What is each denomination doing on MRI?
Click below to see what your church’s view on MRI is and see what church activists are doing.
United Reform Church
Responsibility for decision making in the URC rests fundamentally with the congregations. The general approach is bottom up. This is now reflected in the principle of decisions by consensus and, if possible, unanimity. Therefore, concerns raised at a national level are unlikely to be resolved quickly and much time is taken in keeping as many churches and members as possible in agreement. This applies to issues on investment and social action as well as theology.
Decisions, including those concerning investment, are made at three levels, which also reflect the levels at which financial resources are held. These are
- local churches
- synods (there are 13 in England, Wales and Scotland)
Each of these levels can make their own choices and decisions about investment, although there is guidance from the national church. The amounts of money held by churches vary widely, with some churches being relatively well endowed and others struggling to meet expenses. Property such as church buildings and manses are the responsibility of the Synods and are held in trust. The Synods also have varying amounts of money to invest. In general, when capital is released by the sale of a building this is quickly used in new projects. The national church holds funds for ministerial pay and pensions. It is likely that the Synods also have some money committed to this too.
From recent enquiries, most of the Synods and the National church invest through well known ethical investment funds. It is not currently clear whether anyone regularly checks these funds against the current URC policies on ethical investment or whether the fund managers are trusted with this task. It is almost certain that local churches do not independently screen their investments.
At present, national URC policy is as follows :- (taken from the URC website, July 2018)
- General Assembly recommends that trustees and all those with investment responsibilities connected with the United Reformed Church should avoid any investment in:
- a) companies directly engaged in the manufacture or supply of weapons;
- b) companies a significant part of whose business is in the manufacture or supply of: alcoholic drinks, or tobacco products, or military equipment (other than weapons); or the provision of gambling facilities; or the publication or distribution of pornography; or in the extraction of thermal coal or the production of oil from oil sands;
- c) companies who benefit by offering credit at usurious rates of interest to those who do not have access to funds through normal lending channels.
General Assembly is of the view that in the definition of the activities outlined in b) above, ‘significant’ means that the share of turnover derived from the activity concerned is more than 10% of the company’s total turnover; for c) above the equivalent threshold should be 25%.
- In addition to the exclusions listed above, the URC’s investment bodies should reserve the right to avoid investment in companies whose operations are deemed to:
- contribute directly to human rights violations or support the maintenance of oppressive regimes who are guilty of gross human rights violations;
- contribute to a systematic, harmful impact on the social or natural environment;
- harm the society in which they operate more than they benefit it;
- promote injustice.
- Further, it is expected that governance standards of our advisers, our fund managers, their agents, and the companies in which we invest, both directly and indirectly, should meet internationally accepted norms. By focusing on these standards, investors will favour companies which will be seeking to develop their businesses sustainably in the long term interests of their shareholders and other stakeholders.
- Nestle Clarification: for investment purposes all companies should be treated in accordance with this ethical investment policy. There is no further requirement to exclude holdings in this company.
- General Assembly recognises that this policy cannot be binding upon those with responsibility for specific investment decisions but when these bodies seek advice on investment matters they should apply due diligence to ensure that the integrity and reputation of the United Reformed Church is, as far as is practical, protected.
While there is no specific statement regarding the situation in Israel Palestine, paragraph 2 could be interpreted as encouraging avoidance of investment in companies involved in the settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as companies maintaining the separation barrier and in other ways breaking international law. Others will already be excluded by paragraphs 1a and 1b (with reference to military equipment).
What have URC activists done so far?
URC campaigners have started to gather information on how URC funds are invested at national and Synod level and whether this provides an adequate filter against investing in companies that support violations of international law. Several of the 13 synods have already been contacted by local campaigners, as well as the central Investment Committee which oversees URC investment policy. The COIF Ethical Investment Fund managed by CCLA is a popular choice for URC funds. It has a wide range of ethical restrictions but more investigation is needed to be sure it fully meets the Kairos criteria. It may be worth asking CCLA if it can provide a version of the fund that definitely does so as a “segregated investment” (https://www.ccla.co.uk/investment-solutions/segregated-investment-services). This would obviate the task of checking out each one of the large number of companies comprising many investment fund portfolios.
