The Anglican Parish of Virginia Water, Guildford, UK, has set a principled example to Anglican church by announcing on 16th of October that the board has unanimously decided to divest its Â£140,000 stake in the Anglican investment fund.
The parish, acting in response to the refusal of the churchâs Central Board of Finance to divest from Caterpillar, has decided to find a more ethically more acceptable investment fund.
There has been a divestment campaign running in the Church of England, and earlier this year the Synod, the Anglican Churchâs highest decision making body, voted that the Church’s Central Board of Finance should divest from Caterpillar. The decision came in response to calls from its sister church of Jerusalem and the Middle East that the Church should not invest money in companies like Caterpillar who profit from Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine.
However, the churchâs Ethical Investment Advisory Group (EIAG) refused to comply, insisting on its own decision taken in September 2005 against divestment. The EIAG refused to heed the Synodâs request to visit Palestine in order to witness the destruction caused by Caterpillar bulldozers. The Central Board of finance is still procrastinating on the issue.
Virginia Water’s decision means that its own investments will not support the further colonization and occupation of Palestine. Caterpillar D9 bulldozers have since long been singled out as a global target for boycott and divestment.
The vicar of the Parish and member of the Interfaith Group for Morally Responsible Investment (IMRI), the Revd Dr Stephen Sizer, said:
“We are simply doing what the local Church in Palestine and the General Synod has asked us to do. If the CBF will not withdraw our money from Caterpillar, then we will do it for them.
We are now looking for an investment fund with a more ethically sound policy. We cannot turn our backs on our sisters and brothers in Palestine any longer. We cannot close our ears to their pleas for help.â
The move will raise further discussions in the Anglican church, which may lead to the implementation of the General Synod’s decision.
The action offers an example for parishes and grassroots faith-based groups that divestment does not have to be just a decision for church leadership. It is the responsibility of every parish to ensure their funds are not supporting apartheid and occupation in Palestine.