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Presbyterian actions on Israel
Archive # 1
July and August, 2004

This page contains reports and links from July and August, 2004.
Reports and commentary from 2006 >>
For archives from 2005 >>

Items from September - December, 2004 >>

Another petition for a special session of General Assembly

Does this sound familiar? New issue (Israel), old tactic
[8-25-04]

We have taken note of the stream of criticisms of the actions of the 216th General Assembly in relation to Israel's actions against Palestine, and have posted some of the criticisms and some responses defending the GA actions.  [Just scroll down for all that.]

The latest twist is another call for a special session of General Assembly, reminiscent of that launched two years with charges of a "constitutional crisis" in the Presbyterian Church, revolving around the ordination of LGBT persons.

The latest call is for the special session to "re-examine the Biblical implications of [the 216th Assembly's] divestment actions and re-consider them in a fair and balanced forum by immediately calling a Special Session."

This petition has been initiated by Larry Rued, an elder in First Presbyterian Church, Bradenton, Florida.

You can visit the petition website and read the document for yourself.  The website claims 69 signatures so far, but they are not currently visible there.


Gordon Shull says the real issue is the Israeli Settlements

[8-24-04]

Disagreements about the GA resolution on the Middle East boil down to one basic issue: How seriously must we take the Israeli Settlements in the West Bank and Gaza? Many, like Erthein, feel that Israel has already made her share of the concessions, and the fault lies mainly with the Palestinians. Others believe, with Jewish Voice for Peace, Americans for Peace Now, and the Tikkun Community, that deliberate, determined, steadfast withdrawal from ALL of the Settlements in Gaza and the West Bank - with a few agreed and compensated exceptions on the border - is the FIRST prerequisite of peace. They (we) are distressed by Arafat's failure to offer a hopeful counterproposal to Barak's final offer, as Clinton urged - but equally distressed that even during the Rabin-Barak years the number of Settlers was doubling (yes, DOUBLING! What message did this send to the despairing Palestinians?)

Those who see the settlements as the first and central problem believe that only a determined, steady withdrawal from both the West Bank and Gaza can overcome the agony that drives Palestinians to suicide; that such a withdrawal would do more than anything else to strengthen the moderates on the Palestinian side, and enable them to negotiate a decent two-state solution. They (we) see as the central tragedy of US policy the inability of our President and Congress to state this position strongly and repeatedly ever since the Egyptian-Israeli peace of 1974. They (we) would gladly support any international guarantees of the arrangement set forth in the recent Geneva Accord.

Alas, there are domestic political reasons why neither Rabin nor Barak could begin their terms in office with a freeze on development of Settlements, and why so few American leaders have been able to insist on one. Is it too much to hope that, once the smoke has cleared, the Presbyterian resolution (which, after all, reiterates traditional support of Israel; calls for exploration of SELECTIVE divestment, not the "economic strangulation" that some allege; and emphasizes that 90% of the Wall encroaches on Palestinian land) can draw attention at last to this bedrock issue?

-Gordon L. Shull,  Wooster, OH

 

Here's a chance to hear and talk with national church leaders and respected authorities on the Israel/Palestine issue, the recent GA statements, and much more.

Peacemaking in Time of Terror, Violence, and War: A National Colloquium

September 27-29 (noon to noon)
Stony Point Center, Stony Point, New York

Sponsored by the Peacemaking Program, the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy,
and the Stony Point Center.    [8-24-04]

Muslims, Christians, and Jews join together in urging action for peace  [8-23-04]

Amid all the allegations of anti-Semitism being hurled at the Presbyterian Church as if it is the only group urging reason and restraint for peace in Israel/Palestine, we hear a joint call for peace from Jews, Muslims and Christians. They recognize how violence is connected in Iraq, Israel/Palestine, terrorist groups, and more - and call for a "Nonviolent Coalition" that will welcome all to their tent as Abraham did, "to share his food and water with travelers from anywhere."

Here's the latest comment in the discussion of charges that the Presbyterian General Assembly took actions that are anti-Semitic.     [8-16-04]

A Presbyterian pastor writes (on August 12, 2004) about the controversy over the Presbyterian Church's criticisms of current Israeli policy toward Palestine - agreeing that some earlier notes have expressed anti-Semitism, but asserting that these opinions need to be heard and discussed.