Quaker Involvement in the Middle East
Quakers have a long history of peacemaking in the Middle East, especially in relation to Palestine and Israel. In 2002, the World Council of Churches responded to a call from Palestinian Christians and set up the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). Quakers are responsible for running it in the UK and Ireland. Ecumenical Accompaniers (EAs) are sent out for three months to live alongside Palestinians and Israelis who are working for a just peace. As a result, Quakers now have a deep knowledge of the situation on the ground and campaign actively for an end to the occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza, and the protection of human rights.
Quaker Policy on Investment
Quakers have always stood for principles of ethical investment ie that money should not be used to invest in companies that go against Quaker principles of equality, human well-being, social justice and peace. Accordingly Britain Yearly Meeting (BYM – the national body of Quakers) state in their investment policy that no investments should be made in the armaments industry, gambling, or companies connected with tobacco, pornography or alcohol. More recently owing to a Quaker commitment to a low carbon economy, that list now includes the fossil fuel industry.
Investment in Companies that profit from the occupation of the West Bank
In Devon there is an active group on Palestine and Israel. In 2017, we decided to press for BYM to add to the above exclusion list companies that profit from the military occupation of Palestinian territory. BYM encourages participation in decision making by Quakers at every level. Decisions about day-to-day policy issues are taken by a variety of BYM committees but they are guided in this by a body called Meeting for Sufferings which meets every two months. So our working group put forward a motion via Devon Area Meeting to Meeting for Sufferings on this issue.
Campaign success! Quakers will not profit from the occupation of Palestine
On the 19th November 2018 the Quakers in Britain announced it had become the first church in the UK which will not invest any of its centrally-held funds in companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine.
The decision, made by the church’s trustees in consultation with Meeting for Sufferings – the national representative body of Quakers – fits into a long Quaker history of pursuing ethical investments. It follows decisions not to invest funds in, among others, the fossil fuel industry, arms companies, Apartheid South Africa, and – going even further back – the transatlantic slave trade.
Paul Parker, recording clerk for Quakers in Britain, said:
“Our long history of working for a just peace in Palestine and Israel has opened our eyes to the many injustices and violations of international law arising from the military occupation of Palestine by the Israeli government.
“With the occupation now in its 51styear, and with no end in near sight, we believe we have a moral duty to state publicly that we will not invest in any company profiting from the occupation.
“We know this decision will be hard for some to hear. We hope they will understand that our beliefs compel us to speak out about injustices wherever we see them in the world, and not to shy away from difficult conversations.
“As Quakers, we seek to live out our faith through everyday actions, including the choices we make about where to put our money.
“We believe strongly in the power of legitimate, nonviolent, democratic tools such as morally responsible investment to realise positive change in the world. We want to make sure our money and energies are instead put into places which support our commitments to peace, equality and justice.
“We hope that by announcing our refusal to profit from these companies it will encourage others to think about their own investments, and help challenge the legality and practices of the ongoing military occupation.”
For the full press release, please click here
Church of Scotland
Most Church of Scotland investments are managed by the denomination’s Investors’ Trust. It runs three funds (growth fund, income fund and deposit fund) into which local congregations and national church bodies can put their money (although they may put it elsewhere if they wish).
The Investors’ Trust makes ethical decisions by “taking into account” the views of the Church of Scotland’s General Assembly, while not technically being bound by them. It operates negative screening by avoiding investment in any company substantially involved in gambling, tobacco products, alcohol, armaments and in other activities which are felt to harm society more than they benefit it. There is also an element of positive screening; in general, investment is sought in companies that demonstrate responsible employment and good corporate governance practices, have regard to environmental performance and human rights and act with sensitivity to the local communities.
In December 2017 The Council of Assembly produced a statement of investment principles which can be accessed here:
In 2016 the Trustees agreed to avoid investment in companies which derive more than 15% of their turnover from extraction and/or sale of thermal coal and/or oil extracted from tar sands. This year the Church and Society Council asked the Assembly to “urge that if the business plans of oil and gas companies are not aligned with the Paris climate agreement within two years the Investors Trust and Pension Trustees withdraw from investing in them”. The Assembly however failed to approve this.
The Church is in the process of producing a report to next year’s Assembly giving a strategic view of the presence of the Church in Israel/Palestine and examining what would be the most effective use of Church assets there. The response to this may well affect the Church’s direction in future on investments in companies which profit from the occupation.
