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Presbyterian actions on Israel
Archive # 2
September through December, 2004

This page contains reports and links from Sept. - Dec. 2004.
Reports and commentary from 2006 >>
For archives from 2005 >>

Items from July and August, 2004 >>

An Israeli American protests against PC(USA) policy

Witherspoon Society,

I am a private Israel-American citizen, not affiliated with any organization, and certainly independent of the Israel government. I would like to protest against the Presbyterian Church divestment policy as a means of pressuring Israel to change its policy.

It's not that Israel is 100% right and the Palestinian side is totally wrong . It is a life and death problem. Israeli and Palestinian lives are in the balance. This is NOT JUST the geo-political problem that a cold Presbyterian Church divestment policy assumes it to be.

How can divestment be the response of a Christian Presbyterian Church? There are cries for help that rise out of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Moshe Shenven

Jewish Voice for Peace supports divestment as a strategy to end Israel's occupation of Palestine.    [12-14-04]
Session of 4th Presbyterian, Chicago, offers reasoned comments on the divestment controversy

The session of Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago has issued a statement affirming its close ties with the Jewish faith community in Chicago, while also supporting the General Assembly's call for divestment from companies that are supporting the Israeli occupation of Palestine, and promises to urge that any proceeds from the sale of such stock be invested in "corporations whose business in Israel is positive, helpful, and peaceful."   [12-14-04]

Presbyterians Concerned for Jewish and Christian Relations (PCJCR) is organizing to work toward reversing last summer's General Assembly action to begin a process of phased, selective divestment from certain companies doing business in Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.   
One person has communicated to the PCJCR a strong concern about the use of the official logo of the PC(USA) on the PCJCR website.
More resources on Israel/Palestine and the divestment question   [12-3-04]

Discussion (a word which may be a bit mild) continues about Israel, Palestine, and statements made by the 2004 General Assembly, especially suggesting that the PC(USA) divest stocks it holds in Caterpillar, Inc.

We have already provided a variety of resources that you can find on another page.

But here are a few more items you may find helpful as the debates continue.

One local effort for divestment    [12-3-04]

A group in Somerville, Massachusetts, is working at the local level to get their city to withdraw its money from companies that help Israel commit extensive and ongoing human rights violations.

They have submitted a Socially Responsible Investment Resolution to the Somerville Board of Alderman, with 8 out of 11 Aldermen co-sponsoring it.

The co-sponsors are now being pressured to withdraw their support, and the group is urging people to encourage those people to stand firm in their commitment to justice.

For more information, check out the group's website.

Human Rights Watch calls on Caterpillar to halt bulldozer sales to Israel  [11-27-04]

The action of the 2004 Presbyterian General Assembly, in calling for consideration of divestment for Caterpillar Inc., because of their sales to the Israeli army of a giant bulldozer for use in demolishing Palestinian homes, aroused considerable distress among American Jewish organizations and conservative Presbyterians whose understanding of Scripture leads them to give strong support to the State of Israel.

Other groups are now taking the same stand. One of America's major human rights organizations, Human Rights Watch, has now called on Caterpillar to suspend sales of its D9 bulldozer to the Israeli army on the grounds that they are being used to violate international humanitarian law in the occupied territories.

Comments from our readers

The actions of the 2004 General Assembly regarding Israel and Palestine have aroused considerable interest -- to put it mildly. 

bulletPresbyterian minister Earl Arnold, of East Syracuse, NY, writes in support of the GA actions. He suggests that the Assembly acted out of frustration, after years of calling on both sides to act for peace. Noting the diversity of views on Israel within the American Jewish community, he also urges that we continue to listen to the voices of our sister churches in Israel/Palestine.   [11-22-04]
bulletJack Kessler  argues against the PC(USA) action to consider divestment in relation to Israel. It is, he says, "a quiet divestment of Israel's Bible and Savior from the church."   [11-22-04]
bulletKathleen Eschen-Pipes, a minister in Santa Cruz, CA, comments that PC(USA) criticism of the recent delegation visit to Hezbollah is understandable, but should be seen in the context of good efforts to improve our understanding of Islam, and to engage in dialogue with "our enemies."  [11-22-04]
Baltimore ministers address their Jewish neighbors in light of the concerns about actions by the 2004 General Assembly

In an open letter issued not long after the Assembly, 16 minister members of Baltimore Presbytery expressed their concern about what they saw as the lack of even-handedness in the criticisms on Israel's actions in Palestine, while also noting that the statements did criticize attacks on innocent people by both sides. They also criticized the Assembly's action to continue funding for the "Avodat Yisrael" congregation in Philadelphia, noting that Baltimore Presbytery acted over ten years ago to remove a similar "Messianic" congregation from its roll as being incompatible with a healthy Jewish-Christian relationship.

Jack Sharp, one of the signers of the letter, sent it to us recently.   [11-1-04]

Pro-peace Jewish group offers a new book an anti-Semitism

If you're dealing with charges that the Presbyterian Church's actions on Israel/Palestine are anti-Semitic, you might find this helpful.

Entitled Reframing Anti-Semitism: Alternative Jewish Perspectives, book includes articles by diverse Jewish Voice for Peace members "meant to deepen our collective understanding of anti-Semitism and its bearing on our work as critics of unjust Israeli policies. Individual essays investigate claims that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic, the history of anti-Semitism, and the intersections between anti-Mizrahi racism and anti-Semitism."

