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Marriage, Anti-Israel Divestment Fights Ahead for Presbyterians Gathering in Detroit

Contact: Jeff Walton, Institute on Religion and Democracy, 202-682-4131, 202-413-5639, jwalton@TheIRD.org

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2014 /Christian Newswire/ -- Amid spiraling membership, proposals to redefine marriage and end denominational investments with companies that do business with Israel will be before commissioners this week at the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly meeting June 14-21 in Detroit, Michigan.

Over the last two reporting years the PCUSA has lost nearly 200,000 members, plunging to 1.76 million. At the current rate, the denomination will have no members in 20 years or less.

But activist church elites have other priorities. Overtures before the General Assembly would require church agencies to divest themselves of holdings in Motorola Solutions, Hewlett Packard and Caterpillar, which all sell non-lethal equipment to the Israeli military.

The PCUSA adopted a policy of divestment in 2004, reversing itself two years later in the face of strong criticism. In 2008, the Assembly pledged that "we will not over-identify with the realities of the Israelis or the Palestinians" and warned against "taking broad stands that simplify a very complex situation into a caricature of reality, where one side clearly is at fault and the other side is clearly the victim."

Presbyterians will also consider changing the church's definition of marriage to a relationship between any "two people." In 2012, the assembly declined to sanction same-sex marriages in a 51 to 49 percent vote, after having revoked in 2010 the church's expectation of celibacy in singleness and monogamy in natural marriage, which prompted hundreds of congregations to depart.

IRD President Mark Tooley commented:

    "Dramatic membership implosion might inspire self-reflection. But oldline Protestant elites too typically don't reflect much on their 50-year spiral from Mainline to sideline.

    "The PCUSA's stated clerk claims the denomination is meeting the 'challenges.' The real challenge is that the PCUSA has not in a long time adhered vigorously to orthodox Christianity, which is by itself no guarantor of church health but is an essential ingredient for vitality. There are orthodox Christians remaining in the PCUSA, but they are not affirmed by denominational policies.

    "The big issues facing this General Assembly -- same sex rites and anti-Israel divestment -- are hardly motivating evangelistic tools. Hopefully the PCUSA will at least reject anti-Israel divestment as destructive to both peace and justice. But absent divine intervention, the PCUSA currently is on a sad, inexorable trajectory for which there's no likely happy ending."