As support for Israel erodes in many Western countries, especially among liberals and the millennial generation, American-Christian backing for the Jewish state is considered one of the bulwarks against such trends. But not all Christians feel warmly about Israel. During the past several years, a number of leading mainline Protestant churches—including the United Church of Christ, Presbyterian Church (USA), the Episcopal Church, and most recently the United Methodist Church (UMC)—have considered or voted on resolutions supporting the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
In May, at the Church’s quadrennial general conference in Portland, Ore., UMC committees rejected four resolutions that called for divestment from companies doing business in Israel, such as Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett Packard.
“What happened at the UMC’s general conference is a miracle,” Dexter Van Zile, a Christian media analyst for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), told JNS.org.
Van Zile praised the Methodist delegates for going a step further in their decision by voting to encourage UMC institutions “to disaffiliate with the U.S. Committee to End the Occupation, a far-left anti-Israel agitprop organization that includes ISM (International Solidarity Movement) groups that condone violence against Israel and others that agitate for Israel’s destruction.”
“These decisions place the UMC on a separate planet when it comes to dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Van Zile said. “On this planet, the adults are firmly in charge. These days, that’s pretty rare.”
Ethan Felson—executive director of the Israel Action Network (IAN), a strategic initiative of the Jewish Federations of North America and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs—said the UMC’s vote highlights the benefits of liberals and conservatives working together.
“IAN applauds the strong stance of the United Methodist Church general convention in rejecting divestment by a sweeping margin both at the committee and plenary level. Liberals and conservatives came together to reject divestment and investment screens at the general convention,” Felson told JNS.org.
While the Methodist Church’s rejection of BDS—and a similar rejection by the Episcopal Church at its general convention in 2015—mark positive developments for pro-Israel advocates, there remains a broader challenge to win over more support from other mainline Protestant churches. Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Church of Christ (UCC) voted to divest from companies doing business in Israel in 2014 and 2015, respectively.