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United Methodist General Conference to Consider Divestment

Contact: Amy Stapleton, Methodist Federation for Social Action, 202-577-8712, amy@mfsaweb.org

WASHINGTON, April 21 /Christian Newswire/ -- United Methodists from Europe, Asia, Africa and the United States will gather April 23 – May 2 in Ft. Worth Texas at the denomination's quadrennial conference. The General Conference, the church's official legislative body, will discuss and act on matters related to polity and social challenges that face the world today. One issue that has generated much debate already and will be considered at General Conference is corporate divestment from companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine.

The Methodist Federation for Social Action, an independent caucus group of United Methodist laity and clergy working on issues of justice and peace in the United Methodist Church and world since 1907, has submitted a resolution to General Conference asking the body to use its moral authority and take nonviolent action to support justice, peace and security in both Palestine and Israel by developing a process for responsible and ethical investment. The Federation calls upon the church to undertake a process of phased, selective divestment from companies that support the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and other violations of human rights in Palestine/Israel.

On April 17, the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society withdrew its resolution to begin the process of divestment from Caterpillar Corporation as a result of Caterpillar's agreement to meet with the board to continue dialogue.

Rev. Kathryn Johnson, Executive Director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action made the following statement in response to the General Board decision:

"The Methodist Federation for Social Action is pleased that Caterpillar Corporation is willing to sit down with faith-based groups to discuss its role in Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian land.  We are hopeful that this dialog will go beyond a discussion of the Caterpillar code of conduct and produce concrete changes in the actions of Caterpillar in the occupied territories.

With the withdrawal of the only single-company divestment petition before General Conference, the way is clear for United Methodist delegates to focus on the major question before them related to divestment: Will United Methodists continue to profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine, an occupation the denomination is on record opposing?

Beth Corrie, a United Methodist and cousin of Rachel Corrie (who was killed by a Caterpillar bulldozer in 2003) issued the following statement:

"While I am pleased to hear that my Church has begun productive dialogue with Caterpillar (CAT) over widespread concern that CAT's business dealings with the Israeli Defense Forces are in conflict with international law and CAT's own Worldwide Code of Conduct, I will be convinced of the company's seriousness by its deeds, not its words. Since the death of my cousin 5 years ago under the blade of a CAT D-9 bulldozer, a death that was not the first nor the last as a result of the Israeli Defense Forces' illegal policy of demolishing civilian homes in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, numerous faith and human rights groups had made it clear to the Company that its products are being used in war crimes.  Five years is long enough -- we are calling on CAT to act."

The Methodist Federation for Social Action joins that call, and urges those at General Conference to adopt a broad-based resolution that sets clear timelines and procedures for corporate accountability and actions by all companies, not just Caterpillar. During the four years since the last General Conference passed a resolution opposing the occupation, almost 2400 people (168 Israelis and 2209 Palestinians) have been killed. "Every life is precious," said Johnson "and we believe that ending the occupation will help protect Israelis as well as Palestinians. Waiting four more years to act is not an option."

"Divestment is consistent with United Methodist Social Principles, our Book of Discipline, and perhaps more importantly our commitment to justice for all people," continued Johnson. "Proposals before General Conference represent a grass roots effort.  The Methodist Federation for Social Action and six Annual Conferences have submitted divestment proposals to General Conference."
To reach spokespeople from MFSA for comment during General Conference, call Amy Stapleton at 202-577-8712 or email amy@mfsaweb.org.

(See Caterpillar's Worldwide Code of Conduct at http://www.cat.com/cda/files/89286/7/worldwide_code.pdf.)

For more information on General Conference petitions visit http://www.unitedmethodistdivestment.com