Saturday, June 17, 2006

All Of It Is Important

No grand gathering today at General Assembly. Everyone goes into his or her committee, where they will work until tomorrow or Saturday. The commissioners won't gather as a single body again until Monday.

As the committees discuss their business, some of their concerns will be boring. Some will be exciting.

It is all important.

Take "Divestment" for example.

There is a big billboard that commissioners can see as they drive to the Civic Center where the Assembly meets -- "Divestment is not the Road to Peace" -- or something like that.

"What's divestment," Mrs. Apostle John asked me. "Isn't that when Presbytery takes someone's ordination away?"

Well, not in this case.

"Divestment" is a hot button -- one of several at General Assembly.

When it came up in 2004, I thought, "how boring. No one will pay any attention to this."


Let someone mention divestment and people begin to raise their voices, jab index fingers into another person's chest and make bold declarations that often begin with the phrase, "The trouble with you people..."

What is divestment?

The Presbyterian Layman will tell you that divestment is a "resolution called on the denomination to begin phased, selective divestment of corporations that do business with Israel."

Not quite!

Shame on you Layman -- must you always bend the truth?

Divestment is a plan that was approved in 2004 for the Presbyterian Church (USA) to divest its holdings in companies profiting from Middle East conflict and war.

It is a complicated issue that is made more complex because for many it is an emotional issue.

Yesterday I listened Dr. Judea Pearl implore the Presbyterian Church not to continue with the plan for divestment. Standing with several Jewish men in front of a banner that read, "End Divestment Now," Pearl frequently lost his place in his manuscript. He spoke in angry tones about how the Presbyterian Church has betrayed him and his people.

Pearl is the father of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was beheaded in Pakistan by Islamic terrorists.

In his mind, divestment empowers the Islamic terrorists.

Today, however, I attended a committee meeting that was addressing the issue of whether or not to continue the plan for divestment. One Presbyterian elder, speaking in favor of divestment said, "I can't understand the conflict in the Middle East, and never will. It is beyond my understanding. I don't have the wisdom to know how peace can be established there. But one thing I know, as a church we should not be making money off of the suffering of any people."

Betty Dobson told the committee, "I have no credentials. I'm not a politician or a military strategist. I'm just an American and an elder. Our church went to the Middle East for a short term mission. I stayed in the home of a Palestinian family who lived in fear of a knock at the door and a message that they would have to immediately vacate their as-yet-unfinished home so it could be bulldozed by Israel."

It is not a simple issue.

It is one filled with tragedy and dispair and fear and confusion.

One way or the other, the General Assembly will vote on whether or not to continue divestment.

Someone will rejoice.

Someone will be angry.

Whatever the decision, these pastors and elders who vote will certainly do so prayerfully and with a heavy heart at the stories they have heard.


Blogger Colleen said...

Apostle John, help me out here.

You say that The Layman bends the truth, but as far as I can tell, The Layman quote you give in respect to the resolution targeting Israel is closer than your wording to Item 12-01, approved 2 years ago. In Section 7, the resolution states that the 216th General Assembly, "refers to 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." Where in the section calling for divestment is the Middle East specified?

Two summers ago, it's only when the news of divestment's passage surfaced and when an outpouring of Presbyterian and Jewish anger was voiced in response that PC USA leadership began to backpedal and claim that the policy was not just about Israel. It's with that backpedaling that MRTI began its process of looking at companies supporting Palestinian terror as well as those supporting the occupation; hence, a token one of the five named companies was linked to Palestinian terror.

I don't think The Layman is the one bending the truth here.

3:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Colleen, are you telling me that the Layman is right? That the PCUSA is not supposed to invest in Coca-Cola? KFC? Medical supply companies? Purena Dog Chow or any of the other companies that "do business with Israel?"

The Layman is the National Enquirer of our church.

8:56 AM  
Blogger Colleen said...

Anonymous, I am saying that Apostle John has, by citing a specific example, accused The Layman of "always bending the truth." I am demonstrating that when the wording of the section of the resolution that inititated the divestment process is examined, The Layman is closer to the truth than the Apostle is.

In general, my politics and posiitons on social justice matters run closer to Witherspoon Society opinion than The Layman, but I regard the Palestinian/Israeli issue complex enough to wish to keep what facts CAN be established straight. Is that an objectionable desire, Anonymous?

8:00 PM  

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