Dear Doug,

I am writing to comment on the Witherspoon Society's coverage of the Israel divestment controversy. I am also sending this letter to Hans Cornelder at Presbyweb, as it has been covering a lot of the same information as you have. Please feel free to print my letter.

First off, the letter from the Boysens was sickening in its rank anti-semitism. Having said that, I think you were correct in publishing it. People should see what some of Israel's opponents ... including some Presbyterians ... really think about Jews. And of course publishing a letter does not automatically imply agreement with its contents, so I don't think Witherspoon should be blamed for the bile coming from the Boysens.

Concerning the larger issue of divesting from Israel: what especially troubled me about the Assembly's action was that it happened at the same time that the Assembly passed an overture condemning Israel's "Wall" or security barrier. The impression I got was that the divestment action was connected to Israel's construction of this security barrier.

That concerns me greatly for this reason: since Israel began construction of its security barrier, suicide/homicide attacks by Arab terrorists have dropped nearly to zero within Israel itself. Israelis, including women and children, have a better chance of going about their business without fearing a sudden explosion that would maim or kill them. Israeli Arabs also benefit from this increased protection ... bombs have a tendency not to discriminate based on religion or ethnicity, after all, so stopping the suicide/homicide bombings is a good thing for all who reside in Israel.

Further, because of the drastic decrease in terrorist outrages against Israel, Israel has not launched any massive retaliatory strikes into the West Bank or Gaza. During these military actions, many Arab civilians have tragically been killed. Those fatalities too have been drastically reduced since the construction of the Israeli security barrier.

Nonetheless, our General Assembly has declared its opposition to Israel's security barrier, and has expressed its willingness to consider partial divestment from Israel. Implicitly, the General Assembly is telling Israel that it must make itself more vulnerable to terrorism today, so that tomorrow it might be safer (by compromising some more, showing good faith, and so on. I would argue Israel has already done such things, and has little to show for it). The intent behind these two GA votes may have been good, but the result is a terrible signal to Israel and to Jews worldwide: The PCUSA demands that Israel allow homicide/suicide bombings to resume by dismantling its security barrier. Otherwise, the PCUSA will work to increase economic pressure on Israel. "Let your people die some more, or we will punish your state."

The General Assembly almost certainly did not intend to send an anti-Semitic signal to the world, but can anyone blame Jews and other supporters of Israel for interpreting its actions in such a light?

Rev. John B. Erthein

Elderton Presbyterian Church
Elderton, PA

One Jewish group applauds Presbyterian Church's stand against Israel's occupation   [8-16-04]

San Francisco, CA -- Monday, July 26, 2004 - Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), the largest grassroots Jewish peace group of its kind in the United States, applauds the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) for its recent vote to explore divesting from companies who profit from the harming of "innocent people, Palestinian or Israeli." Far from being an attack on Jews, the PCUSA decision to investigate selective divestment as a way to end Israel's 37-year occupation is in the best Judeo-Christian tradition of supporting universal human rights and justice.

JVP supports PCUSA's decision because we believe that the US government has failed to be an honest broker for peace, and that targeted economic efforts by citizens' groups are therefore necessary to reach a lasting peace in the region.

JVP asserts that working to end the Israeli occupation, which is illegal according to international law, is the best way to help the Jewish people build a future free from terror and anti-Semitism. We believe that people who care deeply about the welfare of Jews, Israelis and Palestinians should take a similar stand against a military occupation which is harmful to all parties. Further, we deplore attempts to dismiss as anti-Semitic any legitimate criticism of the policies of the state of Israel.

Responsible investment by institutions, including churches, governments, corporations and individuals, is a vital tool in bringing a just peace to the troubled region of Israel-Palestine. When a 3-million member institution with the fiscal clout and moral credibility of PCUSA takes a stand, others will soon follow.

