Barbara A. Boigegrain, General Secretary of the UMC’s General Board of Pension and Health Benefits, has issued a response to letters of concern and questions she has received from bishops and other church leaders about the board’s recent divestment from several banks involved in Israeli settlements in Palestine.
UM Kairos Response, a United Methodist group that includes interfaith partners, advocates for divestment from firms that support illegal Jewish settlements in Palestinian territories. The group recently circulated a press release claiming that the Pensions Board, based in Glenview, Ill., has divested its funds from five Israeli banks for that reason, in response to its advocacy.
Stating alternative reasons of sustainability risk for the divestment decisions, Boigegrain issued the following statement and talking points on Jan. 15:
The General Board is responding to concerns expressed by our participants and others regarding recent reports that we have excluded from investment the securities of five Israeli banks. The General Board is not divesting from Israel. We remain invested in approximately 18 Israeli companies that meet our investment criteria.
This action was in line with a broader excessive sustainability risk policy approved by our Board of Directors in 2014 and implemented throughout 2015. The guideline developed from this policy applies to 14 countries and areas around the world, including the Middle East. We integrated research from an independent and objective third-party expert to identify the 39 companies subject to our guidelines. Complete details and FAQs are on our website—they provide the intent and scope of our human rights guideline and the implementation results for 2015.
Our actions are fully aligned with resolutions adopted by The United Methodist Church General Conference in 2012.
For complete information and background, please read the facts about our Human Rights Guideline:
- We are not divesting from Israel—but from two banks that met our Human Rights exclusion criteria. In Israel alone, we remain invested in approximately 18 companies that meet our investment criteria.
- United Methodist Church Resolution 6111 “opposes Israeli Settlements in Palestinian Land.”
- Companies that are no longer approved for investment—those excluded under the GBPHB Human Rights guideline—are directly involved in expanding and maintaining the settlements.
- Continuing to invest in companies that support the settlements is not a prudent investment.
- Israel is not singled-out as a high-risk country. Our guideline has been applied to 14 countries and regions around the world and only applies to the settlements in the Palestinian Territories.