Sunday, June 19, 2016

Working Together - Bean Counters and Social Justice Advocates

The title of my last blog post (“Methodists Reject Divestment”) notwithstanding, today I am happy to report that a small group of Methodists on the “left coast” of the US, have not only embraced divestment – we are actually in the process of implementing it! 

Settlement encroaching on Wadi Fouqin gave impetus for divestment action
As long-time readers of this blog may remember, last June, the Oregon/Idaho Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church voted to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett Packard (see “More Church Politics – and a Victory,” June 14, 2015).  In the year since that vote, members of the various church financial bodies, and members of the Holy Land Task Force (or what has sometimes been described as “bean counters and social justice advocates”), formed a working group to develop an implementation plan that meets both the Church’s financial responsibilities and its social justice principles. 

This was not an easy task.  It involved letting go of preconceived notions about “the other” and opening our hearts and minds to how we could best work together to accomplish the task that we had been asked to do, namely to develop an implementation plan that meets both the Church’s financial responsibilities and its social justice principles.   

Thanks to a wonderful facilitator, who sometimes utilized exercises in group dynamics to keep us focused, and to the open minds and dedication of the members of the working group, the work group (on which I was privileged to serve) developed an implementation plan that satisfied both the members of the working group and the pertinent financial and social justice entities.

Caterpillar is a divestment target for a number of reasons.
This is not to say there were no bumps on the road.  Early on, a couple of the “bean counters” attempted to re-visit arguments against divestment that had already been discussed and voted on. And trying to read spread sheets was a challenge for this “social justice advocate,” who has always considered math as a foreign language! Nevertheless, we persevered and came up with a plan that was accepted by all concerned, and prepared a report for this year’s Annual Conference.

Then, just a couple of weeks ago, we learned that a “late” resolution from a church in eastern Idaho (the “very conservative” part of this otherwise pretty liberal area), asking to overturn last year’s divestment resolution, had been submitted. The rules of our Annual Conference are such that “late” resolutions are heard in a special meeting of the Legislative Assembly and, if they did not pass in that body they would not go to the plenary floor.  While we were counseled to “not worry,” because it’s one of those things I do really well, I did worry!  Then I gathered up the “ammunition” that I’d used for last year’s positive vote, and turned it over to God.

Breaking down barriers is a focus of divestment
I am happy to report that the resolution was, in fact, defeated by a vote of about 3-15-1; the implementation plan was presented to the Conference at its annual meeting this week (by one “bean counter” and one “ social justice advocate”) and the work is continuing on the path on which it was set  last June.  The Global Methodist Church may not be divesting at this time, but Oregon/Idaho has joined the group of Annual Conferences that are divesting.  And we continue to look for new ways to educate our congregations about the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine!!

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