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