Report on investing, human rights offers guidelines

A draft report on socially responsible investment, particularly related to international human rights, will be released for comment May 1 to The United Methodist Church.

The report of the Human Rights and Investment Ethics Task Force comes from the United Methodist Board of Pension and Health Benefits and Board of Global Ministries, whose directors approved the preliminary document.

Comments, which can be sent by email to [email protected], will be accepted through June 1 and the final report will be presented for approval to the two agency boards in the fall.

“We believe it is vitally important to find congruency between meeting the needs of our constituents and responding to the call to be faithful Christians,” wrote Barbara Boigegrain and Thomas Kemper, top executives, respectively, of the pension agency and Global Ministries, in a letter introducing the report.

The draft report’s preamble elaborates on that point, saying, “The human rights-related resolutions that fill our Book of Discipline reflect a profound theological commitment to share God’s grace in the world by protecting and enhancing the well-being of all persons.”

Boigegrain called the draft report  — presented to the denomination’s Connectional Table earlier this week — an effort to “further delineate” The United Methodist Church’s Social Principles and guidelines currently in place for the denomination regarding human rights and investment ethics.

Need for broader assessment

After the 2012 United Methodist General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative body, passed a resolution on “Aligning UMC Investments with Resolutions on Israel/Palestine,” a delegation from Pension and Health Benefits and Global Ministries traveled to the region to better understand the dynamics and consider peacemaking strategies.

The trip suggested a need for a more comprehensive way of assessing human rights issues. “We both agree that beyond Palestine/Israel we needed to develop a system for addressing human rights and ethical concerns as we consider resource investment while conducting our mission,” Boigegrain and Kemper wrote.

“The task force was an outgrowth of that (trip), intended to continue this important conversation,” Boigegrain added in an interview.

As described in the report, the task force’s purpose is “to identify resources, principles, and procedures that express our commitment to human rights, taking into account fiduciary responsibility and ministry priorities, consistent with the global mission and ethical standards of The United Methodist Church.”

An emphasis on fostering both internal coherence and external coherence was helpful, Boigegrain explained, as a way of thinking about investment ethics and human rights “within the framework of each of our own missions.”

Having an ongoing conversation about human rights and investing among the agencies will provide a better overall outcome, she said, allowing them to identify areas of mutual collaboration and to keep each other informed.

Finding common ground

“To my mind, the most important accomplishment of the task force is in finding common ground and trust around the important issue of keeping mission and financial investment in conversation going forward,” Kemper told United Methodist News Service.

“What we do as a church in mission cannot be separated from how we invest our resources.  We have reached points of agreement, consensus, on how we will go about dealing with specific situations that arise in the complicated matrix of international investments and its moral implications.”

Listening “to the voices from communities that are affected by investments and divestments” is one of the missional aspects of the discussion, Kemper said.

As an example, he cited mining companies in the Democratic Republic of Congo that can affect communities by bringing in outside workers and having a negative environmental impact but also provide educational opportunities and other benefits. “We need to hear from all the voices of our church when we make decisions,” he added. 

Boigegrain said the task force had a unique mix of representation, including theologians, academicians, top denominational agency executives, United Methodist business leaders and a representative of the Carter Center in Atlanta.

Florida Area Bishop Ken Carter served as chair for the Task Force on Human Rights and Investment Ethics. In addition to Boigegrain and Kemper, other members were the Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, Board of Church and Society; Jim Winkler, National Council of Churches; Harriett Jane Olson, United Methodist Women; Raleigh (N.C.) Area Bishop Hope Morgan Ward; and David Zellner, Board of Pensions.

Also, Geeta Aiyer, Boston Common Asset Management, LLC; Samuel Jones, The Carter Center; the Rev. Jeffrey Kuan, Claremont School of Theology; Ellen Ott Marshall, Candler School of Theology; the Rev. Chuck Savage, Georgia United Methodist Foundation, and the Rev. Ed Tomlinson, Lanier United Methodist Church, Cumming, Ga.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service multimedia reporter based in New York. Follow her at contact her at (646) 369-3759 or [email protected].

Like what you're reading? Support the ministry of UM News! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community. Make a tax-deductible donation at

Sign up for our newsletter!

Mission and Ministry
Tim Tanton (center, in red), chief news and information officer for United Methodist Communications, shares updates with African communicators and other UMCom staff during the 2019 General Conference. World Press Freedom Day, observed May 3, commemorates journalists and highlights the difficulties they face while reporting truth. File photo by Kathleen Barry, UM News

World Press Freedom Day and the church

Tim Tanton with United Methodist News talks about giving voice to the voiceless and why freedom of information is essential not only for society but for the church.
The Rev. Tom Berlin (left) presents a copy of his book, “Courage,” to Massachusetts National Guard Chaplain Chad McCabe in the chapel at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. McCabe, whose unit was assigned to help provide security at the U.S. Capitol after the January riot, contacted Wesley Seminary asking for Bibles, novels and board games for troops stationed there. Photo by Lisa Helfert for Wesley Theological Seminary. Copyright 2021. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Church responds to chaplain's call to help soldiers

A National Guard chaplain got Bibles, games and 150 copies of a new book about courage when he turned to Wesley Theological Seminary for help keeping soldiers occupied in Washington in the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection.
The Rev. William B. Lawrence.  Photo by H. Jackson/Southern Methodist University.

What would Jesus tell the US Capitol rioters?

The Rev. William B. Lawrence examines the claims of Scriptural authority by violent protesters who stormed the U.S. Capitol.