Church leaders: End divestment policy

After visit to Israel, Gaza and W. Bank, Presbyterians say policy flawed.

IDF bulldozer, road 298 (photo credit: AP)
IDF bulldozer, road 298
(photo credit: AP)
Completing a five-day fact finding mission throughout Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, a group of eleven Presbyterian Church (USA) leaders announced on Monday that the Church's current policy to divest its $7 billion pension fund against the State of Israel is flawed. They called on the PCUSA's over 500 voting commissioners to rescind the policy at its upcoming General Assembly June 15-22, 2006 in Birmingham, Alabama, and to replace it with a positive strategy to bring about genuine peace and justice for Palestinians and Israelis alike. "While adoption of the divestment policy in 2004 created an important focus on the struggle for achieving a solution to the Middle East conflict, it is now time to put aside this one-sided, negative and counter-productive policy that threatens to cause great harm to both Israel and the Palestinians while creating unnecessary polarization within our own denomination," stated NCLCI Executive Committee member Dr. John H. Cushman who is Pastor of the Presbyterian Church of the Roses in Santa Rosa, California. Controversy erupted throughout the PCUSA following its 216th General Assembly, held in 2004, after pushing through a last minute resolution to initiate phased, selective divestment in corporations conducting business in Israel. The Church's surprise action met with immediate and widespread disapproval from many of the Church's members, elders, pastors, and virtually every Presbyterian member of the United States Congress. 'End Divestment Now' Executive Director Gary Green describes the current situation, as follows: "Objections have continued to be expressed throughout the US as Presbyterian congregations began questioning the accuracy and fairness of the information upon which the General Assembly based its ill-advised decision. During the past 24 months, some two dozen regional governing bodies within the Church have sent overtures requesting that the next month's 217th General Assembly in Birmingham, Alabama rescind its divestment policy and replace it with positive, fair and balanced initiatives. "I just don't see how our Church can, in the face of an overwhelming negative response, maintain any credibility whatsoever without correcting this seriously ill-conceived policy. I - and the End Divestment Now- are absolutely committed to seeing the Church's divestment policy rescinded. We want our Church to pursue legitimate strategies that will contribute to the resolution of the conflict and end the dissention within our Church caused by those promoting divestment," Green concluded.