|Breaking News-Mission board takes up positive investment in Israel-Palestine|
|Written by Leslie Scanlon, Outlook national reporter|
|Wednesday, 10 April 2013 19:51|
LOUISVILLE – The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is exploring opportunities for investing in “positive” endeavors in Israel-Palestine – a response to the action of the 2012 General Assembly, which opted for that approach rather than divesting in certain companies said to be involved in non-peaceful pursuits.
A small group of Presbyterian leaders traveled to Israel to investigate possibilities, including Matt Schramm, chair of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board, and Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. The group identified some possible investment directions, Schramm told the board’s executive committee April 10 – among them education, micro-finance and renewable energy.
The first intentional “positive” investments are expected to be made this summer, with up to $5 million being available, Schramm said – although it’s not been determined exactly how much will be spent. Some investments likely would be with local entities in Israel and the West Bank; others through multinational companies doing work in the region. There also is discussion underway for a mechanism to allow congregations to participate in these investment opportunities.
Tom Taylor, who leads the Presbyterian Foundation, said he’s “jazzed” by the possibilities, but acknowledged there is some risk – that “it’s a volatile part of the world.” The investments would come from funds designated for “creative investments,” in which some increased degree of risk already would be expected, Taylor said.
The Presbyterian Mission Agency Board is meeting April 10-12 in Louisville, with part of the focus being on work with young adults. On April 11, representatives of the Board of Pensions will give an update on efforts to revise the dues structure of the denomination’s medical plan – something the Board of Pensions expects to vote on in June.
Among other items the board will consider:
Debt reduction. The proposal is to encourage young adults to volunteer for temporary mission service with the denomination by creating a debt reduction plan to help them pay off their college loans. This pilot project would provide grants or loans to young adults who demonstrate financial responsibility and provide mission service to the church in a variety of contexts – for example in new worshipping communities; at colleges; or for the denomination through the Young Adult Volunteer program. Awards would be for a maximum of $250 per month for no more than 12 months, with a maximum of $150,000 in funds available for 2013-2014.
Communications and funds development. The board is being asked to reconfigure the denomination’s communications and funds development staff. The job of deputy executive director for funds development and communication, formerly held by Karen Schmidt, would be eliminated – dropping the number of the PC(USA)’s deputy executive directors from three to two (for mission and financial services). The communications and funds development functions would be split into two offices – each with a senior director.
An evaluation of the work of communications and funds development found, among other things, that:
Dependent care expenses. The board’s executive committee, as part of a broader consideration of the board’s governance structure, voted to approve a rule that would place a $1,000 annual cap on the amount that board members can request for dependent care that’s needed to attend meetings. That $1,000 limit could be waived when requested in particular situations, and was explained as an effort to exercise good stewardship of denominational resources. But some on the executive committee questioned whether the limit will discourage young adults from serving on the PC(USA)’s governing boards.
Board member Noelle Royer of Seattle raised her concern that parents needing child care or adult children caring for aging relatives could quickly exhaust the $1,000 limit and would be reluctant to serve – particularly if they don’t work for the church and already need to take vacation time or forfeit salary to attend meetings. With that limit, “we are effectively silencing a voice of someone who cannot participate,” Royer said.
Church officials responded that there has been only one instance where a board member would have exceeded the $1,000 limit – and when that person requested an exception, one was granted.
If the $1,000 limit hasn’t been exceeded, “then why do we need a cap?” asked Mihee Kim-Kort, a young minister who recently gave birth to her third child. “It’s not open. It’s not hospitable . . . I don’t think it sends the right message.”
The full board is expected to consider these matters April 12.