, perhaps the Church needs to pass one in 2019?

–Dale Loepp

 

 

Year End Update Coming!

Well, it hasn’t been all that long since our August Churchwide Assembly (only four months); in one sense many things have stayed pretty static and in another sense, it feels like the world has been turned upside down(!). So, for the end of the year I thought I would post a series of updates regarding the ELCA position on the Israeli Occupation and Israel/Palestine, just for documentation as well as to help keep the events in perspective going forward.

I’ve divided the actions into three major categories that will appear in subsequent posts:

1) Actions by the Churchwide staff

2) Actions undertaken by the Church Council

3) Political developments, including actions by the Obama Administration, potential developments under the Trump Administration (I’ll get out my crystal ball) and some comments about Standing Rock.

I hope everyone reading this has been having a wonderful holiday season and I/we wish you all a safe and happy 2017 as you celebrate and contemplate 500 years of semper reformanda: always needing to be reformed!

–Dale Loepp

C1 and C2 Both Pass With Over 80% Margins—Thank You Church!

This is what overwhelming support looks like:

Final Vote

 

This is what amazing, faithful people look like:

IMG_2756

 

C-2 Passes By Overwhelming Majority

PRESS RELEASE

August 13, 2016

 

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Adopts Investment Screen to Avoid Profiting from Israel’s Occupation

 

Press Contact:

Dale Loepp: deloepp@gmail.com

 

Isaiah 58, a group of Lutherans working for peace and justice in the Holy Land, welcomes today’s vote by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to adopt a human rights-based investment screen for its social responsibility funds to ensure the church is not profiting from human rights abuses, including Israel’s nearly half-century-old military occupation of Palestinian lands. The overwhelming vote in favor took place at the ELCA’s triennial Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans.

 

“In our Affirmation of Baptism, one of the five promises we make as Lutherans is to ‘work for justice and peace throughout the earth,’” said Jan Miller, ELCA member and a leader of Isaiah 58 from the Rocky Mountain Synod. “By adopting this investment screen, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is taking an important step to ensure that we are not profiting from, or complicit in, injustice in the Holy Land and elsewhere.”

 

Yesterday, the ELCA approved a resolution calling for an end to US aid to Israel until the latter freezes the construction of settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in violation of longstanding official US policy and international law. Currently, the US gives more than $3 billion in military aid to Israel each year, without which it could not maintain its occupation of Palestinian lands, which entered its 50th year this past June.

 

The ELCA has long opposed Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise and supported nonviolent action in support of Palestinian rights. With today’s vote, the ELCA adds its own voice and approach to the growing number of US churches that have endorsed economic acts of conscience in support of Palestinian freedom and human rights, including the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), and the United Church of Christ, and others.

 

Isaiah 58 thanks ELCA voting members for taking a strong, principled stand in support of freedom, justice, and equality in the Holy Land and around the world, and looks forward to continuing our work towards achieving those goals.

 

Isaiah 58 is a group of ELCA Lutherans who advocate for a more engaged church response to calls from Palestinians for an end to Israel’s occupation and a just peace for both Israel and Palestine.

 

C-1 Passes! Here’s Our Press Release

August 12, 2016

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Urges End to US Aid to Israel Until Settlement Construction Ends

Press Contact:
Dale Loepp: deloepp@gmail.com 

Isaiah 58, a group of Lutherans working for peace and justice in the Holy Land, welcomes today’s overwhelming approval by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) of a resolution calling on the US government to end aid to Israel until the latter freezes the construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian land, which violate longstanding official US policy and international law, and are a major obstacle to peace in the Holy Land. The vote on resolution C1, which took place at the ELCA’s triennial Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans, was 751 (82%) in favor, and 162 opposed.

Currently, the US gives more than $3 billion in military aid to Israel annually, without which it could not maintain its occupation of Palestinian lands, which entered its 50th year in June. The ELCA has long opposed Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise and supported nonviolent action in support of Palestinian rights. Today’s vote represents a continuation of the ELCA’s efforts to help bring about peace, justice, and equality for all the peoples of Israel and Palestine.

Isaiah 58 is a group of ELCA Lutherans who advocate for a more engaged church response to calls from Palestinians for an end to Israel’s occupation and a just peace for both Israel and Palestine. 

Prayer Vigil Tonight! 8:45 Lobby of Sheraton Hotel 500 Canal Street

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