In the same spirit, JVP's campaign to persuade the Caterpillar Corporation to stop providing Israel with US-funded specialized bulldozers for destroying Palestinian homes is supported by groups like Amnesty International and the United Nations. Strong economies on both sides enhance the prospects for peace. Investment in Israel's occupation, in its illegal separation wall and its settlements can only harm both Israelis and Palestinians in the long run.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Founded in 1996, California-based Jewish Voice for Peace is a national grassroots peace organization dedicated to promoting a US foreign policy in the Middle East based on peace, democracy, human rights and respect for international law. JVP teamed up with two groups of Catholic nuns at the recent Caterpillar annual meeting to introduce the first shareholder resolution in US history related to human rights violations in the Occupied Territories. JVP's board of Jewish American and Israeli advisors includes Pulitzer and Tony award winner Tony Kushner, actor Ed Asner, poet Adrienne Rich and other respected rabbis, artists, scholars and activists. JVP has 8,000 supporters from towns and cities across the country, and calls for the suspension of all military aid to Israel until it takes down its wall, removes illegal settlements and ends its 37-year occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

You can join the Jewish Voice for Peace to gather signatures in support of the PCUSA action.

Click here for more about the organization.


Some other Jewish organizations deny that this group has any legitimacy, as shown by a letter from Diana Appelbaum, of the Boston Israel Action Committee, writing to PresbyWeb.

One Presbyterian cheers the church's stand for Palestine

We received this note on August 6, and are posting it on 8-9-04.  Scroll down for earlier reports and comments, or click here for helpful links to various General Assembly actions on the PCUSA website.

We've received one very strong objection to this letter as "horribly anti-Semitic," and we can certainly see the author's point.  Please click here to read Viola Larson's letter, and see what you think. 

As your WebWeaver, let me add a personal note:  As you may well be aware, we try to post almost all notes that we receive, as long as the authors identify themselves in some way.  Many of them affirm views that are directly opposed to the general values of the Witherspoon Society, while others say things in ways we would not choose to express them.  On reading Ms. Larson's note I realize that some of the language in this note may indeed be deeply offensive to many -- Christians as well as Jews.  I apologize for whatever offense it may cause, but I will not play the role of censor.         Doug King

If you have comments after reading both of these letters, please send a note, and we'll share it here.

RE: Presbyterians Take Stand Against Injustices in Palestine

Hooray for the Presbyterians!!! Now I can FINALLY hold my head up as a Christian, knowing my religious leaders have at long last taken a stand against the gross human rights violations and atrocities the "civilized" world has allowed to go on and on and on in Bleeding Palestine. I have waited for the Pope, or ANY Christian religious leaders in America such as Billy Graham, to find the courage to join with courageous Chuck Carlson of Strait Gate Ministry, and a little handful of others, to say out loud what the rest of the world has known for years about the conditions of the enslaved People of Palestine and their plight for Justice.

As an American I am ashamed of my country's unforgivable limitless funding and deceitful participation in the theft of Palestine from it's SOLE rightful owners and the subsequent treatment of them by a colonial implant of religious zealots ---- the guests from Hell who have remained on as the sole owners from Hell. American "leaders" have overlooked the grievous theft of ancestral lands, murder, imprisonment, torture (of children, too!), racism, ethnic cleansing, the enforcement of completely unjust and discriminatory laws against a people in their own land, in short, the complete impoverishment and ruination of a people. They have "posed" only--- as honest brokers of peace.

I believe this has been accomplished via the complete corruption of my government and it's laws and traditions by a fifth column of Jews from within whose first allegiance is to the ersatz rogue state of Israel (who, incidentally, may hold dual citizenship with my country and Israel....! ). In America our senators and representatives are all for sale and have been "bought" by money from the Jewish lobby. They are intimidated by threats of losing their jobs. "My" senator from South Dakota has taken a staggering $533,000+ from agents of this foreign government, and "my" two senators from California are both Jewish and also take money from that source. These people then vote "solidarity with Israel" in MY NAME! These people, these "dual-loyalty" people in my government hold way too many high positions in relationship to their numbers in our population----then they brag openly about it. They have managed to wrest control of my country and twist it into a money and power source for Israel to have its way.

These same people conceived of, and pushed for this terrible immoral and illegal war in Iraq--- on behalf of Israel. It is, after all, Israel which has plans to cut Iraq into three sections and to finally control all of the Middle East with their Bully buddy, America. I must add, with the lives of OUR children and the might of OUR treasury!

So, you can imagine the thrill of finally finding that at least one major religious denomination in my country has, at long last , found the courage to protest this terrible, ugly situation in Palestine. I know they will be under withering pressure to recant and probably will do so, and may have done already....?, still I know in their hearts they recognized the injustices and had the strength to protest. Bless them!

