The Church of England has invested up to £10m in one of the world's major arms firms, which supplies systems and technology for unmanned drones and jets to conflicts around the world. The discovery, on the eve of what is set to be the biggest day of protests against DSEi – the UK's leading arms fair – in Docklands, London, tomorrow, has led worshippers to accuse church leaders of profiting from conflict.
The Church Commissioners and Church of England Pensions Board are both shareholders in General Electric (GE), with shareholdings up to £10m. Yesterday, the Church defended the investment, claiming less than 3 per cent of GE's business was based in arms sales.
But the firm, along with its key subsidiary General Aviation, is a leading supplier of "integrated systems and technologies" for combat aircraft, military transport, helicopters, land vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles – better known as drones.
It is the 20th-highest-ranking firm in the world when it comes to defence sales, which accounted for almost 3 per cent of its total revenue last year – an estimated $4bn.
GE also makes the F101 aircraft, which took part in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. Designed as a "strategic nuclear bomber", it was modified to carry a "diverse range of conventional weapons", according to GE's website.
While the Church of England is not breaching its own rules by investing in the firm – investments in companies that derive less than 10 per cent of turnover from strategic military sales are allowed – some church members reacted angrily to the news.