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Methodists reject divestment

Methodists overwhelmingly defeated measures calling for divestment from companies that allegedly enable Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.

The resolutions, targeting companies like Caterpillar, which manufactures tractors, and Motorola, which manufactures security systems, had drawn much media scrutiny before this week’s United Methodist Church General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas.

Jewish groups were even more offended by a background document prepared in connection with the motions than they were by the notion of divestment itself. According to Jewish groups, the document was dismissive of Jewish concerns about anti-Semitism and ventured into “replacement theology,” the belief that Christianity has superseded Judaism.

An alliance of grassroots church activists who nurture ties to the Jewish community helped defeat five divestment resolutions, often in the early stages of the conference.

Those activists also helped pass resolutions opposing the proselytizing of Jews and promoting Holocaust awareness and the fight against anti-Semitism.

Ethan Felson, the associate executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, a public policy umbrella group bringing together national organizations and local, attended the conference. He credited outreach by Jewish groups across the country to sympathetic Methodists, and called the defeat of the resolutions a “turning point.”

“The church has spoken that they don’t want this one-sided approach to their witness,” Felson said Friday, the last day of the conference.

“This wasn’t about a national campaign, it was about community to community,” he said. “This was about relationships.”

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