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‘Washington Post’ suggests Presbyterians voted against Jews and peace

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Reform Jewish leader Rick Jacobs speaking to Jewish Voice for Peace members at the Presbyterian convention. (Photo: @lizaveta9/Twitter)

Reform Jewish leader Rick Jacobs speaking to Jewish Voice for Peace members at the Presbyterian convention. (Photo: @lizaveta9/Twitter)

The Presbyterians knew this was coming; in fact at least one voted against divestment citing his fear of just this headline. “Divestment vote by Presbyterian Church strains long ties with Jewish community,” writes The Washington Post. The story is slanted, suggesting that the divestment measure that targets three companies that serve the Israeli occupation is actually aimed at American Jews and sets back a “peaceful resolution” of the conflict. It fails to mention the many Jews who worked for the resolution– as the NY Times did in its coverage of the vote (and as NYT reporter Laurie Goodstein has emphasized on her twitter feed— and characterizes the vote as some quixotic action to confront Israel and Jews.

Writes Helena Cobban in a note, after she tweeted that it was a “fearmongering” piece:

The reporters– who give no evidence of having actually been at the GA meeting– frame the whole story in terms of “how terrible this rift could now be between the Presbyterians and the Jews”, quoting extensively from Union for Reform Judaism’s Rabbi Rick Jacobs, who led the anti-divestment charge in Detroit, and from one or two of his Presbyterian allies. Notable in the coverage was the lack of any mention of (let alone quotes from) any Jewish people who supported the divestment resolution. This was blatant, pro-Israeli bias and hackery and should be called out. (As I started to do on twitter.) Makes the NYT reporting look like a model of fairness.

The point of view of the piece is clear in this line: “some interfaith leaders raised concerns about the long-term consequences of the decision.”

And as Cobban notes, the piece grants prominence to Jewish establishment groups that are outraged:

In a statement issued Saturday, [Reform leader Rick] Jacobs said the vote was “unfortunate” and “calls into question the many ways in which we work together” with the Presbyterian Church.

The Post might have mentioned Jacobs’s laughable proposal to put together the Presbyterians with Benjamin Netanyahu. This gambit apparently backfired; one church member said it was “hubris” to believe they would have any effect on the p.m., especially after they’d defeated divestment.

More of the threats from the Jewish community, reflected in the Post:

The American Jewish Committee, based in New York, called it “a very sad day for Presbyterian-Jewish relations,” saying in a written statement that a group within the Presbyterian Church was “driven by hatred of Israel” and had led a campaign of misinformation within the denomination.

“This is an affront to all who are committed to a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Rabbi Noam Marans, the AJC’s director of interreligious and intergroup relations, said in the statement.

Oh and this is from the Israeli Embassy Saturday: “Last night’s vote in Detroit was a vote against peace.” Talk about fearmongering, the full statement implicitly accuses the Presbyterians of supporting terrorism: 

“The resolution of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) this evening in Detroit is shameful. It removes its ability to be a constructive partner to promote peace in the Middle East. It is also remarkable at a time when we are praying for the safety of the three boys: Eyal Gil-ad and Naftali, who were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists, that the church remained silent. We would have hoped that PCUSA would have joined us in promoting peace and denouncing terrorism.”

Philip Weiss

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50 Responses

  1. just on June 23, 2014, 8:29 am


    As peace talks have stalled between you and the Palestinian Authority, there’s been new pressure from some religious groups. The Presbyterians in the United States have just passed a decision voted to divest its holdings in companies that do business with Israel, that sell parts to Israel that they claim are used in the course of the occupations of the Palestinians. How troubling is this to you? Do you think there will be other Protestant denominations that follow suit?


    It should trouble all people of conscience and morality because it’s so disgraceful. You know, you look at what’s happening in the Middle East, and I think most Americans understand this: They see this enormous area riveted by religious hatred, by savagery of unimaginable proportions.

    Then you come to Israel and you see the one democracy that upholds basic human rights, that guards the rights of all minorities, that protects Christians. Christians are persecuted throughout the Middle East. So most Americans understand that Israel is a beacon of civilization and moderation.

