The Presbyterian News Service has posted an item from The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) about the booklet, Zionism Unsettled, written and published by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN). In the article, “Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) remains committed to peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” the PC (U.S.A.), supposedly, absolved themselves from any guilt by claiming that that they had nothing to do with its writing or its publication. And they also pleaded innocence from behind the cover of the diversity of the denomination. They write:
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) policy calls for a negotiated settlement between Israel and Palestine and the right for each to exist within secure and recognized borders. The church has condemned acts of violence on both sides of the conflict, as well as the illegal occupation of Palestinian land by Israeli settlements. Our church has categorically condemned anti-Semitism in all its forms, including the refusal to acknowledge the legal existence of the State of Israel. At the same time, we believe that condemnation of injustices perpetrated in the name of the State of Israel, including the violation of human rights, does not constitute anti-Semitism.
In 2004, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) formed the Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) to help move the church toward the goal of a just peace in Israel/Palestine. The independent group — which speaks to the church and not for the church — recently published a study guide, Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study. The guide is intended to prompt discussion on the ever-changing and tumultuous issue of Israel-Palestine. The IPMN booklet was neither paid for nor published by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).
There is more in the item. Linda Valentine, executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, is quoted in part of the article. It is unclear if the above quote from the article is her’ or even the name or names of those who authored the article. It was undoubtedly a committee of people. At the beginning, in a box, it asks that the reader, if they want more information, to contact Kathy Francis, Communications Director, at 502-569-5194.
It does not matter that the PC (U.S.A.) has neither written nor published the booklet, Zionism Unsettled, they sell the booklet, and the IPMN is a part of their Mission Agency. It will be the members of IPMN and those they work with who will fill up the committee meeting room for Middle East issues and have full right to speak to the commissioners at the 221 General Assembly in June. There will not be another group in the PC (U.S.A.) who has that right. They not only speak to the denomination, they have power in the denomination to guide commissioners the direction they wish them to vote.
If leadership in the denomination, such as Linda Valentine, Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, or Reverend Neal D. Presa, Moderator of the 220th General Assembly would speak out against such statements in the booklet as “Zionism is by nature a system of discrimination and exclusion,” the Jewish community and concerned Presbyterians could begin to breathe a sigh of relief.
There could at least be, once again, dialogue. But it is probable that that door has been closed. As Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein has stated, “Such attacks describing our core belief as 'rooted' in 'intolerable human rights abuses' reveals there is nothing left to talk about with such religious bigots. Jews will now regard PCUSA as a hostile church.” And Presbyterian Pastor, Chris Leighton, writes in an Open Letter to the Presbyterian Church, for the Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies, “To suggest that the Jewish yearning for their own homeland—a yearning that we Presbyterians have supported for numerous other nations—is somehow theologically and morally abhorrent is to deny Jews their own identity as a people. The word for that is “anti-Semitism,” and that is, along with racism, sexism, homophobia, and all the other ills our Church condemns, a sin.”
I wrote a comment under the article, they have not published it. I await the day my denomination will have the courage and sense of righteousness it takes to stand against such evils as anti-Semitism.