PCUSA Divestment

I am certain most of you have seen something in the news about the divestment issue before the General Assembly. Most of the headlines that I have seen suggest that the Presbyterian Church has divested “from Israel” and has joined the BDS movement, which stands for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Frankly, I do not know much about the BDS movement, but I have been told by my Jewish friends that it is a secular organization whose goal is the destruction of the modern state of Israel through economic means.

For the sake of truth and peace and the Gospel, it is terribly important that people read and understand that the PCUSA has emphatically NOT joined the BDS movement and has consistently affirmed the existence of Israel and its right to defend itself – a stance which was repeatedly reaffirmed this week. You might not like the action, but read it and please understand it first!

Anyone who is vaguely knowledgeable about the politics in the region knows that the Israeli settlements on the West Bank and in Gaza are ONE impediment to peace. All Jews I have talked to acknowledge this. The Assembly voted to divest church funds from three companies whose products are used by the State of Israel in destructive and violent activities on the West Bank and in Gaza. (We have voted in the past to divest from alcohol, tobacco, firearms and gambling companies, and, as part of our global warning concerns, we are also considering divesting from companies whose main product is fossil fuels.)

(The exact action of the Assembly is at the bottom of this post.)

We are selling stock in 3 American (not Israeli) companies, who have allegedly not been responsive.

We did NOT “divest from Israel.”

We actually voted to call for more INVESTMENT in Israel.

We do NOT support sanctions against Israel.

We support the “two state” solution, affirmed by many.

We do NOT support a boycott of Israeli products.

We do NOT seek to harm Israel.

We do NOT expect our small divestment to affect HP, Caterpillar and Motorola Solutions adversely.

We affirmed Israel’s existence as a sovereign Jewish nation.

We did NOT “choose” the Palestinians.

We elected NOT to continue to profit from violence and destruction.

The media is, of course, having a “field day” with this, and unfortunately religious leaders – Jewish, Christian AND Palestinian – are twisting this action to fit their own agendas. Most of us knew this would happen. The church, of course, must do what it believes to be right and true and good – even if that decision results in harsh criticism. We have known persecution before in our history!

For those for whom this action is offensive, please know, first, the vote was close 51% to 49%. The vote passed by 7 votes – the same margin by which it failed last time. I am sure it will come up again in two years for reconsideration. It ain’t over till it’s over.

Presbyterians believe in the “freedom of conscience.” Reasonable minds will disagree. A decision – any decision – was going to anger or disappoint half of the church. Jesus didn’t say blessed are those who talk about peace. He said blessed are the peace-MAKERS.

 Below is the exact wording of the action that passed.

Please read the ENTIRE action of the General Assembly!!!

The PC(USA) has a long standing commitment to peace in Israel and Palestine. We recognize the complexity of the issues, the decades-long struggle, the pain suffered and inflicted by policies and practices of both the Israeli government and Palestinian entities. We further acknowledge and confess our own complicity in both the historic and current suffering of Israeli and Palestinian yearning for justice and reconciliation, the 221st General Assembly (2014) recommends the following:

     “1. Reaffirm Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign nation within secure and internationally recognized borders in accordance with the United Nations resolutions.

     2.   Declare its commitment to a negotiated two-state solution (two states for two peoples) in which a secure and universally recognized State of Israel lives alongside a free, viable, and secure state for the Palestinian people.

      3.     Reject any proposed divestment and economic sanctions against the state of Israel or any application of the PC(USA)’s corporate engagement policies toward such ends. Instruct the Presbyterian Foundation and the Board of Pensions of the PC(U.S.A.), to divest from Caterpillar, Inc., Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions, in accord with our church’s decades-long socially responsible investment (SRI) history, and not to reinvest in these companies until the Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee of the PC(USA) is fully satisfied that product sales and services by these companies are no longer in conflict with our church investment policy. This action on divestment does not mean an alignment with the overall strategy is not to be construed or represented by any organization of the PC(USA) as divestment from the State of Israel, or an alignment with or endorsement of the global BDS (Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) movement.

    4. Reaffirm PC(USA)’s commitment to interfaith dialog and partnerships with the American Jewish, Muslim friends and Palestinian Christians and call for all presbyteries and congregations within the PC(USA) to include interfaith dialogue and relationship-building as part of their own engagement in working for a just peace.

     5.   Call for all foreign aid given by the U.S. government—including aid to Israel and the Palestinian Authority—to be comprehensively and transparently accounted to the American people and held to the same standards of compliance with all applicable laws.

     6.   Call for church advocacy for foreign-aid accountability to be directed toward its universal adherence rather than targeted for selective application to some recipients and not others.

     7.    Encourage Presbyterians to travel to the Holy Land, and give broad support to the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities throughout the Middle East.

     8.    Affirm the importance of economic measures and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians that support and advance a negotiated two-state solution. To that end, the 221st General Assembly (2014) does not endorse boycotts of Israeli or Palestinian products.

     9.    Urge all church institutions to give careful consideration to possible investments in Israel-Palestine that advance peace and improve the lives of Palestinians and Israelis.”