Episcopal leaders vote against divestmentUnited Church of Christ approves motion

The Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops overwhelmingly rejected a motion to divest from companies doing business with Israel in the West Bank, two days after the United Church of Christ, also overwhelmingly, voted in favor of such a resolution.

The Episcopal leadership body, meeting at the church’s general convention in Salt Lake City, in a voice vote on July 2 rejected the proposal to divest from businesses that have operations in the West Bank and to boycott West Bank settlement products.

The American Jewish Committee, which was represented at the Episcopal convention as an observer, welcomed the rejection, saying the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement does not advance peace.

“AJC has long supported direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians leading to an enduring two-state solution, and, in that spirit, welcomes interreligious partners who genuinely champion peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” it said in a statement.

Separately, the Mennonite Church USA, meeting in Kansas City, Missouri, delayed the consideration of a divestment resolution until 2017.

On June 30, at its synod in Cleveland, the United Church of Christ voted 508-124 with 38 abstentions overwhelmingly to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s control of the West Bank.

That divestment motion is the broadest passed so far by a church. The Presbyterian Church (USA) last year divested from three companies that provide Israel with security equipment used in the West Bank.

“In recent years, the UCC has been part of a chorus of churches that pin sole responsibility for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on just one side — Israel,” the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an umbrella body for public policy groups, said in a statement. It was one of several issued by mainstream Jewish groups slamming the vote.

“While neither side is blameless in the conflict, a position that assigns exclusive accountability for the continuation of the conflict to the Jewish state is deeply skewed and raises troubling questions,” the JCPA said.

The United Church of Christ says on its website that it has 1.1 million members in the United States. — jta