June 22, 2014
PCUSA's New Moderator Unsettled by CNN Scrutiny
It is hard not to feel sorry for Heath Rada, the newly elected moderator of the Presbyterian Church (USA). He just got himself elected to one of the most important posts in a very troubled institution and now he has to defend its actions.
Right after the General Assembly of his denomination met in Detroit and approved an overture that instructs his denomination to sell $21 million worth of stock in companies whose products are used by the Israeli government, he appeared on CNN and was asked some pretty direct questions by journalists who miraculously enough, were intent on doing their job!
Rada had a very difficult time responding.
Not only was Rada challenged by his hosts on CNN about the wisdom of the decision to divest from companies that do business with Israel, he was challenged over the sale of some ugly propaganda on PC(USA)’s website.
Rada had to know he was in trouble when he was challenged on the wisdom of divesting from companies whose products are used by Israel. “Do you really think that you’ve become a peacemaker by alienating Jews here in America and those receiving your message in Israel?”
Rada bumbled through this question by stating that “many of the people with whom I have had personal conversations with recognize that we care deeply [about Presbyterian-Jewish relations]…” It’s a laughable assertion refuted by Rabbi Rick Jacobs later in the video who said that the vast majority of American Jews – whom he represents – were offended by the divestment vote. (Yet another example of a Christian leader trying to anoint the leaders of the Jewish community in the U.S. It happens a lot.)
Things got even uglier when the host asked about Zionism Unsettled, a hateful and dishonest text produced by the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), a group of so-called peace activists with a long history of demonizing Israel and American Jews. The host asked how the PC(USA) can profess its love for its Jewish sisters and brothers in light of some of the rhetoric in Zionism Unsettled. “It seems as if the rhetoric at least, does not speak to your love for, as you say, your Jewish brothers and sisters,” he asked.
In response Rada invoked a overture passed by the General Assembly in Detroit that stated that Zionism Unsettled does not represent the viewpoint of the PC(USA). Interestingly enough, the overture initially instructed the denomination to stop selling the text, but this section was removed in committee and approved as amended by the General Assembly. Rada said:
“Our General Assembly distanced itself, saying we do not support the statements that were made in Zionism Unsettled. We as a denomination do not affirm that terminology.”
The host responded, “But you’re still selling it on the Presbyterian USA website. It still is a teaching guide on your website. I looked at it this morning.
Rada admitted “It still is available but there are some elements over which we do not have control. That is being explored right now to see how we’re going to handle it.”
The host had none of it. “Can you explain how you don’t have control? You either sell it or you don’t.”
Rada stated “it has been on our list. It takes a bit of time. We’ve been here at the General Assembly. It takes a bit of time for us to move forward on what is going to be continued to be sold and what is not…”
A bit of time?
How much time do the leaders of the PC(USA) in Louisville need to stop selling Zionism Unsettled? It’s been a source of controversy for the denomination since its publication early this year.
And Rada should know that. CAMERA sent him a letter about Zionism Unsettled on February 15, 2014. (The text is appended below.)
The upshot is this: It’s not going to get any easier for Heath Rada to defend his denomination’s actions.
Letter to Heath Rada
Here is the letter to Heath Rada sent on Feb. 15, 2014 via email under the subject "A Note about Zionism Unsettled, the IPMN and the PC(USA)."
Dr. Heath K. Rada
My name is Dexter Van Zile.
I write to you on behalf of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA). CAMERA is a media-monitoring group that promotes fair and accurate coverage of issues related to the Middle East, with a particular emphasis on the Arab-Israeli conflict. Our work can be seen at www.camera.org. I write to you in your capacity as a member of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board of the Presbyterian Church (USA).
I write to you about Zionism Unsettled, a text prepared by the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA). As you are probably aware, this text has been roundly condemned by leaders of the Jewish community in the United States. They assert, correctly, that the text promotes hostility toward Israel and represents an attack on Jews and Judaism.
One of the more eloquent, and incisive condemnations of this document comes from Rev. Dr. Christopher Leighton, a PC(USA) scholar and executive director of Institute for Christian and Jewish Studies. He describes the text as the modern-day equivalent of the “Zionism is Racism” resolution passed by the UN General Assembly in 1975.
Although the United States played a vital role in exposing the anti-Semitic underpinnings of this resolution and for sixteen years worked valiantly and, ultimately, successfully to rescind this smear campaign, the Presbyterian Church is poised to resuscitate this vicious platform.
