Below is an open letter the Adventist Peace Fellowship sent to Elder Ted Wilson regarding GC investments in the weapons industry. We became aware of this issue through an Adventist Today article that highlighted concerns expressed by the Norwegian Union Conference. Before sending our letter to Elder Wilson (with a copy to Mr. Tim Aka), we contacted Norwegian leadership to ascertain the current situation. We wrote:
Dear Elder Wilson,
On behalf of the Adventist Peace Fellowship, we are writing to express support for the Norwegian Union Conference’s request for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists to discontinue investing in companies engaged in weapons manufacturing. We support the call for (a) increased transparency regarding current investments, (b) stronger ethical guidelines for General Conference investments, and (c) the divestment from the weapons industry.
We thank the Norwegian Union Conference leadership for taking a stand on this issue, and we are encouraged that the General Conference has agreed to add this concern to the agenda of the annual Spring Meeting in April 2018.
While there may be no way for the church to invest in our interconnected global economy and still maintain absolutely “clean hands,” the church can still strive to align investment decisions with the church’s values, minimize harm, and bear a more faithful witness to our peacemaking heritage. It is our understanding that the General Conference oversees more than $2 billion in investments, so we see this as a significant concern.
The Adventist Peace Fellowship draws on three sources to fuel these convictions—the Bible, Adventist history, and current denominational statements and policies.
First, from a biblical perspective, we desire to follow the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) who came preaching peace (Eph. 2:17), proclaiming the Gospel of Peace (Eph. 6:15), and giving peace (John 14:27). Therefore, we dedicate ourselves to learning the things that make for peace (Luke 19:41-42) and to live in the hope of the day when all weapons will be turned into implements of farming (Isaiah 2:4) and God will complete the work of healing the nations (Rev. 22:2).
Second, Adventist values have historically been opposed to participation in war. For example, in 1864 J. N. Andrews successfully campaigned for Seventh-day Adventists to be officially recognized by the United States government as noncombatants. In 1865 the General Conference passed a resolution stating in part, “While we thus cheerfully render to Caesar the things which the Scriptures show to be his, we are compelled to decline all participation in acts of war and bloodshed as being inconsistent with the duties enjoined upon us by our divine Master toward our enemies and toward all mankind.” In 1867, the same body declared that “the bearing of arms, or engaging in war, is a direct violation of the teachings of our Saviour and the spirit and letter of the law of God.” While much more could be said about the views and practices of Adventists of this first generation and later, these three early declarations—which have never been rescinded—demonstrate that denominational leadership strongly opposed participation in war.
Third, current statements and policies regarding both weapons and investments are of special note as the denomination reviews its investment practices. The General Conference Executive Committee has voted a number of official church position statements that speak to issues of peace: Peace Message to All People of Good Will (1980), Peace (1985), Ban on Sales of Assault Weapons to Civilians (1990), Call for Peace (2002), and War in Iraq (2003). As the Executive Committee under the leadership of President Neal C. Wilson declared in the 1985 Peace statement, “The arms race, with its colossal waste of human funds and resources, is one of the most obvious obscenities of our day.” The document continues, “The Seventh-day Adventist Church urges every nation to ‘beat its swords into plowshares’ and its ‘spears into pruninghooks’ (Isa. 2:4).” It is inconsistent for Adventists to call on nations to beat their swords into plowshares while at the same time financially profiting from sword—or gun or missile—production.
General Conference policies should also be taken into consideration. Working Policy Section S 85 10 states: “Committees and Individuals authorized to invest funds for the denomination must always be mindful of their stewardship responsibility. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they should strive with prudence and wisdom to reflect the Master both in style and substance. At the practical level, this means direct investments will not be made in certain industries which are not in keeping with Seventh-day Adventist values.”
The General Conference has issued statements against pornography (1990), smoking and tobacco (1995), and gambling (2000), all of which are industries that the denomination refuses to invest in. Additionally, the General Conference restricts investments in the meat industry and companies manufacturing alcohol and caffeinated beverages because doing so would be inconsistent with the values of the church. The weapons industry, which directly profits from wars and the taking of human lives, is also clearly not in keeping with Seventh-day Adventist values. We therefore urge you to likewise ensure that weapons manufacturers and corporations linked to the broader machinery of war are excluded from the General Conference’s investment portfolio.
And just as the church has earned a positive return on investment while avoiding numerous industries, we believe the same will be true even when divesting from the weapons industry. Regardless, we hope the General Conference would make this decision based on church values rather than on a concern for profit.
Finally, we are encouraged that the General Conference Investment Office may be taking steps toward not only restricting investments in weapons manufacturers but also in companies that pollute the environment and exploit their workers. The Adventist Peace Fellowship commends the efforts of the General Conference to better reflect the values of peacekeeping, human rights, and care for the environment in the church’s investment portfolio.
The Adventist Peace Fellowship thanks the General Conference for committing to address these concerns at the 2018 Spring Meeting. And we thank you, Elder Wilson, for prayerfully and sincerely considering our views.
Director, Adventist Peace Fellowship
Lisa Clark Diller
Peace Church Network Coordinator
University Chapter Coordinator
Board of Directors:
Pedrito Maynard-Reid (Chairperson)