    You know, I would suggest to those Presbyterian organizations to fly to the Middle East, come see Israel for the embattled democracy that it is, and then take a bus tour. Go to Libya, go to Syria, go to Iraq, and see the difference. And I would give them two pieces of advice: One is make sure it’s an armor-plated bus. And, second, don’t say that you’re Christians. ”

    That is the most grotesque of all of the coverage re the PCUSA vote to divest, imho.

    “They see this enormous area riveted by religious hatred, by savagery of unimaginable proportions.” Yeah, Netanyahu– we see YOU!

  2. Hostage on June 23, 2014, 8:54 am

    frame the whole story in terms of “how terrible this rift could now be between the Presbyterians and the Jews”, quoting extensively from Union for Reform Judaism’s Rabbi Rick Jacobs

    Like Rabbi Jacobs, Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie shows what an ass hat he is: When the church desperately wanted Jewish backing as cover for its pro-divestment position, Jewish Voice for Peace – known for cloaking extremist principles in ambiguous language – stepped forward. — How a radical anti-Israel Jewish group colluded with the U.S. Presbyterian Church

    Yeah, unlike URJ, we place a premium on advocating equal human rights for Jews and Palestinians over xenophobic militarism and colonialism.

    • LeaNder on June 23, 2014, 10:53 am

      In other words all could be well if there weren’t these “self-hating Jews”? Filtering reality via mental preconceptions. No doubt we all do.

      My view is that the church desparately wanted Jewish backing as cover for their pro-divestment position and Jewish Voice for Peace became the instrument for providing that backing–or, perhaps, a means for church leaders to delude themselves into thinking that Jewish backing really exists.

      Either way, some of this would have worked without the collusion of Jewish Voice for Peace, which has a tradition of cloaking extremist principles in ambiguous language.

      When you look closer there may well be a series of sub-preconceptions. With a core underlying theme: antisemitism is here to stay. Only “philosemites” (counter-generalization, “collectivization”), who love Israel as much as we love, can be trusted.

      Strictly I never loved countries, but I love their people, selectively, everwhere.

    • seafoid on June 23, 2014, 11:42 am

      Yoffie is nuts

      “Jewish Voice for Peace, wanting to play the hero and stay in the good graces of the church leadership, had nothing to say about these three points; an uninformed observer might think that it supports the church in the final wording of the resolution. But it doesn’t. As anyone who has read its mission statement and literature knows, it supports BDS, does not endorse a two-state solution, and while it does not call for Israel’s destruction, does not affirm her right to exist either.

      In short, those young people in black T-shorts represent a radical anti-Israel position that goes far beyond the “selective divestment” that the church professes to call for. My suggestion to Presbyterian leadership: Get your information about the Jewish community and the Jewish tradition from a source other than Jewish Voice for Peace. And if you want, as I do, to see a reconciliation between the church and the Jews, put an end to an alliance that is leading you astray and generating resentment in the Jewish world. ”

      I guess he was one of Jacobs’ predecessors. Reform Judaism has been thoroughly converted to Zionism as well, has it ?

      The problem with monoculture is concentrated vulnerability to predators. In Zionism’s case the main predator is justice.

      • Shmuel on June 23, 2014, 11:57 am

        Yoffie actually gives two good reasons why JVP is a much better friend than the organisation he used to head:

        1. Unlike URJ, JVP never demanded that the Presbyterian Church adopt its own position “or else”. It gave its recommendation and expressed faith in the Church’s own integrity and democratic process. Unlike URJ, JVP is willing to accept differences between friends.

        2. Unlike URJ, JVP does not claim to speak for all Jews or imply that Jews are monolithic on Israel or any other topic (Omar Barghouti and others have called such views “anti-Semitic”). It recognises and addresses differences among Jews and does not try to sweep them under the rug for political gain. JVP is thus a far better source of “information about the Jewish community” than URJ will ever be.

