When thousands of leaders of the nation’s largest Presbyterian denomination meet this week for the church’s biennial General Assembly, they’ll pore through detailed proposals on dozens of topics, from gun violence to same-sex marriage to organic farming. But members expect one controversial issue to dominate the discussion: The 1.76 million-member Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) may be poised to become the largest religious group to divest millions of dollars from a handful of major corporations that pro-Palestinian activists have said contribute to violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
After years of failed attempts to remove at least $17 million of the church’s funds from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard, a divestment measure could pass at the upcoming Detroit meeting, which begins Saturday, June 14 and runs for a week. An internal church committee focused on social responsibility has targeted the three corporations for the way their products are used in building Jewish settlements, running checkpoints and constructing the Israel-Gaza barrier.
“For Presbyterians, this is a matter of stewardship. We are called as Christians to be good stewards of God’s abundance. And we find ourselves with money in our foundation and in our pensions invested in companies that do more harm than good,” said Elizabeth Dunning, moderator of the church’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee. “We don’t invest in alcohol, tobacco, gambling and some kinds of weapons manufacturers either.”