Institute on Religion & Democracy Press Release
May 17, 2016
Contact: Jeff Walton cell: 202-413-5639, e-mail: jwalton@TheIRD.org
“Activists who seek to enroll the church in demonizing Israel serve neither peace nor justice for anybody”
-UM Action Director John Lomperis
Portland, OR—United Methodists have voted to encourage church boards and agencies to end their affiliation with an organization that promotes boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. Delegates from across the 12.1 million-member denomination adopted a proposal asking to conclude agency affiliation with the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation on a vote of 478 to 319 (60 percent to 40 percent) during their quadrennial General Conference meeting in Portland, Oregon.
The General Conference was asked by its public policy arm, the General Board on Church and Society (GBCS), to divest its financial holdings from companies that do business with Israel. Instead, the conference voted to encourage the United Methodist mission board, the General Board on Global Ministries (GBGM) to divest from the anti-Israel coalition, one that GBGM itself was heavily involved in helping establish.
Further votes are expected this week addressing denominational policy towards Israel, including a measure pushed by GBCS that would require church agencies to divest themselves of holdings in Motorola Solutions, Hewlett Packard and Caterpillar, which all sell non-lethal equipment to the Israeli military. The measure was defeated in committee, but may still be considered by the full conference.
The United Methodist Church previously rejected a policy of divestment by a 2-1 margin in 2012, while the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Church of Christ adopted divestment policies at their respective governing conventions.
UM Action Director and Elected General Conference Delegate John Lomperis commented:
“In this surprising move to decisively reject affiliation with this anti-Israel coalition, the United Methodist Church is charting a different path than the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the United Church of Christ.
“United Methodists can seek to be fair brokers between Israelis and Palestinians, or they can immediately marginalize our voice by solely blaming one side.
“The decision to encourage ending our denomination’s affiliation with the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation is an appropriate rejection of a movement that simplistically ignores the numerous complexities of this troubled region while disturbingly singling out the world’s lone Jewish state for demonization.
“Activists who seek to enroll the church in demonizing Israel serve neither peace nor justice for anybody.”