      • ritzl on June 23, 2014, 12:10 pm

        Brilliant, seafoid: “The problem with monoculture is concentrated vulnerability to predators. In Zionism’s case the main predator is justice.”

      • Woody Tanaka on June 23, 2014, 12:29 pm

        “And if you want, as I do, to see a reconciliation between the church and the Jews, put an end to an alliance that is leading you astray and generating resentment in the Jewish world.”

        The issue I see is whether the Christian World will accept a “reconciliation” (and there is tons to say about the use of that word…), between the Churches and the Jews, on terms which should be objectionable to the Churches. Frankly, if the “Jewish world” (putting aside for the moment, all of the problems inherent in determining what that phrase means) states that reconciliation can only take place on conditions which violates the Christians’s professed ethics (and unconditional support for Israeli acts against the Palestinians most certainly would be so violative), then the only acceptable response for the Churches is to say, “Okay, fine, then we won’t reconcile. Feel free to call us up when you change your mind.” But they don’t seem to have the guts to do that. Why? Who knows. Misplaced guilt, maybe?

      • ritzl on June 23, 2014, 1:05 pm

        I think it’s coming, WT. Not in the blunt way that Jacobs did it, but more of a moving away over time. It took PC(USA) 10 years of unrewarded effort to give up on the companies – but give up they did.

        My suspicion, and only a suspicion, is that PC(USA) will now engage in a multi-year series of efforts to discern whether a notional, one-way relationship with occupation-supporting Jews takes precedence over speaking up about Israel’s actual, blatant, unrepentant, and ongoing human rights abuses.

        As Betsy says, the rank and file were pretty POd about their treatment last week. I’m not sure they’re going to forget this treatment anytime soon, but they’ll deal with the residual resentment in their own deliberative way.

      • seafoid on June 23, 2014, 2:59 pm

        One of the problems for Israel about bringing the threats and thuggery out into plenary sessions, so to speak, is that it draws attention to the Israeli human rights charade. Anyone disgusted by the tactics will look far more closely at related news in future.

        I bet they’ll never get such a close result again.

      • ohiojoes on June 23, 2014, 4:49 pm

        I think Betsy knows the inside story here much better than I, and I don’t doubt that she’s correct about the membership. But I, like most of my cohort, stopped going to church long ago. I hardly know anyone attending the PCUSA affiliated church in these parts who is under 50. Our local church has three funerals for every wedding, as they say. The PCA churches, on the other hand!

  3. just on June 23, 2014, 9:01 am

    “The resolution of the Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) this evening in Detroit is shameful. It removes its ability to be a constructive partner to promote peace in the Middle East. It is also remarkable at a time when we are praying for the safety of the three boys: Eyal Gil-ad and Naftali, who were kidnapped by Hamas terrorists, that the church remained silent. We would have hoped that PCUSA would have joined us in promoting peace and denouncing terrorism.””

    Oh wait. I missed the directive that the world was supposed to stop spinning and sit shiva for the disappeared teens… all the while Israel pounds the OPT and kills and kidnaps at will.

    btw, PCUSA is promoting peace and denouncing terrorism– Israeli terrorism and Occupation! How about joining them?

    • seafoid on June 23, 2014, 3:02 pm

      Israeli victims always have names. Palestinians rarely do.
      With a name journalists can build a picture of someone’s life. Without one who cares?
      “All the seeds of ultra-nationalism and messianism that have been planted over the past several years are germinating now and blooming in the flower beds of rot. All of the Israeli hatreds have reared their heads in the wake of the kidnapping of three yeshiva students whose place of learning is in the heart of the occupied territory. All of the destructiveness and the intolerance for other views, all of the unity and the falling into rank in Israel have now assembled for the biggest display of ultra-nationalism ever. All the seeds of religiosity have sprouted into a mass prayer service led by the television broadcasters, every single last one of which has volunteered for propaganda duty. No one questions the mass arrests, the re-imprisonment of the Palestinians who were freed in the Gilad Shalit exchange deal, the arrests of members of the Palestinian parliament, the deportations to the Gaza Strip and the warmongering. Anyone who does has sealed his own fate.

