Our General Assembly met last week in Detroit. General Assembly meets every two years and is the broadest governing body within our denomination. It is not unlike Congress, with representatives from various regional bodies (in our case, Presbyteries). that gather to direct, debate and decide many things which affect the entire church. As always, there were a number of decisions made (for a quick, one-page review, click here), though two decisions are getting most of the attention.
I mentioned the decisions regarding same-gender marriage in my last post and more is coming on that.
The other decision that is getting lots of attention is the one to divest our stock holdings from three companies (Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar and Motorola) whose products were used (in the opinion of the GA) to hamper the peace process in Israel. This has been a contentious issue for more than a decade. It is made more contentious because the perception of what was decided is not the same as the decision itself. Below are some resources to help understand what was done- and what wasn't:
Various news organizations picked up the story, including FoxNews. It gives an overview of the decision and some of the initial reaction.
It was a close vote, reflecting the deep differences of opinion on what should be done to further the peace process in Israel. You get a feel for the deep divide on this issue from these two letters: The first is from Israel/Palestinian Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (who were in favor of the decision)and the second is from two pastors who have worked on interfaith issues for years and who were against the decision. This decision was part of several that were made (an overview is here) throughout the week regarding Israel and the debate included an open letter from Archbishop Desmond Tutu urging the GA to declare Israel and apartheid state and divest themselves from the holdings in question. While the GA voted to divest assets from the three companies, they did not declare Israel an apartheid state.
So what was actually decided? John Bell is a friend and colleague who was one of the commissioners from the Denver Presbytery who was there. He did a great job of summarizing the actions in his blog, as well as including the actual wording of the resolution. Whether you agree or not with the decision (I have mixed feelings myself), take a moment and read the words for yourself.