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March 13, 2018 1:17 pm

A Dying Church Takes Time to Give Israel a Kick

avatar by Dexter Van Zile / JointMedia News Service

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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.

JNS.org – You have to hand it to the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA). Its leaders can’t figure out how to recruit new members or stop churches from leaving the denomination in droves — but they sure do know how to run a propaganda war against Israel, and its Jewish supporters in the United States.

Like the Palestinians — for whom the PCUSA advocates so irresponsibly — officials and activists in the PCUSA are more intent on attacking Israel and its supporters in the United States than promoting the welfare of the community that they lead.

About the best that can be said for the denomination is that it isn’t losing as many members as it used to. In fact, that was the underlying message of a press release written last March by Jerry Van Marter, interim communications director in the PCUSA’s Office of the General Assembly. In a piece about the church’s ongoing collapse, Van Marter’s headline declared that “PC(USA) membership decline continues but slows.”

In 2016, the denomination lost almost 90,000 members — or 5.7 percent of its membership from the year before. In 2015, the church lost 95,000 members from the year before, which represented a 5 percent decline.

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How did Van Marter spin it? “Hey, we lost 5,000 fewer members last year than we did the year before!” Still, he wasn’t able to sugarcoat the decline, reporting, “The denomination experienced an all-time low in total member losses, but also an all-time low in total member gains.”

He’s not kidding. In 1993, the church had 3.1 million members; in 2016, it had less than 1.5 million.

The delegates who attend the PCUSA’s General Assembly, which will take place in St. Louis in June 2018, may spend some time talking about this decline and what to do about it — but a lot of their time and energy will also be directed at promoting anti-Israel propaganda to the church’s declining membership.

One overture already on the agenda directs the PCUSA General Assembly to affirm the right “to criticize practices and policies of Israel, as we do any other global political entity, without fear of being labeled anti-Semitic.” The same resolution calls on the church to articulate its “faith with confidence, humility, and integrity, and anticipate respect for our own faith convictions, as we also would respect others.”

This resolution is pretty rich coming from a church whose peace activists have regularly trafficked in anti-Jewish propaganda over the years, while remaining virtually silent about the ongoing murder and oppression of Christians in Muslim-majority countries throughout the world.

The fact is, the “global entity” that the denomination regularly condemns is Israel. Jihad is a global reality, but good luck finding any direct reference to it on the PCUSA’s website. And as far as “respect,” were PCUSA activists being respectful when they posted an image of President Barack Obama wearing “Star of David” earrings a few years ago?

Another resolution on the PCUSA’s agenda calls for the church to affirm a letter written by Palestinian Christian leaders that — among other things — declares that the Balfour Declaration was “unjust and unlawful,” accusing Israel of apartheid and describing the Jewish state as a “colonial state.” Arguments like this affirm Palestinian rejectionism and promote more Palestinian violence against Israel.

But as outrageous as these resolutions are, they are not going to be the main show at the upcoming PCUSA summit. They will surely generate criticism and anger from American Jews — but they are merely smoke and camouflage to distract observers from a pro-BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) resolution that will likely be put forward sometime between now and June.

Currently, there is an overture on the agenda that opposes legislative efforts to ban anti-Israel boycotts, but observers fully expect to see a more explicit attempt on the part of Presbyterian activists to push the BDS agenda forward.

An explicitly pro-BDS overture has yet to be posted on the denomination’s website, but one is almost surely in the offing — and if it passes, anti-Israel activists will claim a victory against the evil of Zionism.

The intention of the activists and staffers in the PCUSA is to distract and enrage Israel’s supporters with an opening salvo of shameful resolutions in the hopes of sneaking a pro-BDS resolution past a distracted and exhausted community of pro-Israel activists. It is all part of a sophisticated and intentional strategy of Jew-baiting that the denomination’s peace activists and leaders have been perfecting for more than a decade — while their church dies.

Dexter Van Zile is a Christian media analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).

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  • Jeffrey

    PCUSA is considered a liberal, apostate denomination by many Bible-beliecing Christians because of thier liberal theology and yes, their Anti-Semitic policies against Israel. A cow can say it’s a swan all day long but everytime it goes ‘moo’, you know enough. True Christians denounce the PCUSA and are happy with its demise because it ids a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

  • “to criticize practices and policies of Israel, as we do any other global political entity, without fear of being labeled anti-Semitic.”
    Isn’t that what the women’s march organization said; you know, the organization who, it turns out, its leaders met with and exalted Louis Farrakhan? Turns out their, and probably the PCUSA’s, “criticism of Israel isn’t antisemitism” ricocheted right back at them.

  • Larry M. Goldstein

    The membership losses of this anti-Israel group are far worse than suggested in the article. For about 20 years, 1984-2004, the group was losing about 1-2% per year. In the period 2005-2007, the loss was 2-3% per year, and from 2008-2011, 3-4% per year. But in five year period 2012-2016, losses have been, respectively, 5.26%, 4.83%, 5.54%, 5.70%, and an all-time high of 5.71% in 2016. (Wikipedia on “Presbyterian Church USA”.) Moreover, of thirty religious groups surveyed in the US in 2016, the Presbyterians were by far the oldest, with an average of 59 years. (“Which US religious groups are oldest and youngest?”, Pew Research, July 11, 2016.) So the PCUSA is definitely on its way out.

    Why has this old and dying church chosen to lead the charge against Israel? Is there any connection between their imminent demise and anti-Israelism? I can think of two possible connections. First, people do not like to go alone. They might feel better if the Jews in particular would go out with them. Second, their general attitude may be exactly the thing that is driving young people away. Evangelicals, people who are committed Christians, are overwhelmingly pro-Israel. The more devout of the Presbyterians who see the attitude of the PCUSA may be turned off, and hence drop their membership. Whatever the true cause, the Presbyterian Church will be gone in a few years, but Israel will survive. Larry M. Goldstein