You can read more, and order online from Jewish Voice for Peace.    [10-27-04]

Presbyterians Disagree on Israel:

A Statement from Presbyterians Concerned for Jewish Christian Relations


The Rev. Dr. Donald W. Shriver and the Rev. Dr. William Harter, in an open letter, have criticized the actions of the 2004 General Assembly in relation to the state of Israel, and have reminded their readers of the PC(USA)'s long-standing commitment to dialogue with the Jewish faith tradition, and to support of the state of Israel.

They add that "we are distressed that the General Assembly's statement this year on Israel lacked balance and failed to condemn the terrorism to which the people of Israel have been subjected. Violence and injustice are not one-sided problems and should not be portrayed as such: there are victims of war among Israelis as well as among Palestinians." Further, they say "We categorically denounce any equation between the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and apartheid."

Jewish peace group challenges Caterpillar's Israel business   [10-13-04]

PC(USA) backs shareholders' resolution seeking stop to demolitions

The General Assembly action last June to call for consideration of divestment from PC(USA) investments in Caterpillar because of their providing heavy equipment that is being used by Israel to destroy homes in Palestine.  The action produced a storm of criticism from Jewish groups and many conservative Presbyterians.   [Get more background.]  Now one of the leading Jewish peace groups is leading the way to challenge Caterpillar's support of Israel.

Learn about the Israel Palestine conflict from a Palestinian Christian and Lutheran pastor    [10-11-04]

If you're in the New York area, you'll have opportunities this week to join in events this week with the Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb. Mitri is a Palestinian Christian and the pastor of the Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem. Despite the growing violence, Mitri remains an ardent advocate for peace in the region.   He will be speaking on three occasions, sponsored by the Presbyterian UN Office and other groups.

High-level Presbyterians and Jews discuss Israel divestment

Top-level Jewish and Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) leaders held strained but polite dialogue in New York City on September 28, about the PC(USA) General Assembly's decision earlier this summer to divest from companies who profit from Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.  While the two parties agreed on a mutual commitment to peace in the Middle East, there was little yielding on the divestment issue.   [10-6-04]

On the "Messianic Christian" congregation Avodat Yisrael, in Philadelphia 

One issue in the current debates about the Presbyterian General Assembly's actions in relation to Israel and Palestine is the congregation Avodat Yisrael in Philadelphia - a congregation founded with the purpose of reaching Jews in Philadelphia with a presentation of the Gospel that would be familiar and congenial to them.  Dr. Arch Taylor looks at some of the theological dimensions of the concerns about that project.   [10-6-04]

Bad Fences Make Bad Neighbors

Kathleen Eschen-Pipes, a Presbyterian Minister in Santa Cruz, CA, shared with us a letter she sent to her Senators about the wall being built by Israel.   [10-4-04]

Pension funds and responsible investing ... and Israel      [9-25-04]

With all the discussion of the PC(USA) action to divest stock holdings in companies doing business supportive of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory, Gene TeSelle offers some thoughts and questions about pension funds, which have become a part of the debate.

For a report on discussions of divestment at the recent meeting of the General Assembly Council, see Leslie Scanlon's article in The Presbyterian Outlook.

Words of praise for the GA actions on Israel and for even-handed reporting of the situation -- and the debate.   [9-1-04]


I join in applauding the recent decisions of the General Assembly regarding Israel and Palestine. I am particularly relieved that the Mission Responsibility Through Investment committee will be divesting my pension funds from companies that profit from the suffering of innocent Israelis and Palestinians.

I also appreciate the leadership the General Assembly demonstrated to other church bodies in putting action behind its pronouncements. The United Methodists' similar statement in May got as little press coverage as that given to the statements of other mainline denominations, whereas the PC(USA)'s action is getting coverage still. The PC(USA)'s action has given hope to Christians who are frustrated by the mainstream media's lack of coverage of the plight of the Palestinians and by the inroads of Christian Zionism within Evangelical media. People who hunger for information that is not being covered in the mainstream will seek elsewhere. Unfortunately, some of the information about Palestinians on the internet is inaccurate and, even in some sources where the facts are accurate, they are presented with an anti-Semitic bias or with highly inflammatory rhetoric. Fortunately, the PC(USA) has been updating its website to respond to the controversy and the website has links to many resources on the Middle East that are reliable and evenhanded.

Thank you also for printing perspectives as diverse as the Boysens' and Elder Larson's (with the informative web-links) and for trusting Presbyterians to be capable of using the brains God gave us. Witherspoon should not worry about groups with contrary ideologies linking to it. Anyone who has googled "miserable failure" knows that an organization cannot control other groups from making links to your website.

Peace, Salaam, Shalom,
Kathleen Eschen-Pipes
Santa Cruz, CA

Presbyterian Church creates website dealing with Israel and Jewish relations   [9-1-04]

Responding creatively to the concerns expressed by Jewish individuals and organizations, by Presbyterians and others about what have been called "anti-Semitic" actions by the 216th General Assembly, the PC(USA) has established a very helpful website.

It includes comments by Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase and Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick, along with links to the GA actions (it doesn't hurt sometimes for folks to know what was really said - and not said), answers to frequently asked questions, comments from a number of Presbyterians, and links to many other good resources.

Moderator Rick Ufford-Chase speaks out on the issues around Israel and Judaism  [9-1-04]

The PC(USA) website has posted one of his responses, and the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta has one as well.

For one helpful survey of Jewish reaction, you might check out the Atlanta Jewish Times.

This page contains reports and links from Sept. - Dec. 2004.
Reports and commentary from 2006 >>
For archives from 2005 >>

Items from July and August, 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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