Ashamed American Citizens,

M. L. and Joe Boysen
Pismo Beach, CA

An elder in Sacramento, California, objects strongly to the letter above as "horribly anti-Semitic," and makes a strong case for her objections.   [8-9-04]

We hope you'll read both of these notes, ponder their very important differences, and let us know what you think.  Please send a note to be shared here.

Dear Editor,

Some in the Presbyterian Church are playing dangerous games with public opinion in order to bolster their own views. The Witherspoon Society has published, on their site, a letter, One Presbyterian cheers the church's stand for Palestine that applauds the Presbyterian General Assemblies decision to look into divesting from American companies in Israel. That Witherspoon or the letter writers, Merry and Joe Boysen, agree with the decision is not the problem. One problem is that the letter is horribly anti-Semitic and the other problem is the Witherspoon Society does not seem to realize it. The Boysen's, in the letter, refer to Israel as, "a colonial implant of religious zealots --- the guests from Hell who have remained on as sole owners from Hell." They speak of a "fifth column of Jews" who has corrupted the government of the United States. They also state that it is Israel who intends to "cut Iraq into three sections and to finally control all of the Middle East with their Bully buddy, America."

Merry and Joe Boysen mention the "courageous" words of Chuck Carlson at Strait Gate Ministry. Carlson was recently noted as one of the featured speakers at the International Revisionist Conferences in Sacramento, California. The Revisionists insist that the holocaust never happened. Chuck Carlson offers at his ministries book store, various conspiracy and anti-Semitic books, including Elizabeth Dilling's book, Plot Against Christianity, which pushes the idea that the Jewish Talmud was influential in shaping Communism, and The Thirteenth Tribe by Arthur Koestler who attempted to prove that most Jewish people today are descendents of a medieval tribe in Eastern Europe and are not related to ancient Israel. They also offer books by Gordon Ginn who is not only an anti-Semite, but is also a revisionist.

I stated in my recent article, "Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Presbyterians and The Jewish People," that "As more and more groups form in the Presbyterian Church with differing versions of the gospel based on various cultural whims and ethnic lore, the Jewish people may find themselves both ignored, as far as evangelizing goes, and maligned, as far as politics goes." It was a combination of liberal Christianity, with theology based in creation rather than Christology and a rising German nationalism that created Nazis. The inability of Progressive theologies to stand against rabid anti-Semitism is telling.

Viola Larson
Elder, Fremont Presbyterian Church
Sacramento, California

Another charge of anti-Semitism   [8-11-04]

Dear Website Editor,

I have read with care the two letters recently posted on your website (from the Boystens [sic] and the response from Ms. Larson). I am stunned that you would publish such an anti-semitic diatribe as the letter from the Boystens. It goes far beyond raising legitimate issues. It is a piece of hate literature. I would think that Witherspoon would have more sense than to provide any form of platform. I hope that you simply have a policy of free speech and have, therefore, accorded the Boystens to print this hateful peace. I sincerely hope that your Board is not in support of such positions. Assuming that this is the case, I would urge you to reconsider your editorial position. Hateful "speech" such as is expressed in the Boysten letter does not deserve your endorsement, implied or otherwise.

The Boystens are right in signing their letter, "Ashamed Americans." What they should be ashamed of is their own hatefulness. I can imagine a letter such as this being linked on websites around the world, suggesting that now even the Presbyterians support the hate-filled rhetoric and actions of those most extreme anti-semites who occasionally crawl out from under their rocks to bomb innocent men, women, and children.

Please remove this bit of disgraceful literature. Their is enough of its ilk already without the Witherspoon Soceity, of all groups, adding more.

Art Mills, Pastor
Stone Church of Willow Glen
San Jose, CA
 

Another writer says the charges of anti-Semitism are mostly "hyperbole," and offers helpful resources     [8-11-04]

There certainly has been a lot written about the disinvestment action of the General Assembly. Most all of it from an Israeli perspective and most of it hyperbole. Here are some very good resources on the conflict from the Palestinian perspective:

Palestinian Identity: The Construction of Modern National Consciousness, Rashid Khalidi, Columbia University Press, 1993

The End of the Peace Process: Oslo and After, Edward Said, Vintage Books, 2001

The New Intifada: Resisting Israel's Apartheid, edited by Roane Carey, Verso, 2001

Websites:

Middle East Research and Information Project - http://www.merip.org/

Christian Peacemaker Teams - http://www.cpt.org/hebron/hebron.php

The Palestinian people have suffered greatly at the hands of the Israeli military and government and are ill served by a corrupt Palestinian Authority.