Rev. Dr. Leighton’s assessment has been confirmed by the people who have welcomed the text. The text has been praised by PressTV, which has been described by the ADL as a promoter of anti-Semitism. It has also been praised by the David Duke’s website, davidduke.com. As you are probably aware, David Duke is a well-known anti-Semite. In the weeks ahead, I will be engaging in a detailed analysis of this text, but it suffices to say that promotes false and vile notions of Jewish supremacy. That is why David Duke was jubilant about Zionism Unsettled. (I hope you forgive me for not providing a link to David Duke’s website.)
The fact that a Presbyterian-produced text has been lauded by people like this should come as a shock. The fact that this document is actually sold on the PC(USA)’s website brings shame and disgrace on the Presbyterian Church (USA) whose historical antecedents have been a bulwark of American civil society. The question I beg you to ask yourself is simply, “What is going on?”
Sadly, close observers are not surprised that the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA) has produced such a text like this. This was where the IPMN was headed since its created by a 2004 vote of the General Assembly.
The organization was charged with educating Presbyterians about the Arab-Israeli conflict, has done nothing of the sort. Instead, it has been a regular source of anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist propaganda which it has directed both at members of the PC(USA) and the general public.
In the past decade, the IPMN has falsely accused Jewish groups of engaging in acts of terrorism in the United State. One of its leaders Noushin Framke, even encouraged Hamas to hold onto Israeli soldier Corporal Gilad Shalit as a bargaining chip in its conflict with Israel.
I could go on, but it suffices to say that the IPMN has helped legitimize anti-Semitic discourse in the United States. And despite repeated communications to PC(USA) officials in Louisville, no one seems intent on reining the organization in. Instead, PC(USA) officials have offered a two-fold response.
First they say have said that the organization operates independently of the PC(USA). And then they have asserted that the organization is just trying to start a conversation.
Both responses insult the intelligence. The IPMN does not operate independently. It is dependent on the PC(USA). The denomination collects funds for the IPMN on its website. The denomination’s web store is the one place on the Internet where people can get copies of Zionism Unsettled. The PC(USA) is devoting resources to spreading hate and misinformation.
As far as just trying to start a conversation about Zionism, the PC(USA) has been talking about the Jews and their homeland since 2004. It’s not trying to start a conversation, but to degrade the discourse within the PC(USA) about Israel. And it has been hugely successful on this score.
Officials from both the PC(USA) and IPMN have stated repeatedly that the booklet was not paid for with denomination funds, but was paid for solely out of the coffers of the IPMN. This raises an important question: Who gave the IPMN the money it needed to produce this text?
This is a crucial issue for the PC(USA) to address because as far as anyone can tell, the IPMN is operating under the PC(USA)’s tax-exempt 501c3 status (and the IPMN has not filed any documents (990s) with the IRS). Under these conditions, any funds donated to the IPMN are donations to the PC(USA) itself.
The fact that the PC(USA) does not exert any meaningful oversight over the IPMN – as U.S. tax law requires – does not absolve the denomination for ultimately responsibility for the publication of Zionism Unsettled.
In light of all this, I ask that you use your influence as a member of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board to do the following.
1. Tell the officials who work in Louisville to stop misleading PC(USA) members and the general public about the connection between the PC(USA) and the IPMN. The IPMN is part of the PC(USA) even if denominational officials have failed to provide the necessary oversight to the organization. If the IPMN is operating outside of the denomination’s 501c3 status, officials need to say so. If they are operating within the PC(USA) 501c3, that needs to be reported as well.
2. Instruct PC(USA) officials to stop selling Zionism Unsettled on the denomination’s store. It qualifies as hate speech.
3. Instruct the PC(USA) officials to apologize for both the publication and distribution of the text and for misleading people about the relationship between the denomination and the IPMN.
4. Initiate a process by which the denomination separates itself from the IPMN as an institution.
By creating the IPMN in 2004 and by assisting it's efforts over the years, the Presbyterian Church (USA) set into motion a regrettable process by which the denomination's "brand" has been damaged. This damage cannot be undone by misleading, vague and, evasive statements about the relationship between the IPMN and the PC(USA).
The damage can only be undone by acts of leadership on the part of denominational officials, which sadly do not seem to be forthcoming. Maybe you can make them happen.
I look forward to your response.
Dexter Van Zile
Christian Media Analyst
[Note: Rada never responded.]
Posted by dvz at June 22, 2014 06:41 PM
I was raised in the Presbyterian tradition at an early age. My last association with the PCUSA was with a PCUSA affiliated congregation. I was a member of that church for over 25 years. I was an ordained Deacon and Elder. I left the church some years ago over this very issue of anti-Isarael and pro-Palestinian positions that the PCUSA took. I still follow the theological beliefs of Presbyterianism, but I will never return to any PCUSA church riddled with liberals engaging in political activism.
