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Presbyterians Challenge PCUSA Divestment Decision

December 8, 2004

"Presbyterians Concerned for Jewish & Christian Relations" (PCJCR) released a statement today (See below) calling on all Presbyterians to work toward the reversal of the decision of the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.(PCUSA) to divest its funds from certain companies doing business with Israel. In addition, they call upon the PCUSA General Assembly Council (GAC) to impose a moratorium on shareholder actions and other steps related to the divestment decision until the Church's next full General Assembly meeting in 2006. The group invites Presbyterian congregations, pastors and lay people nation-wide to join them and sign the statement.
PCJCR is an organization committed to building positive, constructive, respectful, and meaningful relationships with Jews. It is commit-ted to theological engagement between the Christian and Jewish communities that aims to advance religious understandings of mutual benefit to both communities. PCJCR leaders met in New York City on Tuesday, November 30, 2004 to finalize the wording of the statement entitled "Toward a Just and Lasting Peace in the Middle East". PCJCR invites support from Presbyterians around the country who disagree with the divestment action taken by the 216th General Assembly which met in Richmond, VA in June, 2004.
PCJCR steering committee member John Wimberly, Pastor of Western Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., said, "It is well known that the General Assembly's action created a great deal of anger in the Jewish community. What is not as well known is the anger the action created within the PCUSA." The group's goal is for the denomination to return to its historical position of favoring a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, opposing violence on both sides, and pursuing a vision of peace and security for all the peoples of the region.
While affirming the use of divestment as a social justice strategy in some situations, PCJCR claims that the General Assembly's action broke with the PCUSA's even-handed approach of the past toward the situation in the Mideast. The statement states, "it is wrong to single out Israel as the object of a "divestment" policy...." Instead of divestment, PCJCR proposes "selective investment of time, talent and financial resources in companies, not-for-profits, NGOs and diplomatic efforts that are likely to promote a just and lasting peace in the region."
For more information, please check the website http://www.pcjcr.org/  or contact:

Valerie Munson, Co-convener
Tel: 215.851.8434

William H. Harter, Co-convener
717.264.5715 (when church is closed, x233)

Toward a Just and Lasting Peace in the Middle East

With respect to the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s longstanding support of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East, the undersigned hereby express deep concern over the decision taken in July 2004 by the 216th General Assembly to "initiate a process of phased se-lective divestment in multinational corporations doing business in Israel." We acknowledge the considerable division and distrust this action has caused both within our church and within the Jewish community. In addition, we believe this decision distracts from our denomination's historic commitment to a two state solution to the conflict.

Out of this concern:

We call upon the General Assembly Council at its March 2005 meeting to postpone further action on the divestment policy until after the 2006 General Assembly.

We call upon Presbyterians to work toward the reversal of the divestment decision by building support for overtures to be presented to the 2006 General Assembly.

While we believe that divestment can be a useful tool for social change, it is wrong to single out Israel as the object of a "divestment" policy when other states and parties in the region are also guilty of serious human rights violations that can and must be addressed.

We support proactive engagement and selective investment of time, talent and financial resources in companies, not-for-profits, NGOs and diplomatic efforts that are likely to promote a just and lasting peace in the region.

We support efforts by individual Presbyterians, congregations and judicatories of our church to engage in dialogue with Jewish communities and sponsor programs likely to improve relations between Christians and Jews.

Because we believe that our church can play a positive role in fostering Middle East peace, we call upon the Presbyterian Church (USA) to pursue faithfully and consistently its historic vision of peace and security for all the peoples of the region.

We believe that a large majority of Israelis and Palestinians prefer peace with their neighbors, rather than violence and war, and are ready to make hard sacrifices to achieve it.

We support a two state solution to the present conflict.

We believe that Palestinians have a right to freedom, security, and self-governance within their own state and, further, that such a state must be established within safe and secure borders and be economically viable.

We believe in Israel's right to exist as a state and Israel's right to defend itself against terrorism and acts of violence that threaten its security. With other Presbyterians we are committed to the vitality and well-being of the state of Israel in awareness that only a strong Israel can be a partner in a lasting peace.

Presbyterians Concerned for Jewish & Christian Relations
Mission Statement

We are a group of Presbyterian ministers and laity, committed to positive, constructive respectful, and meaningful relationships with Jews. Our commitment reflects deep personal conviction and is the result of longstanding involvement in interreligious activity. Indeed, PCJCR has been active for more than twenty years and many of us have been involved helping to shape our denomination's policies in this arena since 1980 and in some cases even longer. We work in the spirit of the 1987 statement of principles approved for study by the General Assembly of our Church: "A Theological Understanding of the Relationship Between Christians and Jews." That document articulates seven principles which we summarize as follows:

1. The God who addresses both Christians and Jews is the same.
2. The Church's identity is intimately related to the continuing religious identity of the Jewish people.
3. We are willing to ponder with Jews the mystery of God's election of both Jews and Christians to be a light to the nations.
4. As Christians we acknowledge that Jews are in covenant relationship with God, and we explore the implications of this reality for evangelism and witness.
5. As Christians we acknowledge in repentance the Church's complicity in proliferation of anti-Jewish attitudes and actions, and we work to put an end to the teaching of contempt for Jews.
6. We are willing to investigate the continuing significance of the promise of "land," with its associated obligations, and to explore the implications for Christian theology.
7. We act in hope, which we share with Jews, as we both await the final manifestation of God's promise of the peaceable kingdom.

Based upon these principles, we are:

· working with others both within and outside our denomination who seek to expand upon and deepen respectful, honest dialogue between Christians and Jews.
· working with Jewish communities on projects likely to deepen theological understanding of and appreciation for both Judaism and Christianity.
· working with Jewish and other colleagues to promote justice and peace both in the U.S. and abroad.
· encouraging our denomination to pursue its historic commitment to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East consistently, fairly and faithfully.

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