John McNeese

And a nice simple "thank-you" --

THANK YOU for not playing the role of censor!  We're all adults here and can make our own decisions.  Some may be more passionate than others. So be it.

Charlotte Miller

A visitor questions charges that the PCUSA has been anti-Semitic in recent actions

[8-4-04]

Jonathan Justice calls the criticisms "blackmail ... simply to defend the policies of the current government of the State of Israel from thoughtful and nuanced discussion and attempts to influence those policies on the part of legitimate if unintentional stakeholders."


What I saw in looking at some of this stuff is lazy folks engaging in blackmail. I have not got the time to look for the Lay Committee or IDR fingerprints, perhaps someone else can compare their coverage with the more public complaints and develop a timeline that would raise the appropriate questions.

The point of the blackmail is simply to defend the policies of the current government of the State of Israel from thoughtful and nuanced discussion and attempts to influence those policies on the part of legitimate if unintentional stakeholders.

While of course the tacky simplifications made in describing the General Assembly's actions are something of a challenge to God's reported distaste for false witness, it is also important to grasp the complainants' inhospitable and undemocratic intentions. The lazy part is also serious.

These are lazy folks both because they did not bother to check out the GA's own reports on its actions, and because they are rather clearly unwilling to bother to get a sense of how Presbyterians have responded as a church to the century long process that has brought us here, let alone a sense of how Presbyterians structure such responses in general. Because they have neglected this homework, what they say tells us more about their world views than it does about the issues ostensibly at hand.

Intimidation would appear to be at the core of most of the world views presented. Each writer assumes that it is appropriate to tell Presbyterians to bug off because he knows better than we possibly could just what is going on and that the policies of the Israeli government are entirely legitimate. The victim posture that some of these folks assume does not make their demands any less problematical.

Given that each of the General Assembly actions calls for careful study before certain actions might be taken, it is fairly clear that the criticism presented is intended to intimidate us into preempting that study, offering Red Guard style self-criticisms, punishing certain leadership folks, and falling into line so that the steady flow of US Government money that keeps the State of Israel afloat will not be endangered.

Each of the actions offers all sorts of folks opportunities to address the questions they raise before action is taken, but it does not appear to me that these folks care to allow the relevant groups of Presbyterians to make up their own minds. This is pretty obviously undemocratic, but some of you may be wondering why it is also inhospitable.

Lot's houseguests at Sodom, and, to some degree, Lot, and more obviously, his daughters, were subjected to rather exactly the same sort of nasty and ill-considered exclusion from the decision making process that these folks are attempting to impose on the PCUSA. Lot and Homer both knew that the obligations of hospitality were profoundly serious. The men of Sodom brought considerable trouble on themselves and their households for letting it slide.

Jonathan Justice

Synod gets call denouncing PCUSA "anti-Semitism"   [7-28-04]

This message, dated July 26, comes from Don Smith, on the staff of the Synod of Southern California and Hawaii


The Synod ... received a quite vicious phone message denouncing PCUSA on the basis of a Dennis Praeger radio editorial last week. By considering a divestment policy from corporations doing business with Israel, the caller said we had issued a "fatwa" against the state of Israel. He denounced the PCUSA as "Nazis" and pledged to use his cable television program to bring harm to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Click here for a column on the subject by Dennis Prager.

He added a note later saying that he had "also visited the Anti Defamation League website today since I had heard they had been quite incensed. A more recent press release calls for dialogue with PCUSA."

bullet Click here for their earlier press release, as reported in the Dallas/Ft Worth Star Telegram.  (You may need to register to access the page -- but it's free.)
bullet And here's their more recent one.

If you have comments on this matter,
please send a note
and we'll share it here.

GA Peacemaking Committee chair responds to charges of anti-Semitism in actions by the Presbyterian Church

[7-26-04]

Witherspoon's summary of General Assembly actions mentioned -- just briefly -- two actions dealing with Israel, Israel's building of the wall, and the possibility of disinvesting from corporations that support the Israeli government.

