There is a story to tell about committee 15, the Middle East and Peace Making Issues committee of the 220th General Assembly, that I put aside and intended not to write. But after reading the first section of Rev. Dr. Jeffrey DeYoe’s article “Investment, Divestment and the Collective Amnesia of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.),” I decided to share the story and add necessary information to DeYoe’s posting. What I am concerned about is that the Israel/Palestine Mission Network and those they work with are perpetuating misinformation about the investment/divestment policies of the PCUSA’s General Assemblies in regard to Israel and the companies doing business there.
In committee 15, Rev. Brian Ellison, the chair of Mission Responsibilities Through Investment, and now DeYoe, Advocacy Chair of Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) are insisting that the policy has never changed, that the 2006 GA did not reverse the 2004 GA. But there was change.
During Ellison’s presentation, in committee 15, asking commissioners to vote for the Mission Responsibilities Through Investment’s recommendation that three companies doing business in Israel be divested from, he insisted that the GA policies on divestment had not changed. He cited as his proof a news article published by the Presbyterian News Network.
I remembered that news article and how it tended to distort what actually happened in the 2006 committee on the Middle East. When I was asked by a commissioner, and then by vote of the committee to advise them on this issue-I suggested that rather than using a news item they go to the original minutes of both GAs.
The minutes were found and then Ellison read one part of the 2006 minutes stating that what he had said before was his interpretation of those minutes. And although he did read a crucial part he did leave out some important facts. Now DeYoe is attempting to back up what Ellison stated. But that was simply Ellison’s interpretation of the 2006 committee decision. And in fact the moderator of committee 15 suggested that members of the committee read the minutes for themselves and form their own interpretation.
Using an overture from the Mississippi Presbytery to rescind and modify the actions of the 2004 General Assembly the 2006 General Assembly answered with this:
"On this Item, the General Assembly, acted as follows:
The Assembly rejected two attempts to amend the recommendation and then adopted the Committee’s recommendation to answer this item with the following alternate resolution and with comment (by a vote of 483/28/1).
On this Item, the Peacemaking and International Issues Committee, acted as follows:
Approve Alternate Resolution
The committee hereby recommends in response to this recommendation, that the 217th General Assembly (2006) approve the following alternate resolution and comment:
After careful consideration of the overtures brought before the Assembly Committee on Peacemaking and International Issues of the 217th General Assembly (2006), we offer the following recommendations.
1. We acknowledge that the actions of the 216th General Assembly (2004) caused hurt and misunderstanding among many members of the Jewish community and within our Presbyterian communion. We are grieved by the pain that this has caused, accept responsibility for the flaws in our process, and ask for a new season of mutual understanding and dialogue.
To these ends, we replace the instructions expressed in Item 12-01 (Minutes, 2004 Part I, pp. 64–66) Recommendation 7, which reads
“7. Refers to Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI) with instructions to initiate a process of phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel, in accordance to General Assembly policy on social investing, and to make appropriate recommendations to the General Assembly Council for action.”
with the following:
“7. To urge that financial investments of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), as they pertain to Israel, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank, be invested in only peaceful pursuits, and affirm that the customary corporate engagement process of the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investments of our denomination is the proper vehicle for achieving this goal.”
2. Direct Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) to ensure that its strategies for engaging corporations with regard to Israeli and Palestinian territories
a. Reflect the application of fundamental principles of justice and peace common to Christianity, Islam, and Judaism that are appropriate to the practical realities of Israeli and Palestinian societies.
b. Reflect commitment to positive outcomes.
c. Reflect awareness of potential impact upon the stability, future viability, and prosperity of both the Israeli and Palestinian economies.
d. Identify affirmative investment opportunities as they pertain to Israel, Gaza, East Jerusalem, and the West Bank.
3. We call upon the church:
a. To work through peaceful means with American and Israeli Jewish, American and Palestinian Muslim, and Palestinian Christian communities and their affiliated organizations for an end to all violence and terror against Palestinian and Israeli civilians.
b. To work through peaceful means with American and Israeli Jewish, American and Palestinian Muslim, and Palestinian Christian communities and their affiliated organizations to end the occupation.
c. To work through peaceful means with American and Israeli Jewish, American and Palestinian Muslim, and Palestinian Christian communities and their affiliated organizations towards the creation of a socially, economically, geographically, and politically viable and secure Palestinian state, alongside an equally viable and secure Israeli state, both of which have a right to exist.
d. To encourage and celebrate efforts by individual Presbyterians, congregations, and judicatories of our church to communicate directly and regularly with Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities, sponsor programs likely to improve relations among Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and engage in peacemaking in the Middle East.
4. The 217th General Assembly (2006) does not believe that the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) should tell a sovereign nation whether it can protect its borders or handle matters of national defense. The problem with the security wall, in 2004 and presently, is its location. The 217th General Assembly (2006) supports fair criticism of the security wall insofar as it illegally encroaches into the Palestinian territory and fails to follow the legally recognized borders of Israel since 1967 demarcated by the Green Line. To the extent that the security barrier violates Palestinian land that was not part of Israel prior to the 1967 war, the barrier should be dismantled and relocated.
5. Recognizing that the situation on the ground in the Israel-Palestine area is rapidly changing, the General Assembly Council (GAC) is directed to carefully monitor ongoing developments of the situation in the Middle East and to examine the polices of the PC(USA) related to the Middle East, in order to make a comprehensive report to the 218th General Assembly (2008).
6. Instructs the Stated Clerk to communicate Recommendations 1. through 5. above to the United States’ president, vice president, secretary of state, and members of Congress; to Israeli and Palestinian leaders in the Middle East; to the membership of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); to leadership of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faith bodies and denominations in the United States and the Middle East with whom we are in communication.
Comment: The Assembly received twenty-six overtures pertaining to the Middle East. The recommendation is the result of the General Assembly’s honest and sincere effort to address the issues and concerns that appeared in the overtures in a comprehensive and concise document.
[Counted Vote - Committee]
Abstaining: 3 "
It is important to read all of this in order to understand that the 2006 GA did change the actions of the 2004 General Assembly and that change began with an apology which I will repeat since this was an important part that Ellison and now DeYoe left out of their story:
"1. We acknowledge that the actions of the 216th General Assembly (2004) caused hurt and misunderstanding among many members of the Jewish community and within our Presbyterian communion. We are grieved by the pain that this has caused, accept responsibility for the flaws in our process, and ask for a new season of mutual understanding and dialogue."
It also must be remembered that this statement, “7. Refers to Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI) with instructions to initiate a process of phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel, in accordance to General Assembly policy on social investing, and to make appropriate recommendations to the General Assembly Council for action,” was removed.
Notice that nowhere in the new instructions does the 2006 General Assembly ask the MRTI “to initiate a process of phased selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel.”
There is much more in the article by DeYoe including a slur on Presbyterians For Middle East Peace—but it is extremely important that DeYoe and Ellison do not, with their words, wipe out the actions of the 2006 GA.