      All of this is permitted to Israel, only to Israel. The immediate victims of the “finest hour” are the wretched families of the abducted teens and tens of thousands of Palestinians. But after this affair ends, the light will rise on a new, even darker Israel. “

      • just on June 23, 2014, 3:50 pm

        Levy gets it. He nails it. He writes as someone who is angry, ashamed, and disgusted.

      • seafoid on June 23, 2014, 3:55 pm

        He knows Israel is not stable. It’s not even the country it was 2 years ago. It gets continually worse. YESHA is a progressive cancer.

        And they blame the Presbyterians for abandoning the pretence that Israel can heal itself.

  4. Jethro on June 23, 2014, 9:08 am

    Is there some reason PCUSA should care about Presbyterian-Jewish relations, especially now, as major Jewish organizations advocate for the occupation?

    • ritzl on June 23, 2014, 12:15 pm

      If I understand Betsy and richb, it’s simply because they do care. It’s part of their spiritual essence. That’s why this assault hurt (pissed off?) so many of them so much. It traded on that spiritual essence. It tried to parse their morality. It failed.

  5. Kay24 on June 23, 2014, 9:11 am

    I watched with disgust CNN cover this news item, and the almost challenging attitude of Victor Blackwell on Sunday morning, when he interviewed the spokesperson and official for the Presbyterian church. CBS New York also covered a protest in New York by pro Israeli supporters regarding the so called, (unproven) kidnapping of 3 kids, and failed to mentioned the Palestinian kids who were killed recently (with proof), just to “balance” that report.
    Obviously boycotts and divestments must be hurting Israel, or else why these desperate attempts to turn it all into anti semitism, their usual method to silence or stop criticism against their crimes. You see hasbaracuda coming out in shoals in various websites, all spewing the same crap, and trying hard to convince us the facts are all wrong. Calling boycotts and divestment against Israel “anti-semitic” is as stupid and absurd as calling boycotts and sanctions against Iran “anti Islam”.
    Only the zionists can come up with such nonsense, but then they are desperate and pathetic right now.

  6. Shmuel on June 23, 2014, 9:15 am

    A church decides to dump unethical stock (fossil fuels, military occupation) and approve gay marriage, but URJ, AJC, ADL (not to mention the State of Israel) decide that it’s all about Jews. When will these guys take a leaf out of the book of the commissioner who said (with regard to Rabbi Jacobs’ offer to set up a meeting for Presbyterian leaders with Netanyahu) “we’re not that important”?

    Kohelet said (Ecc. 2:14) “The wise has eyes in his head” (i.e. foresees the outcome of his actions). The leaders of these Jewish organisations could have avoided any impact on Jews or interfaith relations simply by not making the motion about Jews. One must therefore conclude either that they are not “wise” (a distinct possibility, considering their behaviour on this and many other occasions) or that they really don’t give a damn about Jews or interfaith relations, but will gladly sacrifice both on the altar of Zionist ideology. Needless to say, the two are not mutually exclusive.

    • just on June 23, 2014, 9:19 am

      Great comment, Shmuel.

      • ritzl on June 23, 2014, 1:06 pm

        Ditto. PC(USA) was consistent across the board.

  7. LeaNder on June 23, 2014, 9:18 am

    Presbyterians of supporting terrorism

    that’s as piotr commented, I think somewhere on Allison’s article(s), if I recall correctly. Providing a highly interesting link: They are going bonkers.

    Apparently not only in Israel but also America’s Jewish elite community tied by the “bonds of love” (and a misunderstood covenant? I leave that part to our experts).

    In any case, I had this on my mind: RW always argued, don’t pressure Israel. Because if you do, you will be responsible if it gets worse. And it will get worse, if you pressure Israel. What else did the Presbyterians do?

  8. American on June 23, 2014, 9:26 am

    ‘Washington Post’ suggests Presbyterians voted against Jews and peace”>>>>

    O.K…..let the mouthpieces keep spouting this crap and upping the anty.
    Their Orwellian belligerence is going to boomarang.

