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June 13, 2019 6:00 am

The Presbyterian Church’s Stance on Israel and Hezbollah Isn’t Funny

avatar by Dexter Van Zile

Opinion

Members of the Presbyterian Church USA’s Israel Palestine Mission Network pose in front of Israel’s security barrier during one of their trips to the Holy Land. The graffiti on the barrier readers “PC (USA) stands with Palestine.” Photo: Twitter.

You simply can’t make this stuff up; it’s like something out of a Mel Brooks movie. Fifteen years after the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) fired its number three official after she met with Hezbollah in Lebanon, the denomination has hired her to serve as president of the corporation charged with managing the church’s real estate and finances.

The PCUSA made the announcement on June 11 that Kathy Lueckert had been asked to serve as president of the church’s “A Corporation.” The decision to hire Lueckert, made by the corporation’s board of directors, will be confirmed by the denomination’s next General Assembly, scheduled to take place in 2020.

“God sure has a good sense of humor,” Lueckert said after learning of her appointment.

Surely.

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Lueckert was fired from her post in late 2004 after denomination officials learned of her participation in the meeting with Hezbollah in Lebanon earlier that year. During that meeting, which was televised, Ronald Stone, a well-known Presbyterian theologian (and an acolyte of Reinhold Niebuhr), told the folks in Hezbollah that in his “recent experience, relations, and conversations with Islamic leaders are a lot easier than dealings and dialogue with Jewish leaders.”

Lueckert apparently had not said anything publicly during the meeting, but was ousted after her return to the US. Church officials had told the Presbyterian delegation not to meet with Hezbollah, but it did anyway. Another Presbyterian staffer, Peter Sulyok, was also fired after the Hezbollah confab.

Apparently Lueckert’s vetting process for her new position, which was facilitated by BoardWalk Consulting, a headhunting firm that works for non-profits — the ADL among them — included discussion of her visit with Hezbollah in Lebanon.

In an article published by the PCUSA’s Mission Agency, Chris Mason, one of the members of the board that voted to hire her declared, “We thought it was fair to ask Kathy about her experience 15 years ago — even though it was 15 years ago and the work of A Corp. is very different. We saw she has learned and changed a lot since then, and her references — some of whom addressed this directly with us — confirmed this.” (If Lueckert ever apologized for her role in the Presbyterian meeting with Hezbollah, it hasn’t been publicized very much.)

It’s pretty unlikely that there will be much opposition to Lueckert’s appointment at the General Assembly in 2020. Presbyterians for Middle East Peace (PFMEP), the organization established to fight against anti-Zionism within the PCUSA, was unable to even put pro-Israel resolutions on the agenda at the PCUSA’s last General Assembly in 2018, and did little more than publish a blog post after 11 Jews were murdered in a Pittsburgh synagogue last October.

Maybe something good will come from this. With Lueckert holding such a prominent position within the PCUSA, the denomination’s elected officials and staffers might feel obligated to hold the line against crazy anti-Israelism from the church’s so-called “peace activists.”

Dexter Van Zile is the Christian Media Analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting (CAMERA).

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