I can’t sleep. It’s 4 a.m. and I’m awake. What does that have to do with the Presbyterian Church? Stay with me here. I checked headlines on Huffington Post. An interesting story caught my eye about the Presbyterian Church. Religious news doesn’t usually interest me, but this story jumped off the page, because the main person quoted is from Kansas City.
Quick story summary: The Presbyterian Church is having their annual conference and one of the voting items on the table is a divestment of their money to companies that help Israel in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Companies like Caterpillar, Motorolla Solutions and Hewlett-Packard were all on the chopping block. http://www.pcusa.org/media/uploads/mrti/pdfs/2012_ga_divestment_list-long_form.pdf
“The Rev. Brian Ellison, a Kansas City, Mo., Presbyterian pastor and chair of the church’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee, said an interview that he was disappointed in the vote.
“It’s hard to know how best to move forward in our engagement with companies doing business in the region, but I respect the wisdom of the assembly,” said Ellison.
Spoiler Alert: If you didn’t get it from the quote above, the assembly voted down the disinvestment by a narrow margin.
I started thinking about the business side of things when it comes to the Church. How do Churches decide how to invest? I am impressed that the church has a policy about investment around military, tobacco and human rights violations. Being Jewish, I’m not so thrilled that they were considering divestment in companies they believe assist Israel in the conflict. Peace in that region is a long and complicated issue, but the Presbyterian Church has a right to invest their money wherever they want to. That’s the American, capitalism side of me coming out (settle down GOP).
So that had me thinking, where does the Presbyterian Church invest their money? I did a little google search to find out. I found the 2011 Annual Report. I am NOT a financial expert. If I attached my own 401K, this would be obvious. I once bought stock in a retailer based on this expert analysis, “they have really cute clothes.” I think you can guess how that ended up. Let’s just say I’m not writing my blog from my summer home in Boca, I’m in my living room of my two bedroom apartment.
Anyhoo…the long list of Presbyterian investments was making my brain hurt and a really good remedy for insomnia. Some interesting things to note:
Apple – I love my iPhone, but not such a great choice if human rights violations is at the top of the social responsibility investment list.
Exxon Mobile – Glad environmental violations aren’t at the top of the social responsibility list.
Halliburton- Now where does that company ring a bell…Oh yeah, the Bush administration. Dick Cheney is probably sleeping very soundly from his summer home paid for by Halliburton money.
Nordstroms – Nice choice! Great shoe department!
Walmart – Wait a minute. Walmart? If I was picking a company to invest in that was “socially responsible”, Walmart wouldn’t be it. I don’t think I have to list out all of the reason why they would be crowned top of the human rights violations list from the way they pick their suppliers. I believe the term, “guilty by association” comes to mind. Just turn on CNBC on any day of the week and there is usually some documentary talking about their questionable procurement practices.
Here is a link to the annual report: http://newcovenantfunds.com/assets/New_Covenant_AR.pdf
I think the big thing I learned is during my insomnia episode is HOLY MONEY! The Presbyterian Church has tons of moolah. This whole exercise in investigative journalism has left me with more questions than I started with. Why is the Israeli-Palistinian conflict worse than Chinese Communism and human rights violations? Why is Caterpillar worse than Halliburton? Can a church justify investment in a company that doesn’t have stellar social ethics if they turn around and reinvest in helping the world?
But hey, I’m just a liberal gal who doesn’t recycle. Then again, I don’t have a published social responsibility investment statement that people can Google. That is one thing I won’t be writing up anytime soon! I’ll keep to my current investment strategy…who has the cutest clothes.