By Toby Tabachnick, The Jewish Chronicle.
The incoming president of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary is a proponent of divestment from Israel, but what effect his views will have on future clergy who attend the graduate theological school of the Presbyterian Church (USA), located in East Liberty, remains to be seen.
David V. Esterline will succeed William J. Carl III, who is retiring as president of the Seminary in June after nearly 10 years of service. Esterline is currently serving as the director of the Institute for Cross-Cultural Education at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. Once in Pittsburgh, he will also serve as professor of cross-cultural theological education at the Seminary.
The PTS was founded in 1794. About half of its students are affiliated with the PCUSA, but other denominations are represented as well, including Baptists, Methodists, Episcopalians, and Lutherans.
While Esterline admits that “he is not an expert” on the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, he said he was in favor of the divestment resolution that passed the Presbyterian General Assembly in 2014 by a vote of 310 to 303. That resolution called for the divestment of church funds from three companies — Motorola Solutions, Caterpillar and Hewlett-Packard — that the PCUSA claims supply Israel with equipment used in the “occupied territories.”
There is a sharp division in the PCUSA on this issue. A similar resolution was rejected at the previous GA in 2012 by a vote of 333 to 331.
Esterline was one of a dozen members of the church’s Advocacy Committee for Racial Ethnic Concerns who signed on to an open letter in September 2014 to “applaud” the divestment vote.
“The Presbyterian Church (USA) call for the boycott of products made in illegal Israeli colonies and the action of divestment from companies profiting from the occupation of Palestinian territories are but a small step in worldwide recognition that things must change in Palestine/Israel,” the letter reads. “The PCUSA General Assembly actions are a light onto nations.”
Esterline supports divestment from Israel, he said in an interview, because he believes “there are issues of justice here” but noted that he was caught off-guard by the question.