The General Conference Corporation is the legal entity formed to hold property on behalf of the SDA Church at its highest level. For example, the GC Corporation holds the trademark to the terms “SDA,” “Seventh-day Adventist,” “Adventist,” and all marks that could be deemed deceptively similar to those. The GC Corporation also reportedly manages some $2 billion dollars (U.S.) in investment funds. (These funds represent the church’s pension fund, self-insurance funds, and financial reserves.)
On March 20, the GC Corporation Board met to review and refine its current investment practices. The church has long maintained policies prohibiting investment in companies that produce products inconsistent with the SDA lifestyle, including alcohol, tobacco, gambling, pornography, meat and caffeinated colas.
On February 23, the Norwegian Union sent a letter to the GC requesting that the Corporation no longer invest in weapons manufacturers. On March 30, the “Adventist Peace Fellowship” published its own open letter urging the GC Corporation not to invest in arms companies. The Adventist Peace Fellowship urged the GC to go beyond banning investments in weapons manufacturers and avoid companies “that pollute the environment and exploit their workers.”
On April 5th, the GC Corporation Board released a statement saying that they had voted “that in keeping with our longstanding position on non-combatancy, we direct the GC Investment Management Committee to screen all present and potential investments in order to exclude companies whose revenues are derived primarily or substantially from the manufacture and sale of weapons, combat vehicles, munitions or other warfare systems.”
That was the news, hereinbelow follows the commentary.
First, this move will have no effect whatsoever on the manufacture of weapons and weapon systems. Unless it is an “Initial Public Offering” or an issue of new stock, none of the funds from the purchase of stock on a stock market goes to the company itself. Ordinarily, those who trade in stocks are betting against each other regarding the future market value of the underlying business, not giving money to that business.
The type of resolution that the GC Corporations Board just passed is a species of what has become known as “virtue signaling.” The point is more to advertise one’s own virtue or right thinking on an issue than to make any practical difference.
Military weapons systems are bought with tax dollars, which we are all compelled to pay. Since 15% of all U.S. federal spending is defense spending, anyone who really objected to funding weapons systems should try not paying 15% of their federal tax bill. They would eventually go to prison, but I would respect them as real conscientious objectors, not just moral preeners and virtue signalers.
Second, is this even virtuous? A firearm is a tool that can be used for good or evil. No one would want to live in the Hobbesian war of all against all that would emerge if there were no armed law enforcement officers. As the Apostle Paul says, “the one in authority is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God's servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Rom. 13:4.
Those who would ban firearms really only want to take them from private citizens; you can be certain that even after your arms are confiscated, the government, the police, and the private security forces of economic, political, entertainment and media elites will all still be armed. It is Bible doctrine that the government has the right to “bear the sword,” but whence comes their authority to protect you and your loved ones from the evildoer? If you did not first have the right to protect yourself and your loved ones, you could not rightfully delegate that right to a tax-supported law enforcement officer. And if the constable has the right to bear arms to defend you, then you also have the right to bear arms to defend yourself. The same founding fathers who thought it necessary prohibit the government from taking your right to free speech, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom from unreasonable searches, etc. also prohibited the government from taking your firearms.
Moving from domestic policing to national defense, does anyone want the United States to beat its swords into plowshares when our current chief geo-political rival, China, just banned the sale of Bibles? Do we really want China, a communist power that suppresses political and religious freedom and has special animus against Christianity, to become the international hegemon and order-maker? That is what unilateral U.S. disarmament would lead to at this time.
Third, is this move consistent with the “prudent investor rule” which requires a diverse and broadly distributed investment portfolio? Here is a sample of the companies that the GC Corporation can no longer invest in:
Lockheed Martin, Boeing, BAE Systems (British), Raytheon, General Dynamics, Northrop Grumman, Airbus (European), L3 Technologies, United Technologies, Huntington Ingalls, Honeywell, SAFRAN (French), Rolls-Royce (British), Oshkosh, General Electric, Mitsubishi, Kawasaki, Sturm Ruger, Remington Outdoor, Smith & Wesson, Glock, Sig Sauer, Springfield Armory, Beretta, Taurus International, etc.
Do we really want to so hamper our financial managers that they are forced to bury the $2 billion in the ground (and wouldn’t that be unbiblical: Mat. 25:24-26)?
Fourth, implied by the rule against investing in this sector of the economy is a rule against Seventh-day Adventist even working in this business. After all, we wouldn’t want Adventists to work in the liquor business or making pornography. Should I tell my family members, one of who is very high up in the IT department of Raytheon, and another of whom builds fighter jets for Lockheed Martin in Fort Worth, that they cannot be Adventists in good standing?
Fifth, as noted above, the Adventist Peace Fellowship would dearly love for the Church to go beyond banning investment in weapons manufacturers and move on to banning "polluters" and "companies who exploit their workers." You can be certain that their idea of "polluters" includes any business that generates CO2, and because almost every human activity generates CO2, there won't be much left to invest in.
As to exploiting workers, every business that hires people "exploits" them. In areas where there is no slavery, workers do not work for an unacceptable wage; employers and employees agree on a wage, or the employer/employee relationship is never formed. Is APF volunteering to be the judge of which market wage rates are morally acceptable and which are not? (I'm betting that APF does not join with President Trump in wanting to close the border so that American workers' wages will not continually be driven down by immigrant labor.)
The point is that sound policy would be for the church to ignore this sort of social justice warrior activism at the start, nip it in the bud, and then the church will not find itself negotiating with APF and the Norwegian "union" on a company-by-company basis regarding what it should be allowed to invest in.
There are a lot of good reasons why the SDA Church should refrain from this sort of frivolous virtue signaling. Maybe we should signal our disapproval; the names of the GC Corporation Board are all listed here in section "G. The Trademark Power."