Roman Catholic Church
Background on the church with MRI
MRI would in general be seen against the background of Catholic Social Teaching (http://www.catholicsocialteac) which has developed over more than 120 years. Rooted in the Gospel, CST calls us to attend to the Common Good, to solidarity with all humanity, to an option for the poor, to protect the planet. CST calls us to act for justice, not merely in charity, alert to the ways in which social , economic and other structures can diminish life rather than cherishing and enhancing it. Such themes are strongly proclaimed by Pope Francis.
MRI is introduced as one expression of CST in some church-related investment policies.
Do we know of any investments the church has or has had that profit from the occupation?
See below for explanation of structure. Each diocese, the Vatican, individuals, charities and other organisations all have independent investments with their own policies and investment managers; the extent of moral or ethical criteria varies as does the engagement with seekign a just future for all in Palestine-Israel.
Have the church been receptive to this issue?
MRI is growing but not uniformly prioritised. The Communique of 2017 following UK Bishops’ annual visit to Israel and the OPT did call the faithful to prayer, awareness, action and solidarity. (http://catholicnews.org.uk/hl) It is not widely known or followed in your contributor’s experience. Most church engagement in Palestine-Israel is on the large number of initiatives and organisations engaged in the Holy Land.
What is the structure of the church and how can we influence their policies?
In 2011, in total there were roughly 5.7 million Catholics in the United Kingdom; 4,155,100 in England and Wales (7.4%), 841,053 in Scotland (15.9%), and 738,033 in Northern Ireland (40.76%). (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_in_the_United_Kingdom with detailed references) Catholics worship in parishes within dioceses. Some investments are made by dioceses, some by the Vatican, and also by other Catholic organisations and communities.
In the UK, 22 dioceses’ bishops are in the Bishops’ Conference for England and Wales (http://www.cbcew.org.uk); 8 are in the corresponding Conference for Scotland (https://www.bcos.org.uk/). 6 are in Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference. Each Conference has a corresponding commission of justice and peace (https://www.justice-and-peace, http://www.justiceandpeacescotland.org.uk/, https://www.catholicbishops.ie/justice/ ). Many dioceses also have justice and peace commissions – comprising lay people and priests, these would in general would have a remit of supporting the Bishop and facilitating parishes’ justice, peace and integrity of creation groups.
What is the denominational group doing and how can interested parties get involved?
There is a newly formed denominational group engaging with the Catholic church, which is very small. To join, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Background on Methodist engagement in Palestine/Israel
The Methodist Church was one of the first Churches in the UK to establish the principle of morally responsible investment in Palestine/Israel and to call for the boycott of goods from the illegal settlements. Decisions are made in the Church by its annual Conference, and the Conference has been consistent, over many years, in its opposition to the Occupation.
Engagement on the issue of Israel/Palestine goes back many years. In 2001, the Methodist position on the Occupation involved a call for a return of Israel to the borders of 1967 and for Jerusalem to be shared equally between the two nations and three faiths. The Conference also requested to know the extent to which the UK was exerting its influence to ensure adherence to the Fourth Geneva Convention and for UN Security Council Resolutions 242, 338 and 1322 to be followed. Furthermore, the Conference sought clarity as to how the UK was using its influence to ensure the right of return and compensation for all refugees who chose to return under UN Resolution 194.
Initial call for disinvestment
However, in April 2005, just before the Palestinian call for BDS, the Synod of the York and Hull Methodist District passed a resolution endorsing the decision of the Presbyterian Church of the US “to divest from any multinational corporations involved in the Occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip”. It called on the national Conference, “to undertake a review of all investments under its control, with a view to divesting from any corporations or activities which support the illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.”
The issue therefore came before the Conference of 2005 where it was referred to the Church’s Joint Advisory Committee on the Ethics of Investment. As the name suggests, this committee advises the Church on its investments. Its usual policy is one of “Constructive Engagement”, where it establishes principles that it expects companies to follow, engages with companies to encourage them in the direction it seeks, but ultimately reserves the right to disinvest if the company shows no interest in investing ethically. As such, the Conference of 2006 endorsed this same approach regarding investments in Israel/Palestine, calling on the committee to establish the key concerns that would guide this constructive engagement, “but which could ultimately lead to selective disinvestment.”
Methodist policy on investment
Mandated by the Conference, the ethics committee proposed their “by no means exhaustive list” of activities that would give rise to ethical concerns”. These were:
- Provision of equipment or services to the military or police in support of operations in the occupied territory or to terrorist groups in support of any military or terror activities.
- Construction of facilities within the occupied territories without the express permission of the Palestinian Authority.
- Construction or management of transport links between Israel and settlements in the occupied territories.
