Divestiture Of Investments In South Africa

1986 Church of the Brethren Statement

As the business sessions of the 1985 Annual Conference of the Church of the Brethren were about to adjourn for the year, the delegates, with a 2/3 majority, reopened its agenda to include the new item, DIVESTITURE OF INVESTMENTS IN SOUTH AFRICA.

Action of 1985 Annual Conference: The delegate body adopted the motion that the General Board and the Pension Board appoint a committee to study the issue of divestiture with the intent of establishing a policy to guide the church’s boards, agencies, and individual congregations that is in keeping with its understanding of our Biblical mandate and that this committee should report its findings to the 1986 Annual Conference in Norfolk, Virginia. It also took action for the committee to have a membership of five (5) persons.

The General Board and the Pension Board appointed: William H. Cable, Ivan George, Anne M. Myers, Kurtis Friend Naylor, and Judy Mills Reimer.


It is a challenge to be about God’s ministry in today’s world. One of the biggest challenges facing us is our reaction to the unjust actions toward our black sisters and brothers in South Africa. We must discern what we hear and read about Apartheid through the media, what reactions our government has, and most important, what our church leaders observe while visiting in South Africa and/or sharing with South African leaders visiting in the United States. We see apartheid as an evil system.

Our committee has been much aware of the daily change of the political climate in South Africa. This only complicates our awareness that our assignment affects our moral emotions for our South African sisters and brothers and our financial emotions as to how to best invest the moneys of the General Board and Pension Board.

The Church of the Brethren recognizes the link between U.S. corporate presence in South Africa and the strength and stability of apartheid. We have supported constructive engagement through corporate share-holder resolutions seeking change and responsible stewardship, and by applying the Sullivan principles to our investments in South Africa. Real change is not easily or quickly won in any situation; so patient and persistent effort in a particular strategy of engagement over considerable time can be a sign of constancy rather than of complacency: commitment to work within unjust structures for change does not require the church to ignore brick walls when it hits them.

The divestment issue is rooted in the following statements from the Church of the Brethren’s Goals for the ’80s:



  • by speaking out in Christ’s name against injustice wherever injustice is found;
  • by supporting efforts to establish a just world order through non-violent means.


  • by confronting and caring for one another;
  • by claiming God’s gift of reconciliation in the family, the church, and society, and among all nations and all faiths.


  • by diligently searching the Scriptures, and by growing toward Christlike maturity;
  • by celebrating the Lordship of Christ and the interdependence of all humanity.

Micah 6:6-8

As a people of the Book, the Church of the Brethren seeks the guidance of the Holy Spirit and the wisdom of the Bible in considering courses of action and in implementing decisions. As a church, we have a call from God. Divestment is a nonviolent peacemaking strategy toward the resolution of the unjust apartheid situation. Historically the Church of the Brethren has sought justice in the elimination of spiritual, mental, and physical enslavement and the right of persons and groups to determine their own destinies.

Further, Ephesians and 1 Corinthians suggest that one member of the body is responsible for the care of another member and that all suffer when one member is misused or persecuted; therefore, we must work for equality for our brothers and sisters in South Africa with concern and urgency. Our vision must include the understanding that both the oppressor and the oppressed are members of our family and that both are less than full and complete humans when one is mistreated by another. We care for both sides and seek fulfillment for all.

In 1967 the General Board adopted a “Statement on the Republic of South Africa’s Apartheid Policies” which aimed at decreasing, terminating, and preventing American economic, social, and cultural involvement in South Africa as a way of pressuring that country to change its apartheid policies. Subsequently, both the General Board and Pension Board included South African issues in their investment guidelines. The Sullivan Principles were the standard by which investment decisions were made.

The Church of the Brethren has sought to be a faithful and effective participant in the struggle to end apartheid. A policy of divestment is a method: in the search for greater effectiveness in combating apartheid, in the search for integrity as an institution whose actions should express its confession, and in the search for meaningful expressions of solidarity with the oppressed in South Africa, strengthening our Ecumenical Koinoia. A divestment policy, if carried out in a carefully planned and coordinated way, has the potential for a more effective impact on both corporate and public policy than the continuation of shareholder action.

The objective of divestment is an expression of conscience by the community against the system of apartheid in South Africa. The act of divestment is clearly a statement of protest of the oppressed condition of the South African majority. It must be recognized that the effects of divestment as an economic strategy may be limited. Nonetheless, divestment is one method of expressing moral outrage at the apartheid system. It is a meaningful demonstration of solidarity with our South African sisters and brothers as it permits the Church of the Brethren’s boards, agencies, congregations, and individual members to stand united with other divesting groups as a witness of hope for the freedom for all people in South Africa.

In its apartheid statement of 1967, the General Board recognized the role divestment plays in an overall strategy of economic sanctions. The Board endorsed this strategy as a weapon against apartheid. The policy specifically called upon the United States government “to support and to join other nations in applying economic sanctions against South Africa” as an effective tool to eliminate apartheid.

In December 1985, the World Council of Churches met in Harare, Zimbabwe to formulate a plan of action to hasten peaceful transition in South Africa. The council recognized divestment as a portion of an overall strategy of economic sanctions. The resulting document, known as the Harare Declaration, stated: “We call on the international community to apply immediate and comprehensive sanctions on South Africas.” It was agreed by the Harare delegates that as minimum requirement of sanctions would be “to promote divestment. . . to end all investments in South Africa.”

The use of leverage of any kind for peaceful social change in South Africa requires thoughtful implementation coupled with a commitment to an educational program. Both legal and Biblical considerations require continuing financial prudence on the part of those elected as trustees of the church’s investments. The financial and social responsibilities of trusteeship are not in conflict, though tension may occur between them in specific instances.

While the focus of the divestment statement is on economic strategy, the issue for the church is not just a problem of economics and politics, but of suffering people who daily experience the added burden of hopelessness and despair. Beyond economic and political goals, the goal of the church must be the dismantling of the apartheid system, as it seeks to move society toward a vision of life in which all persons experience justice and live in dignity and peace.

Therefore, the committee recommends that the Annual Conference establish the following policy to guide the church’s boards, agencies, individual congregations, and church members:

  1. Hold no investment in any company doing business in South Africa.
  2. Request investing agencies, church boards, individual congregations, and individual members of the Church of the Brethren to implement this policy through divestiture of securities of companies doing business in South Africa, subject to fiduciary restraints, and inform these companies of the rationale of divestment.
  3. Develop educational and other strategies for the church to continue to work toward elimination of apartheid, including ways to foster mutual respect among South Africans of all races.
  4. Commend denominations and religious groups who have enacted policies of divestiture and invite other denominations and religious groups to adopt policies of divestiture.
  5. Reaffirm the General Board’s policy statement on economic sanctions and endorse the Harare Declaration’s call for the imposition of immediate and comprehensive economic sanctions against the Republic of South Africa.

Anne M. Myers, Chairperson
William H. Cable
Ivan George
Kurtis Friend Naylor
Judy Mills Reimer

Committee’s expenses related to travel, lodging, and meals from 1985 to March, 1986 total $1600
Estimated additional expenses to complete task $1200

Action of 1986 Annual Conference: The report for DIVESTITURE OF INVESTMENTS IN SOUTH AFRICA was presented by Anne M. Myers, chairperson of the study committee, with some members of the committee present. The delegate body adopted the report with two amendments which have been incorporated in the preceding wording of the paper.