  9. seafoid on June 23, 2014, 9:34 am

    “suggests Presbyterians voted against Jews and peace”

    With Jews here clearly meaning Zionists. Because Zionists represent Judaism so Jews couldn’t possibly oppose Zionism.

    Voting “against Zionists and peace” is a nonsense. Unless it’s Tacitus’ definition of peace where they create a desert and call it peace.

    Israel has this revenge philosophy – one dead Israeli has to be met by an iron fist. They can’t conceive of a future without war. And they don’t value peace.

  10. Shmuel on June 23, 2014, 9:40 am

    suggests Presbyterians voted against Jews and peace

    … and motherhood and kittens.

  11. Talkback on June 23, 2014, 9:45 am

    Judeocentric nutcases.

  12. Boomer on June 23, 2014, 10:14 am

    WaPo has been part of the problem for years. I thought perhaps–just possibly–Bezos might make a difference. If so, I haven’t detected it as yet.

  13. Hemlockroid on June 23, 2014, 11:24 am

    The idea that Jews can and will be thee eternal ultimate victim is a shrinking violet.

  14. Betsy on June 23, 2014, 12:00 pm

    As a Presbyterian, I have to say that this bullying reaction is not going to go over well among the rank & file. We greatly value civility, facts, reasoning together, empathy & clear organizational boundaries & transparency. This reaction feels like a mob reaction — from people who should have more access to facts, habits of empathy, & diverse opinions. My church has handled this with deliberation & repeated statements of our commitment to continue working in inter-faith alliances with empathic awareness of the emotionality of this issue for many Jewish Americans. If PC(USA) continues to be slandered in this way, it’s going to backfire in very mainstream communities across the US.

    Being lectured in this way by a foreign govt, for stands taken by US citizens vis a vis our money, and US companies — is not a persuasive approach. The PC(USA) has deep connections with Middle Eastern churches going back almost two centuries. Key PC(USA) leaders have wide & deep experience within the region & don’t need travel advice from Mr. Netanayahu.

    We are not impressed by the moral or intellectual caliber of this response.

    • Jethro on June 23, 2014, 12:50 pm

      I think the Zionists are having trouble coming up with a strategy to get their way that doesn’t involve threats of defunding or of impugning your reputation, neither of which will work in the case of PCUSA, and both of which are their usual M.O.

      • seafoid on June 23, 2014, 3:17 pm

        J Street , from the Valley of Irrelevance

        “J Street issued a statement on Monday condemning the Presbyterian Church’s decision to divest its stocks from three North Americans companies whose products Israel uses in the West Bank. The Presbyterian Church-USA biennial General Assembly approved the measure 310-303 late Friday evening after hours of at times emotional debate.
        J Street advocates a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and opposes settlement construction. It is explicitly against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.
        At its recent annual summit in San Francisco, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami vowed the organization would never advocate for a boycott of Israel, but warned that it presents a “real and serious threat.”
        In its statement, J Street also noted that the church’s vote to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions and Hewlett-Packard is “far from a victory for the Global BDS Movement, which fails to recognize Israel’s right to exist and rejects Israel’s role as a national home for the Jewish people.” “

    • MRW on June 23, 2014, 3:11 pm

      Don’t piss off a Presbyterian. A whole bunch of them took on the vastly larger British army in 1776 and won. (As Benjamin Franklin wrote, there was a lot of love for the British before the tide turned.)

  15. ohiojoes on June 23, 2014, 12:37 pm

    Well as an extraordinarily lapsed Presbyterian myself, I’d agree in principle with B
    Betsy, but not on the details. The leadership of PCUSA is WAY to the Left of the pews, and the leadership was split nearly 50/50. My guess is the membership is close to national polls on the subject,which are always 70% plus “Israel Israel Israel.”
    Actually the local church members I talked to are convinced this was only done to take attention away from their stance on gays–something I know is not the case.

  16. Betsy on June 23, 2014, 1:09 pm

    @ohiojoes: that’s pretty fascinating theory in your local church!

