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Mission Agency Board sends divestment, mental health recommendations to GA


Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries seek to strengthen mental health, environmental stands

by Rich Copley | Presbyterian News Service

Rob Fohr, director of Faith-Based Investing and Corporate Engagement for the PC(USA), and Joseph Kinard, chair of the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment. (Photo by Rich Copley)

BALTIMORE — Two major initiatives from Compassion, Peace & Justice (CPJ) ministries took significant steps forward Friday during the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board (PMAB) winter meeting and will be up for approval by General Assembly 224, June 20 to 27.

One step from divestment

In a unanimous voice vote, the Mission Agency Board approved the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment’s (MRTI) recommendation that three fossil fuel companies be added to the General Assembly’s divestment/proscription list for poor performance on a comprehensive environmental screen established in 2018 by the 223rd General Assembly. The screen allows MRTI to clearly articulate environmental expectations during corporate engagement.

“In accordance with prior assembly actions, and the Divestment Strategy, Principles and Criteria (approved by the 196th General Assembly [1984] of the PC[USA]) we direct that ExxonMobil, Marathon Petroleum, and Valero Energy be placed on the General Assembly Divestment/ Proscription List until their actions are in compliance with the General Assembly’s established criteria,” the recommendation reads, in part.

If approved by the General Assembly, the recommendations would be forwarded to the Presbyterian Foundation and the Board of Pensions for review and implementation. The move would make the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) one of the first entities to selectively divest from companies for environmental-related policy reasons only, according to Rob Fohr, director of Faith-Based Investing and Corporate Engagement for the PC(USA).

In the same report, MRTI commended “the Presbyterian Investment and Loan Program, Inc., for its Restoring Creation Loan program; the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for its positive investments in renewables and its environmental investment option for plan members; and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Foundation for its positive investments in renewables, and for providing, through its New Covenant Trust Company subsidiary, fossil free investment strategies for congregations, mid councils and individuals.”

PMAB Outreach to the World Committee Chair the Rev. Shannan Vance-Ocampo thanked MRTI chair Joseph Kinard and Fohr for their work on the meticulous process that resulted in the recommendations.

In addition to the divestment recommendations, MRTI also recommended companies to be added to its watch list for focused engagement: Occidental Petroleum, American Airlines, Delta Airlines and United Airlines.

The parachurch organization Fossil Free PC(USA) will also be bringing an overture to GA224, calling for divestment from all fossil fuel companies.

Continuing mental health work

The PMAB also voted unanimously to approve a recommendation that funding be extended for staffing for the Presbyterian Mental Health Ministry and grants to grow mental health ministry in churches, mid councils and seminaries. The recommendations also called for the GA to “direct that a new ‘primary resource’ be created by the Presbyterian Mission Agency for inspiring and equipping congregations, mid-councils and seminaries to engage in mental health ministry.”

The recommendations included a call to “commend to ministers, congregations and members, mid councils, and seminaries, capacity-building,” in numerous areas of mental health ministry including mental health first aid and suicide prevention, trauma-informed pastoral care, companioning, and resilience training. The latter, it was pointed out, is a major component of Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, another CPJ ministry.

The work over the last two years has been in response to action taken by the 223rd General Assembly upon the 10th anniversary of “Comfort My People,” a policy statement on mental health. Work since then has included an extensive churchwide survey on mental health and the creation of the Presbyterian Mental Health Network.

The Rev. Warren Lesane, vice-chair of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, talks about a recommendation to extend funding for the staffing of the Presbyterian Mental Health Ministry. (Photo by Rich Copley)

In presenting the ministry’s recommendations, PMAB vice-chair the Rev. Warren Lesane commended the work of the ministry.

“We got excited in terms of seeing what the church is doing to address that,” he said of the mental health work, speaking for the PMAB Mid Council Committee. “I’m a retired military chaplain, and I can’t talk enough about this mental health issue. I’ve been on deployments where folks have committed suicide, and we’ve had to respond to those … And there were signs all the way along the track. So it’s important to see us as a church dive into that piece of business and make it work.”

Presbyterian News Service communicator Darla Carter contributed to this report.

Mission Responsibility Through Investment and the Presbyterian Mental Health Ministry are Compassion, Peace & Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

Read more

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