Numerous articles and letters have appeared in the past week or two, charging that the actions taken by the 216th General Assembly were anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.

For a few examples:

bullet A letter to Time magazine from a reader who says that the long-standing "interfaith friendship" between Presbyterians and Jews is being replaced by "a sense of betrayal ... among Jewish groups."
bullet Adam Sparks, writing to SFGate, charges that "the Presbyterian Church's leaders, upset with Israel, which dares to defend itself from incessant suicide bombers, voted to lock arms with Palestinian terrorist martyrs in conducting their ceaseless jihad, which slaughters innocent Jews."
bullet Peter Smith, religion reporter for the Louisville Courier-Journal, gives a less excited report, but describes this as "the harshest action yet by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) toward Israel, which the church has criticized for years for its treatment of Palestinians. The church calls the occupation the 'root of evil acts committed against innocent people on both sides of the conflict.'"

If you have comments on this matter,
please send a note
and we'll share it here.

The Rev. Bruce Gillette, who chaired the Assembly's Committee on Peacemaking, which dealt with this proposed actions, sent a response to the Philadelphia Inquirer, which had also published accusations of anti-Semitism.


Dear Editor,

Saturday's Philadelphia Inquirer article "Jewish-Presbyterian rift" [scroll down the page a bit] contained a number of misleading statements concerning the recent actions by the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA). I write now as a commissioner to that national church meeting who served as the moderator of the Assembly Committee on Peacemaking that dealt with the resolutions relating to Israel and the Middle East.

Several General Assembly actions have resulted in unfair accusations that Presbyterians are anti-Israel and anti-Semitic. This simply is not true.

Critics of the denomination's decisions need to consider the full context of the actions taken by the church. The actual resolutions and other helpful resources are available online at http://www.pcusa.org/interfaith

The Philadelphia Inquirer article begins with a condemnation by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), saying the Presbyterians' vote "supported divesting from companies that do business with Israel."

What the Presbyterian General Assembly actually authorized was the exploration of a selective divestment of church funds from those companies whose business in Israel is found to be directly or indirectly causing harm or suffering to innocent people, Palestinian or Israeli.

The church's top official, the Rev. Dr. Clifton Kirkpatrick, has written that the "focus of this action is to explore use of a proven tool of economic pressure to motivate real change in Israeli policies and movement toward peace." This action came in response to an overture from the Presbytery of St. Augustine [Florida]. Presbyterians there had visited Israelis and Palestinians for many years. They were grieved by the terrorist attacks against Israelis and frustrated with the continuing oppression experienced by Palestinians, including many who are Christians.

The Philadelphia Inquirer goes on to state "The denomination's General Assembly voted, 431-62, to direct its corporate-witness office to research withdrawing church investments from the Jewish state, modeling the action on the divestment campaign against South African apartheid two decades ago."

Dr. Kirkpatrick wrote "although the decision to ''initiate a process of phased, selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel' may be presumed by some to invite comparison of Israeli policies with those of apartheid South Africa, the assembly has not asserted any moral equivalency between the two. The two situations are distinct."

Since 1948, Presbyterian General Assemblies have issued statements for peace with justice in the Middle East, but with little impact. Middle East Christians have made clear to American Christians that they would welcome less talk and more action. A Lutheran pastor in Bethlehem told assembly commissioners this year, "To have statements is not enough. They might be good for discussions within churches, but they're not much help to us on the ground." The Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem urged words and actions in support of Palestinians and Israelis working for peace and justice: "[Speaking out] is not anti-Semitic. It's not anti-Jewish. It is anti-Israel-government policy." The Sharon government's policies, such as the "security wall" that has resulted in great suffering among Palestinians, has been condemned not only by the Presbyterian Church (USA), but also by the International Court of Justice and the Israeli Supreme Court.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's story stated "the delegates also rejected a proposal that would have suspended funding to a Philadelphia "messianic" congregation, Avodat Israel, that uses Jewish rituals as part of its efforts to convert Jews to Christianity."

