Evangelicals Denounce Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Decision to Divest Funds from Companies that Do Business with Israel as ‘Tragic’

At its 221st General Assembly meeting in Detroit, Mich., the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted June 20, 2014, to divest church funds from American companies that, divestment supports said, profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. RNS photo courtesy Danny Bolin via PC(USA)
At its 221st General Assembly meeting in Detroit, Mich., the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted June 20, 2014, to divest church funds from American companies that, divestment supports said, profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. RNS photo courtesy Danny Bolin via PC(USA)

A diverse array of evangelicals, including Southern Baptists, have denounced the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s decision to divest church funds from three American companies that do business with the Israeli military and allegedly participate in the oppression of Palestinians.

Meeting in Detroit Friday (June 20), the PCUSA General Assembly voted 310-303 to withdraw investments at the Presbyterian Foundation and the denomination’s Board of Pensions from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions. The companies manufacture construction equipment (Caterpillar), biometric scanners (Hewlett-Packard) and cell phones (Motorola) used to maintain Israel’s military presence in the West Bank, the Presbyterian Lay Committee reported.

Many Palestinians and their allies argue that Israel’s military presence in the West Bank is illegal and oppressive, but Israeli authorities claim legitimate political and security reasons for maintaining a presence in the Palestinian territory, including the curbing of terrorism against Israeli citizens.

A similar attempt to divest from companies doing business with Israel’s military failed at the 2012 PCUSA General Assembly by two votes.

At this year’s General Assembly, Stephen Choi, moderator of the Middle East Issues Committee, said of the divestment motion, “The committee did not want the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to be responsible for contributing to the devastating treatment of our [Palestinian] sisters and brothers. This is a matter of being good stewards of the gifts and money that God has entrusted to our care.”

Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, addressed the General Assembly and offered to arrange a meeting between PCUSA leaders and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express their concerns. But PCUSA commissioners rejected the offer.

Mitch Glaser, president of the Jewish evangelism and discipleship organization Chosen People Ministries, told Baptist Press the PCUSA’s action dealt a serious blow to Jewish evangelism despite a series of amendments intended to soften its impact.

One amendment affirmed “Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign nation within secure and internationally recognized borders.” Another amendment stated, “This action of divestment is not to be construed or represented by any organization of the PCUSA as divestment from the State of Israel, or an alignment with or endorsement of the global BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) movement” that attempts to influence Israel with economic and political pressure. Following the vote, PCUSA moderator Heath Rada said, “In no way is this a reflection of our lack of love for Jewish sisters and brothers.”

Still, Glaser believes attempts to soften the PCUSA’s action didn’t go far enough.

“We’ve spent years and years trying to tell the Jewish people that Christians were the best friends of Israel and of the Jewish people … What [the PCUSA] felt was compassionate and sensitive to the Palestinian population actually sets us back decades in Jewish evangelism,” Glaser said in an interview.

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
David Roach

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