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Denver Presbyterian clergy defend national moves but say they’re not BDS

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Anne Wainsten Bond and Rev. John BellTHERE was a time, not that long ago, when Jews and Presbyterians — in Denver and across the country — happily broke bread together.

There were shared trips to the Holy Land, plentiful opportunities for interfaith services and activities as well as joint action on human rights and social justice issues, particularly among Reform and Conservative Jews whose progressive agenda often coincided with that of Presbyterians.

Those days — at least for the moment — are over.

A resolution narrowly passed in June at the biennial General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has become a painful wedge between the communities.

Although the resolution is actually quite narrow in focus, directing the national church to divest from three US corporations that sell military equipment which ultimately ends up in the hands of the Israel Defense Forces, Jews have taken serious umbrage to its passage.

In the wake of the 310-303 Presbyterian vote in favor of the resolution, American Jewish organizations and media have characterized the action as comparable to the activism of the BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) movement, as anti-Zionist, even — in a few cases — as anti-Semitic.

All of which, two Denver Presbyterian leaders told the Intermountain Jewish News last week, is dead wrong.

HAD Presbyterians actually taken all the anti-Israel actions many Jews apparently believe they did, said Anne Wainstein Bond, stated clerk of the Denver Presbytery, their anger might be justifiable.

“But I think it’s based on a misunderstanding of what the action actually was,” she says.

Rev. John Bell, pastor of Wellshire Presbyterian Church, the largest congregation in the Denver Presbytery, takes it a step further.

“This is a free country with a free press and Jews are certainly entitled to have whatever reaction they want,” he says. “In this case, I believe that most of the criticism against the action that was taken is unjust, unfair and unwarranted.”

The rest of this article is available in the August 1, 2014 IJN print and digital edition only. Contact Carol to order your copy at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or subscribe to our online e-Edition.

 

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