Presbyterians to Hold In-Depth Discussion on Divestment Policy

About 200 lay and ordained leaders from across the Presbyterian Church USA synod and presbyteries will meet next month for an in-depth discussion on the denomination’s policies toward Israel and Palestine. Dubbed, “Steps Toward Peace in Israel and Palestine,” the gathering will specifically tackle the contested “selective divestment” policy adopted by the denomination at its annual meeting last Summer.

“It’s a conference designed to equip leadership in presbyteries and synods,” General Assembly Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick told the Presbyterian News Service. He said it is important for church leaders to be able to interpret these General Assembly actions.

The General Assembly voted to “selectively divest” from companies assisting or profiting from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. While the earliest such a policy would go into effect is in 2006, it has stirred a “considerable” amount of controversy in the past several months; supporters say divestment is a peaceful way to maintain justice in the MidEast, opponents say the policy unjustly targets Israel.

As a result of what the Assembly did the church has “received a great deal of attention,” said Marthame Sanders, missionary-in-residence in the offices of the PC(USA) Worldwide Ministries Division and project team co-manager for the event, to the Presbyterian News Service. “Presbyteries and synods … have been getting asked a lot of questions about this.”

Among the topics to be covered at the meeting are Presbyterian actions and witness in the region, interfaith relationships, and Presbyterian theology, particularly related to Christian Zionism, according to PNS.

The invitation-only event, is scheduled to take place Feb. 10-12 in Louisville, the location of the denomination’s headquarters.