(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Foreign Ministry slammed the million- member United States-based United Church of Christ (UCC) on Wednesday for passing a resolution calling for the boycott of settlement products and the divestment from companies that “profit from the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.”
“The UCC resolutions on the Middle East conflict have reflected the most radical politics for more than a decade, and in no way reflect a moral stance or reality based position,” a ministry statement said. “People of faith ought to be acting to help Israel and the Palestinians to renew efforts to achieve peace, rather than endlessly demonizing one part in the conflict – in our view, the aggrieved party.”
One of the more well-known churches affiliated with this movement is Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, which for many years was headed by controversial pastor Jeremiah Wright. US President Barack Obama attended Trinity for years, before quitting during the presidential campaign in 2008 as a result of a series of incendiary statements made by Wright.
The divestment decision was taken at the liberal denomination’s biennial General Synod. Two other Protestant churches – the Episcopal Church, with under 2 million members, and the Mennonite Church USA, with under 100,000 adherents – were scheduled to take up similar divestment resolutions this week.
“The UCC believes that the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is one of the most enduring conflicts of our time, and remains deeply concerned about the violence perpetuated through acts of terror and by the occupation,” a statement issued by the church stated. “The church considers Tuesday’s actions a next step in the UCC’s involvement with peace in the Middle East.”
The resolution passed by a vote of 508 to 124. Another resolution, characterizing Israel’s actions in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as “apartheid,” received 51% of the vote, but did not pass because a two-thirds majority is needed for passage.
The UCC has position statements for five issues listed on its website: marriage equality and LGBTQ rights; the Middle East; racial justice; social responsible investing; and literacy.
The position paper on the Middle East addresses only the Israeli-Palestinian issue, and says nothing about the slaughter of tens of thousands of people, including Christians, in the region over the last five years.
UCC membership has declined sharply over the last 50 years, going from some 2.1 million members in 1965, to just under a million today – a steep decline of 52 percent. The church is concentrated heavily in Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.
Like other mainline Protestant denominations, the UCC declined significantly in the last decade, and according to its own statistical abstract lost 696 congregations and some 319,000 members from 2000 to 2010.