Many Presbyterians are troubled by the "messianic" congregation," Avodat Israel. The General Assembly mandated a study to "examine and strengthen the relationship between Christians and Jews and the implications of this relationship for our evangelism and new church development." The focus of this action is to re-examine our theological understanding of Christian-Jewish relationship and to discern whether this particular form of outreach contradicts that understanding or violates our intention to do evangelism in a spirit of respect, openness, and honesty.

All of the assembly's actions this year are consistent with the commitment of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) made in 1987 in A Theological Understanding of the Relationship between Christians and Jews, "never again to participate in, to contribute to, or (insofar as we are able) to allow the persecution or denigration of Jews."

The Philadelphia Inquirer concludes that "Joel Kaplan, president of the international humanitarian group, demanded an apology for the 'absolutely horrifying' statements of the denomination, which he said ignored attacks against Israeli citizens."

The Presbyterian General Assembly condemned violence by all sides in the Middle East. They also approved a study paper titled "On Violence, Religion and Terrorism" that looks at this global problem. Presbyterians approved a resolution that stated that the "security of Israel and the Israeli people is inexorably dependent on making peace with their Palestinian neighbors, by negotiating and reaching a just and equitable solution to the conflict that respects international law, human rights, the sanctity of life, and dignity of persons, land, property, safety of home, freedom of movement, the rights of refugees to return to their homeland, the right of a people to determine their political future, and to live in peace and prosperity." Presbyterians did not ignore "attacks against Israeli citizens," but were also concerned about Israeli attacks that have resulted in the suffering of Palestinians. We are all made in the image of God. We are all called to work for God's desired peace with justice for all in the world.

Grace and Peace,

Bruce Gillette

First Presbyterian Church, Pitman NJ

bulletAlso, the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian General Assembly, has also issued a statement explaining the Assembly's actions.

If you have comments on this matter,
please send a note
and we'll share it here.

This page contains reports and links from July and August, 2004.
Reports and commentary from 2006 >>
For archives from 2005 >>

Items from September - December, 2004 >>

 

GA actions ratified (or not) by  the presbyteries   

A number of the most important actions of the 219th General Assembly have now been acted upon by the presbyteries, confirming most of them as amendments to the PC(USA) Book of Order.

We provided resources to help inform the reflection and debate, along with updates on the voting.

Our three areas of primary interest have been:

bullet Amendment 10-A, which  removes the current ban on lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender persons being considered as possible candidates for ordination as elder or ministers.  Approved!

bullet Amendment 10-2, which would add the Belhar Confession to our Book of Confessions.  Disapproved, because as an amendment to the Book of Confessions it needed a 2/3 vote, and did not receive that.

bullet Amendment 10-1, which  adopts the new Form of Government that was approved by the Assembly.   Approved.
 

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Some blogs worth visiting

PVJ's Facebook page

Mitch Trigger, PVJ's Secretary/Communicator, has created a Facebook page where Witherspoon members and others can gather to exchange news and views. Mitch and a few others have posted bits of news, both personal and organizational. But there’s room for more!

You can post your own news and views, or initiate a conversation about a topic of interest to you.

 

Voices of Sophia blog

Heather Reichgott, who has created this new blog for Voices of Sophia, introduces it:

After fifteen years of scholarship and activism, Voices of Sophia presents a blog. Here, we present the voices of feminist theologians of all stripes: scholars, clergy, students, exiles, missionaries, workers, thinkers, artists, lovers and devotees, from many parts of the world, all children of the God in whose image women are made. .... This blog seeks to glorify God through prayer, work, art, and intellectual reflection. Through articles and ensuing discussion we hope to become an active and thoughtful community.

 

John Harris’ Summit to Shore blogspot

Theological and philosophical reflections on everything between summit to shore, including kayaking, climbing, religion, spirituality, philosophy, theology, politics, culture, travel, The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), New York City and the Queens neighborhood of Ridgewood by a progressive New York City Presbyterian Pastor. John is a former member of the Witherspoon board, and is designated pastor of North Presbyterian Church in Flushing, NY.

 

John Shuck’s Shuck and Jive

A Presbyterian minister, currently serving as pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Elizabethton, Tenn., blogs about spirituality, culture, religion (both organized and disorganized), life, evolution, literature, Jesus, and lightening up.

 

Got more blogs to recommend?

Please send a note, and we'll see what we can do!

 

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