    I’m only going by my impressions, so I could be way off…a lot of this is probably ‘local’. What you’re describing re/ ‘leadership’ just doesn’t fit what I’m seeing (in a Southern & deep red state). The people who go to GA, are selected by Presbyteries — and in my experience tend to be a “local leadership” or “regional leadership” — e.g., they’re congregational members who are leaders enough in their church & at the Presbytery level to get selected. These are not clearly a ‘left’ of the church. Some of them come from local elites (e.g., in my area, people who are connected to coal industry) and often are very socially cautious. They are more informed & better read than average (that’s built into the PCUSA preparations). And, many of them are more activist (but that can go both ways, the conservatives sometimes mobilize to ‘stack’ GA debates). But, they’re *very* different from the national staff & the mission co-workers, who do very much tend to be much more ‘left’ — but don’t ‘lead’ decisions at GA, tho’ they might have influence (but a lot of the national staff are scared by cut-backs & are being cautious about not angering the base).

    In my own church, I’m feeling a noticeable shift on this issue — it’s a well-educated, but not a ‘left’ church. People who haven’t been paying attention are starting to pay attention & don’t think the Palestinians are being treated fairly. It would be interesting to do a poll on rank & file Presbys. I doubt it would come out at the national average — because theologically, there’s just not that attachment to ‘land-fundamentalism’ in a Zionist way, that you find among Christian fundamentalists. The Reformed tradition I think emphasizes the way God can take away ‘land promises’ if there’s injustice — so at best, it seems like there’s a ‘soft Zionism’ — which really doesn’t go very deep.

    I really think that a more significant factor in local churches & presbyteries, has to do with numbers of Temples nearby & the kind of relationship with them. My parents’ church is very ‘left’ in a big East Coast city, but includes *more* divisions on this issue, because the folks strongly against divestment, are deeply connected socially with Zionist Jewish networks — and are facing off fiercely within the church against very strong ‘progressives’ on the issue. It’s a very different dynamic than in my ‘red state’ & Southern & more conservative church — where folks are mostly baffled & only now waking up to it. They won’t like being called haters by guests on CNN, NBC, or by Netanayahu, I can tell you that…

    But, these are just my impressions, following this as very much a rank & filer myself.

    • Mooser on June 23, 2014, 3:34 pm

      “But, these are just my impressions, following this as very much a rank & filer myself.”

      And they leave me with the impression that the Presbyterians have a good chance of coming to constructive and ethical conclusions about the issue by dint of their own efforts. I’m glad they won’t be relying too much, on divine guidance, cause we Jews will need every bit of that we can get.
      I thought I was a pretty cynical old roue but that venom directed at JVP shocked me. Badly.

      • Betsy on June 24, 2014, 1:31 pm

        Hi Mooser!

  17. James Canning on June 23, 2014, 2:11 pm

    Those favoring an end to the Israel-Palestine problem should applaud the Presbyterians.

  18. piotr on June 23, 2014, 9:08 pm

    Fatwa pronounced by Israeli embassy: “It removes its ability to be a constructive partner to promote peace in the Middle East. ”

    That hurts. I imagine a humiliating scene in which the highly coveted badges of “constructive partner” is ripped from Church cassocks. Oh Piotr, your imagination is deficient: they do not have cassocks. So the humiliating scene unfolds as follows: a book in folio lies on an ornate desk, with golden letters on its leather cover: Honor roll of the constructive partners. As cameras roll and flash lights flash, the booked is opened, and at length, the page with entries starting with “Pr” is showed, and the entry “Presbyterian Church of USA” is ceremoniously deleted. A gravelly voiced booms: Organized Jewish Community is deeply disappointed.

    On the other hand, how many times did European Union loose its ability to be a constructive partner? They just seem to do it again and again. The exalted position of the constructive partner is not without risks, as it is very easy to fall from those heights.

  19. richb on June 23, 2014, 10:14 pm

    This is a generational thing. For decades the Institute on Religion and Democracy has been trying to kill the mainline church. Since a lot of them are a bunch of neo-Cons they are militantly pro-Israel and they complained how young *evangelicals* are part of the problem.

