The supposed Presbyterian Church support of the Boycott Israel movement is suffering a wicked backlash from the little guys in the pews who are horrified at some of their elitist leaders who have taken upon themselves to speak in the name of the entire church.
The “Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church” in the United States has issued a study guide that that describes Zionism as inherently discriminatory.
The IPMN is an independent entity, noted the Christian newswire.com, although it was created by the Presbyterian Church’s assembly in 2004. The group has targeted Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard and Motorola, all of which do business with the Israeli military and therefore are considered non-kosher participants in the alleged “Occupation.”
The Israel-based SodaStream company has become the latest favorite victim of the Boycott movement, also known as BDS, for Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions.
The “church” is far from monolithic. Its anti-Israel activists failed to win approval for disinvestment when the issue came up for a vote in 2012 at the United Methodist General Conference and Presbyterian Church, but it will come up again for discussion at the General Assembly in June in Detroit.
The Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD), a conservative group that challenges church that focuses much of its criticism on the policies of the Methodist, Episcopal and the Presbyterian churches in the United States, is outraged at church leaders; support of BDS.
“Jewish groups rightfully are upset,” said IRD President Mark Tooley, “but Christian groups and all persons of good will interested in basic fairness should also be upset that once again a venerable church tradition is squandering its moral capital on a malevolent cause.
“The new semi-official Presbyterian anti-Israel resource illustrates the focused animus of many old-line church elites and activists against Jewish Israel.
“While Presbyterian and other church bodies remain almost completely silent about global persecution of Christians, anti-Semitism, and widespread human rights abuses especially against free speech and religious liberty, they oddly obsess over Israel’s transgressions, real and imagined.”
The Rev. Katharine Rhodes Henderson, the president of New York’s Auburn Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian-affiliated institution, wrote in an statement issued to JTA that the guide “Zionism Unsettled “purports to be about love but it actually expresses demonization, distortion and imbalance.”
Some Presbyterians involved in Jewish-Christian dialogue say they are pressing the leadership of their church to renounce the study guide and plan to raise the issue at their mainline Protestant denomination’s General Assembly this summer. They have declared that the IPMN guide does not reflect the beliefs of the church’s members.
“My first response to my friends in the Jewish community with whom I associate on a monthly basis in a Jewish-Presbyterian dialogue group is to assure them that this does not represent even close to a majority opinion,” said the Rev. Mike Cole, a Houston-area Presbyterian leader.
The Presbyterian church officials have tried to do limited damage control by sitting that the guide “was neither paid for nor published by the Presbyterian Church,” but the officials have not repudiated it.
Jan Armstrong, a Presbyterian church leader in Santa Barbara, Calif., told the JTA that the study guide “is so unrepresentative of the Membership of the PCUSA as to be considered purely propaganda.”
The Rev. Chris Leighton, a Presbyterian minister and the executive director of the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies in Baltimore, published a lengthy open letter to the Presbyterian church on the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies website in which he wrote that the guide “betrays the Church, the truth, and the spirit of reconciliation to which we are called.”
The “big issue” raised by the study guide, said John Wimberly, a co-convenor of Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, “is the desire to eliminate Israel as a Jewish state.”