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Methodist Unit Asks Selling of S. Africa Stocks

Times Religion Writer

A Southern California conference of United Methodist clergy and laypersons on Monday urged the denomination’s portfolio-rich General Board of Pensions to “immediately divest” its holdings in companies that do business in South Africa.

As originally proposed, the resolution called on the board, which has about $370 million in United Methodist funds in such companies, to speed up its timetable for divesting along the Sullivan Principles, which were drawn up for putting pressure on South Africa to end apartheid.

However, after small group debates at the University of Redlands on Saturday, the executive committee of the conference pensions board instead recommended that immediate divestiture be urged.

The amended resolution was overwhelmingly passed, spokeswoman Peg Parker said.

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Racially Torn

A member of the General Board of Pensions, the Rev. Harold Johnson of the Orangethorpe United Methodist Church in Fullerton, objected in the debate Monday, saying that the church would lose its opportunity to influence U.S. businesses that have investments in the racially torn country.

The resolution is a non-binding recommendation to the national pension board by the annual meeting of the California-Pacific Conference, representing 140,000 church members in Southern California, Hawaii and Guam.

Most of the 73 regional conferences, meeting at various times in June, are considering apartheid and the investment question. At three conferences already held in New York state, Colorado and northern Illinois, protesters burned their checks from the General Board of Pensions, a church spokesman said.

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The 33-member board of pensions, which has total net assets of more than $2 billion, has resisted earlier calls within the denomination--and in ecumenical circles generally--for full and immediate divestment.


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