Last week I celebrated a small victory in what for me was a challenging fight over divestment at the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). Since I first saw the publication of the “study guide” Zionism Unsettled, I have been disturbed by its one-sided nature, its inflammatory and demonization of Israel. So I authored a Commissioner’s Resolution, seeking the General Assembly to declare that Zionism Unsettled did not represent the views of the PCUSA, and sought to have its distribution ended immediately. I explained my reasoning for this in a tumblr post early last week.
I succeeded in getting the resolution through the Middle East Committee (no small feat) but it was amended to allow its sale, but to require instead that a statement be attached – kind of like a Surgeon General’s Warning – that it did not represent the views of the Church. At the time, I thought this was acceptable. I knew with a vote of 55-8, it would make it to the consent agenda. On Wednesday last week, it was summarily approved. I wrote about this last week.
I was opposed to Zionism Unsettled because I saw it as terribly damaging to interfaith relations with our Jewish brothers and sisters, and I saw it as serving to delegitimize our peacemaking efforts as a denomination. American Jews had criticized the document since it was first published, and I think fairly so.
I debated removing the resolution, 04-10, from the consent agenda, to amend it back to its original wording, but decided to take that small victory. At the time I still thought the bigger issue of divestment would be defeated. But when divestment from three companies over their business with the Israeli Defense Forces and their product’s violent use in Palestine passed by a margin of 7 votes, a major uproar in the Jewish community ensued.
It soon became clear to me that the resolution we passed was not enough. The continued presence of Zionism Unsettled on the PCUSA website would continue to cause damage to interfaith relations. I was not the only person to feel this way. Our new moderator – the #ModeRada Heath Rada – was hit hard with the issue in a press interview on Sunday on CNN. Zionism Unsettled has made international news.
I reached out to the moderator, suggesting we needed to do more, and got a positive response — little knowing that the process was already in the works (I assume). And today a press release was issued by the Church stating that “Effective Immediately, Zionism Unsettled is no longer sold on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) website.”
The original intent of my resolution has been accomplished. I am proud of my work, and thank Moderator Heath Rada, Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, and Presbyterian Mission Agency Executive Director Linda Valentine, for making this happen.
We still have much work to do to repair the damage to our relationships with our Jewish Brothers and Sisters. I for one will be speaking with the congregation at the local synagogue later next Month. But it is with a sense of appreciation that I know that this divisive document is no longer available from the Church.