    The rise of young leaders in the church who identify (more or less) as evangelicals, and who seem to have a bone to pick with Israel…continues apace.

    This community, which loves to use buzzwords like, well, “community,” is heavily networked and social media-savvy. They are attractive, possess uncommon communication skills, and understand the culture intimately.

    It seems to me that most pro Israel supporters in the church are largely unaware of a titanic challenge that has been incubating for decades.

    As just one example, Margaret Feinberg is an engaging and emerging writer/speaker, based in Colorado. She speaks at events like “Catalyst” and her bio is emblematic of the fresh-faced, “world-changer” persona so prevalent among young evangelicals. Her bio reads, in part:

    “Always up for an adventure, Margaret is known to drive 50 miles to chase down a food truck and snag Groupons for skydiving on a whim. She prefers watching comedies and laughing until her tummy aches over doing sit ups.”

    I note the bio because it is important to understand that this generation will do everything in its power to separate itself from the fundie-meanies of the previous generation. This move away from traditional church began in earnest with writers like Philip Yancey, who lamented their experiences growing up in fundamentalist churches in the South.

    The IRD started their own failed gambit a decade ago:

    By 1989, fundamentalists had recently taken over the Southern Baptist Convention. And in the liberal mainline churches, the conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee and the Methodist group Good News were already growing. ”We have had for a number of years a good number of renewal groups,” said Parker Williamson, chief of the Lay Committee. ”But the I.R.D. and Diane Knippers have been a wonderful help.”

    Now, as Presbyterians prepare for their General Assembly, Alan Wisdom, the institute’s Presbyterian director, says representatives of the institute will be there in force, calling attention to any liberal positions coming out of the church, distributing position papers to delegates and lobbying them in a conservative direction.

    Mr. Wisdom said the institute did not support the idea of a Presbyterian breakup, and almost no one expects a split at this year’s General Assembly. But some conservatives are already drawing up a plan they call ”gracious separation” to divide the church’s assets. ”If we don’t see significant changes in the next two General Assemblies, I suspect we are going to see some manifestation of separation,” Mr. Williamson of the Lay Committee said. ”I hope and pray it would be gracious.”

    The goal was to get the progressives to quit but in the end the so-called gracious separation had the conservative chuches leaving instead. This has tilted the playing field in a progressive direction with increasing pace. A large number of churches left when Amendment 10-A passed in 2010 (which allowed for gay pastors). The one-two gut punch of allowing pastors to marry gay people and divestment will have even more conservatives looking for the exits.

    Even in churches like mine that did not leave as a church, individuals and the leaders who would become commissioners at the GA level are becoming more progressive as conservative individuals leave. My church is best described as a “third way” church so we don’t want the conservatives necessarily to leave but they do anyway. With the rapidly changing demographics within the Presbyterian church it leaves the Jewish establishment flat-footed. Their old playbook simply does not fit our new reality. More nimble groups like JVP will be the ones we partner with in the future.

    • ohiojoes on June 23, 2014, 10:51 pm

      Just read this. PCUSA has lost 40% of its membership since 1990. 40%??

  20. Citizen on June 24, 2014, 8:33 am

    All mainline denominations in America trend declining membership. More and more Christian Americans choose not to affiliate themselves with any church. Here’s the stats on Presbyterian membership decline:

    • Betsy on June 24, 2014, 1:44 pm

      @Citizen: probably true stats (I didn’t check them), but just wanted to make sure you were aware that that website is the organ for conservative The Layman (which has been trying to weaken the ‘social justice’ Presbys for decades). Sorry to go into the sorry weeds of Presby fissures (known among us as the “split Ps”).

      The Layman broke away from PC(USA) in 1965, lead by “corporate leaders” — here’s their self-description– saying they left because of:

      a new social agenda, encapsulated in the new phraseology, “The Scriptures are nevertheless the words of men ….”

