A new Presbyterian statement against anti-Jewish bias has instead prompted an outcry from national Jewish agencies, whose leaders call it a major setback in efforts to improve interfaith relations.

Ethan Felson, a spokesman for the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, called the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s updated "Vigilance Against Anti-Jewish Bias" resource a "very troubling development that we know is similarly discouraging to our many friends in the church."

Representatives from a dozen other Jewish organizations agreed, complaining the revisions give a pro-Palestinian slant to the 3,000-word document, unraveling four years of progress made after they had protested the mainline Presbyterians' move to consider divestment from companies in Israel.

Among other things, Jewish leaders say the new statement criticizes Israel's actions in Palestinian territories without making corresponding statements about terrorism targeting Israelis. They also find fault with the PC(USA) interpretation of the biblical gift of the Promised Land "to all the descendants of Abraham" — a group that would include Christians and Muslims as well as Jews.

Jay Rock, the PC(USA)'s coordinator for interfaith relations, said the revised document reflects a balanced effort to respectfully strive for resolution in the troubled region.

"I will say that talking about the issue of anti-Jewish bias in advocacy for Israeli-Palestinian peace is difficult, because it involves two commitments to justice that can easily seem contradictory," he admitted, declining to comment further on the controversy.

Rock said the document will not be revised again before the church's June 21-28 General Assembly in San Jose, California, where it will be among the top issues discussed by church leaders representing more than 2 million Americans.

Related Elsewhere:

The "Vigilance Against Anti-Jewish Bias" (pdf) document is available at the denomination's website.

Other coverage is available from the Presbyterian Outlook, Jerusalem Post, Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and Presbyterian Layman.