- Contracts for the supply of materials or other activities related to the construction of the separation barrier
- Manufacture of goods/produce within Israeli administered areas of the occupied territories or the sale of such items.
- Appropriate country of origin labelling of goods sourced from Palestinian administered areas of the West Bank or Gaza.
- The establishment of new operations in the region or partnerships with Israeli or Palestinian companies without due regard to possible human rights implications or impact on the conflict.
Companies that the Methodist Church may have investments with, would be assessed on the basis of the above criteria, especially in relation to the significance of their activity, impact on individuals or communities, record of the company in relation to human rights more generally, the importance of Israel/Palestine to their business and the significance of their business to what is happening on the ground.
Initially, constructive engagement with companies would be the key. However, if engagement proved to be fruitless, disinvestment would be the only ethical response.
Regular reports to Conference
The commitment of the Ethical Investment Committee since 2006 has been to report to the national Conference every year on its engagement with companies involved in Palestine/Israel – a commitment it has kept. In practice, there have not been very many investments to report on – for example, it never had investments in Caterpillar. It did, for a time, invest in Veolia which was widely known to have been involved in the Jerusalem Light Railway where the Church’s policy of engagement perhaps went on longer than campaigners would have liked. Today, however, it no longer has investments with that company after it fell off an investment index.
Boycott of the illegal settlements
After several more years of passing motions critical of the Occupation and in support of organisations such as ICAHD, the Conference made headlines in 2010 when it received a major report on the Occupation, which it had commissioned; and adopted a statement on the Methodist Church’s position. This included a call for Methodists to support the boycott of goods from the illegal settlements. It further mentioned the support being given to this by Christian leaders in Palestine, including in what was then the newly published “Kairos Document”. Amongst many things, the report called for an end to the Occupation, the demolition of the Separation Wall, an end to the blockade of Gaza, an arms embargo and adherence to international law by all sides. It further called on Methodists to find out more, to write to their MPs, MEPs and Government ministers and to visit the region to meet with Palestinian Christians. Specifically, it also encouraged support for the World Council of Churches Week of Prayer for Palestine/Israel and also support for a precursor to Sabeel-Kairos – the “Just Peace for Palestine initiative of the Amos Trust”.
In a later Notice of Motion in 2012, the Conference went further in its call for a boycott of settlement goods, by joining with Christian Aid and the Quakers in Britain in calling for “the Government to introduce legislation to end the trade in products from illegal Israeli settlements”. The Church contributed to campaigning reports on this issue in a similar vein.
Finally, from 2013-14, the Methodist Church conducted a consultation on whether to support the BDS movement. A full debate was held on this in the Conference of 2014, but no firm conclusion on BDS was reached. However, it reaffirmed the Conference resolutions of 2010, and also encouraged work with organisations such as EAPPI, ICAHD UK and Kairos Britain.
Continuing opposition to the Occupation
Over the years since 2001, the Methodist Conference has passed numerous resolutions calling for an end to the Occupation and in favour of peace with justice for all. It has supported practical action to achieve this, and has led the way amongst many Churches within the UK – often in the face of quite fierce criticism from those who disagreed with its stance. It has reaffirmed its support for organisations such as EAPPI and ICAHD as well as campaigns such as those inspired by the Kairos Document. At the time of the centenary of the Balfour Declaration in 2017, it expressed regret at the damaging consequences it had for the Palestinian people. And in 2018, it passed another strongly worded Notice of Motion about the situation in Gaza, including a demand that the Israeli Army observes international law by ceasing to fire on civilians.
The Methodist Church stands against the Occupation and in favour of a just peace for all.
Methodist Working group
There is an active Sabeel-Kairos Methodist group working on Morally Responsible Investment. They engage regularly with the JACEI and Central Finance Board, asking pertinent questions about investments in companies profiting from occupation, and challenging the engagement process with these companies to make sure that it is time-bound and not a smoke-screen used by companies to placate concerned investors.
The group also actively encourages Methodists to put forward memorials and motions to the Methodist conference on the subject of morally responsible investment, and in 2017 hosted a stall and fringe event at the conference too.
Please contact email@example.com if you wish to join the Methodist group. The group meets approximately every 3 months in Birmingham.
Church of England
There is also an active Anglican group working on Morally responsible investment in the Church of England. We will shortly be publishing their activities here on the website. In the meantime if you wish to join the group please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. The group meets in London every 3 months approximately.