Media sleuths have lined up to hear what Jews are saying about the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. General Assembly's resolution to divest investment funds from companies doing business with Israel. But they have missed the more interesting story. The much stronger and greater protest is coming from rank-and-file Presbyterians.

The resolution implies that Israel, the only democracy in the region, and a country that allows unrestricted freedom of worship to Christians, should be stigmatized as apartheid. Initial coverage of the resolution included statements by supporters predicting that divestment would be effective to bring Israel to its knees, just as it did to South Africa. (Recent attempts by Stated Clerk Clinton Kirkpatrick to smooth over this point will fall on deaf ears. In a letter to Bill Clinton in 2000, Kirkpatrick himself called Israel a place where "Palestinian Christians and Muslims [are] forced to live under a clear form of apartheid.")

Besides being morally offensive, the resolution will also be counterproductive. Instead of bringing people on both sides closer to negotiations, it will do the opposite. It will embolden both terrorists and lawless elements in the growing chaos of the Palestinian leadership, while sending a message to Israel that she had better toughen up, because even salt-of-the-earth Americans are losing their moral compass.

You don't have to be a spiritual rocket scientist to figure out that millions of Jews are upset. Because it is predictable, it is not much of a story.

Less predictable, however, is the reaction of many ordinary Presbyterians, who in far greater numbers have been expressing their vehement objections to the decision of a church leadership that may have lost touch with its own membership. I will admit to being a Jew who has both a strong love for the State of Israel and many deep friendships in the Christian community. From my listening post at the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles I have picked up multiple indications of large-scale discontent within the Presbyterian community. Let's place it someplace between "significant" and a "groundswell." Here are just a few examples:

Every caller to Dennis Prager's nationally syndicated talk show who stated his or her opinion on the matter was Presbyterian, and was in disagreement with the PC moves. Callers to Stand to Reason, a Christian radio talk program, were similarly incensed.

Gregg Meister, an ordained PCUSA minister who heads up Interlink Media, told us that "the actions of the Presbyterian Church's General Assembly do not accurately reflect the beliefs and convictions of the people in the pews. We share with Israel belief in the same God and the same democratic system. No Arab state does. I am confident that the majority of people in our denomination strongly support Israel's right to exist and to defend itself."

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An official voice of dissent also came from The Presbyterian Church in Canada, which announced that it would not be part of the American General Assembly's decision.

When I called the Rev. Mark Brewer, pastor of Bel Air Presbyterian, former spiritual home to Ronald Reagan, he told me that no issue has produced as much irate reaction from his parishioners as this one. An elder at a different church who is a delegate to the local presbytery told me that he intended to bring up the dissatisfaction at the next monthly meeting.

An ad-hoc group of volunteers called Los Angeles area Presbyterian churches, selected randomly from the phone book. Nine out of ten expressed discontent with the resolution.

One local pastor complained to me that the resolution was only a symptom of the problem he sees as a Presbyterian—a church that is supposed to be taking its cues from the churches on the front, instead become top-heavy with hierarchy.

Dissatisfaction with leadership that leans to the left of many parishioners is partly behind the growth of the Confessing Church Movement, some 1,300 congregations strong, and approaching a half million members.

I hope that many Jews will find solace in the knowledge that there are cracks in the edifice of the demonizers of Israel, and that they have some good friends in the Presbyterian Church, once they get past an administration that does not always speak for its constituency. I also hope that Christians of all stripes who are truly interested in furthering a just peace in the Holy Land will soon learn that the Presbyterian Church as a whole was somewhat less than resolute in its resolution.

Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein is director of Project Next Step, an educational outreach program The Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. Views expressed in Speaking Out do not necessarily represent those of Christianity Today.

Related Elsewhere:

Christianity Today's Weblog earlier covered the controversy over the divestment resolution (second item).

Another article on our site today focuses on a separate controversy during the General Assembly: the debate over actively homosexual ministers.

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Other coverage of the divestment controversy includes:

Jews, Presbyterians at oddsThe Journal News, White Plains, N.Y. (Aug. 4, 2004)
Presbyterians' shameful boycott—Alan M. Dershowitz, Los Angeles Times (Aug. 4, 2004)
An interfaith friendship frayed | Presbyterians and Jews face off over votes at the Presbyterian General Assembly—Time (Aug. 2, 2004)
A prayer for Presbyterians to reach out to Jewish people | We are stunned, shocked and outraged—God Squad, South Florida Sun-Sentinel (July 31, 2004)
Scholars for Peace criticizes Presbyterians—The Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa. (July 30, 2004)
Presbyterians ignite divestment uproar—The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles (July 30, 2004)
Statement on Israel-Palestine spawns backlash v. backlash—The Layman (July 28, 2004)
PCUSA is divesting itself—Uwe Siemon-Netto, UPI (July 28, 2004)
Presbyterians or prostitutes?—Joseph Farah, WorldNetDaily (July 27, 2004)
Presbyterians lead the irreligious left—Adam Sparks, SFGate (July 26, 2004)
Tension divides Jewish, Presbyterian leaders | Israel, conversion issues spur debate—The Courier-Journal, Louisville, Ky. (July 26, 2004)
Presbyterians try to mend damaged ties with Jews—Religion News Service (July 23, 2004)
ADL blasts Presbyterians' anti-Israel vote—Associated Press (July 23, 2004)
Presbyterians under fire over divestment vote | Jewish organizations are arguing over whether to end all contact with the Christian denomination—The Forward (July 22, 2004)
Assembly endorses Israel divestment | Palestinian says merely issuing another statement is not enough—Presbyterian News Service (July 2. 2004)