      That phrase drew the battle line for the Presbyterian elders who first met in the office of George Champion, then president of Chase Manhattan Bank. They were shocked that the Bible was being reduced to everyday literature. At a time when “God-is-dead” theology was campus and seminary chic, the elders feared that the new confession would have a debilitating effect on the Presbyterian Church.

      The first Lay Committee members were lay leaders of the church, people of means and action. Besides being leaders in their churches, they were leaders in corporate America. They believed that decency and fair play would help their cause. Thus, they respectfully requested that the denomination’s leadership publicize their concern about the new confession. Their request was denied. They offered to buy space in denominational publications to publish their response. The denomination would not sell them space. Then they dug deep into their pockets and sponsored full-page advertisements in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post and other publications.

      they have continued to dig deep into their deep pockets to fund campaigns against feminist theology, gay rights, and most of the major PC(USA) work to date…with a particular gift for well-funded legal wrangles over church property. More choice quotes available at

      • Citizen on June 24, 2014, 3:18 pm

        Thanks for the insider info. I see the two biggest issues were gay marriage and Israel’s occupation. A runner up was female clergy, it appears. I see those presbys who opposed the vote result are making the most out of David Duke’s approval of it–they are joined by the likes of the algemeiner and elders of zion web sites.

  21. dbroncos on June 24, 2014, 3:40 pm


    As I understand it, Presbyterian Church leadership is exclusively responsible for deciding whether or not to stay with PCUSA. Presbyterian bylaws prohibit a congregation wide vote. That makes the decisions about leaving or staying, over issues like gay marriage, etc… much more opaque and subject to the influence of groups like The Layman.

  22. Speedy on June 24, 2014, 7:07 pm

    It looks like some Presbyterians did not drink the cool-aid!
    Bravo to them.

    First Presbyterian Church of Fort Myers, Lee County’s oldest Presbyterian church, went on record Monday night opposition to the vote by its national governing body, Presbyterian Church USA, that they say condemns the nation of Israel and vilifies three American companies.

    Rev. Paul deJong, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church of Fort Myers, said the decision by the local church’s session was unanimous and will be sent to Presbyterian Church USA as a formal protest.

    “We cannot and will not support Presbyterian Church USA in its misguided decision to divest itself of stock in companies whose products Israel uses in the occupied territories,” deJong said. “We stand in full support of Israel’s right to protect its citizens and of all American companies to engage in honest free enterprise.”

    The center of the controversy was a vote Friday by the General Assembly of Presbyterian Church USA to sell stock it owns in Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola because the companies make products used by Israel against Palestinians in the West Bank. The resolution passed 310 to 303.

    “The actions of the denomination are at best misguided, at worst represent outright racism, and certainly give every appearance of intentionally promoting anti-Semitism. One must question the motives of anyone who vilifies Israel with greater fervor than any other nation, especially when we consider the numerous places in which violence is being reported continuously. Indeed, rarely in history has one side held so much power and yet used that power with such restraint as Israel is doing in our day,” Rev. deJong said.

    Rev. deJong said First Presbyterian Church considers the Bible to be the Word of God and the Bible clearly states that the people of Jerusalem (those we now call Jews) are God’s chosen people.

    “There is no defense for anti-Semitism in the guise of peace-making. We find this action by the PCUSA to be indefensible, and we wish to differentiate ourselves from all who would single out for condemnation either Israel as a nation or Jewish people as a race. We call upon all true Christians to do the same,” he said.

    Presbyterian Church USA is the largest Presbyterian body in the nation with more than two million members.

    • Hostage on June 25, 2014, 4:20 am

      It looks like some Presbyterians did not drink the cool-aid! . . . Rev. deJong said First Presbyterian Church considers the Bible to be the Word of God and the Bible clearly states that the people of Jerusalem (those we now call Jews) are God’s chosen people.

      All that proves is that Rev. deJong is an uneducated oaf who needs to drink less Zionist Kool-Aid and catch-up on his reading of the scriptures, his Book of Confessions, the Kairos Palestine document, and etc. “God’s chosen people” isn’t limited to “those we now call Jews”.

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