At the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), held last month in Detroit, members of the governing body voted to allow Presbyterian clergy to preside at same-sex weddings in states where same-sex marriage is legal (see “PCUSA votes to divest funds, to marry gays where legal”). They also approved an amendment to the church’s constitution that would change the definition of marriage from “between a man and a woman” to “between two persons, traditionally a man and a woman.” For the next two years, 173 local presbyteries will debate and vote on the change.
This is a huge step toward full equality for the gay and lesbian community in the church and society.
The other issue that dominated the assembly was a vote to divest Presbyterian funds from three companies whose products are deemed harmful to the Palestinian people and prospects for peace: Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, and Motorola. The economic impact on the corporations will be minimal; in fact, in an ironic twist, their executives may be relieved that Presbyterians won’t be showing up at corporate headquarters asking for high-level meetings and offering stockholder resolutions. The vote has been noted by other mainline denominations agonizing over Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people and will be applauded by the international BDS movement (boycott, divestment, sanctions), whose supporters argue for abandoning the two-state solution—an independent and secure Palestine and Israel living together in peace—for a one-state solution in which Jews would be outnumbered and Israel, as a Jewish state, would eventually disappear.
The decision reverberated among those in the American-Jewish community, which overwhelmingly sees the move as anti-Israel if not anti-Semitic. Even Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu weighed in, sharply criticizing the Presbyterian decision on CNN.