Posted by: Robert Janicki at June 23, 2014 01:34 AM
I didn't feel sorry for Rada at all, especially every time he said, "our Jewish sisters and brothers." Yeah, why doncha patronize us, THAT'll make us feel better...
And I was really cheering on the anchor, especially around 5-6 minutes in, when he really pinned Rada to the wall.
Posted by: cba at June 23, 2014 01:42 AM
The choice of companies to divest from is interesting. All three sell their products in the Palestinian Authority.
Caterpillar sells tractors in the PA where they are used in building. Doesn't PCUSA want building?
HP is demonised for selling a biometric ID system used to speed up the entrance of Palestinians to Israel and exclude those whom Israel regards as a threat. What part of that does PCUSA object to?
Motorola sells many items in the PA, especially smart phones. Their crime apparently is providing radar to help communities over the green line protect themselves. Killing Israelis is apparently a worthy endeavour to be encouraged.
Posted by: Five Minutes for Israel at June 23, 2014 05:11 AM
If you had attended the proceedings of the General Assembly on this topic, you would have noted the number of Jewish-Americans who had gathered outside of Cobo Hall in Detroit to express both support and dissent on this particular topic. The Jewish-American representation in that group was just as divided as the Presbyterians who were trying to faithfully engage and discern God's will for this topic. Each of the commissioners in attendance had received an abundance of mail from groups that were both in support and against divestment. There was no clear cut response to this topic which would have satisfied all the parties involved. Please remember that the reality of many situations reside in the middle of polar opposites.
Posted by: Wade Pond at June 23, 2014 08:55 AM
What can we do to divest from the Presbyterian Church?
Posted by: Don't get mad get at June 23, 2014 10:48 AM
I'm curious how you could have written to Heath Rada in February when he was only elected to his office last week.
If you read the letter closely, you'll find the answer.
Posted by: Kyle at June 23, 2014 10:49 AM
What have the Presbyterian church done to save the Jews during the second Ward war?And now, they support Muslim genocidal, anti-Jewish, anti christian agenda!? Have they lost their minds?
Posted by: Zvi Gross at June 23, 2014 05:58 PM
I may be overlooking something obvious, but I assume that his statement at the end of the first paragraph explains how he wrote the letter prior to his election to moderator: "I write to you in your capacity as a member of the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board of the Presbyterian Church (USA)." My point is simply that he wrote to Rada in his former office rather than as moderator of the general assembly. Am I missing something?
DVZ: You got it.
Posted by: Jeff at June 24, 2014 12:00 AM
Wait for these Nazis to start selling Mein Kampf on their website too.
Posted by: Empress Trudy at June 24, 2014 10:22 AM
When the church plays politics it always ends up with a blood nose, my Kingdom is not of this world said Jesus, churches in general know nothing of the intricacies of politics, the church never learned it's lesson in South Africa and today no one pays any attention to the Tutu's and Boesaks of this world, the church is almost irrelevant, and The PCUSA will go the same way in to the bin of irrelevancy in America and in particular around the world where Israel is not an issue but gay marriage is, ask the Anglicans who have a great number of their churches leaving Lambeth and joining the Bishops of Africa
Posted by: Bruce at June 24, 2014 02:05 PM
My response it to purchase stock in HP, Caterpillar, and Motorola for my portfolio. I use an HP computer and will buy a Motorola Moto X as my smartphone. Thanks to the PCUSA for pointing out good companies to support.
Posted by: Annette Alpert MD at June 26, 2014 10:02 AM
This is a cowardly attack on Israel that ignores the overwhelming issue of the openly & proudly proclaimed desire of the vast majority of so-called Palestinians, not for a country, which was fulfilled by the formation of Jordan from 80% of The Jewish National Home in 1922, but for the annihilation of millions of Israelis. This, their highest aspiration, has been exposed almost daily for decades at palwatch.org. Judge for yourself. See the genocidal hatred taught from infancy to death, in mosques, the naming of streets, squares, & every type of institution, & ubiquitously present in all media, posters, & government statements. I would imagine that for some who are Chrisian, this majority who voted for this evil act could very well be representing the so-called anti-Christ.
Posted by: FactsRule at June 26, 2014 08:03 PM
There is another conversation to be explored here. Why does the denomination have money to invest anyway? It would be prudent to have three or four months of funding perhaps to maintain administrative functions in a "dry" spell. Other than that, I would suggest that well-meant money for ministry is being withheld at denominational level for the very purpose of wielding power in the public forum. At least that is what most endowments end up causing in both spiritual and secular nonprofits.
Posted by: Jean Bois at July 11, 2014 12:30 PM
I've now watched the entire interview with both Heath Rada and Rick Jacobs. In this interview, Rada shows himself unaware of everything that "went down" on the floor in Detroit: Sure, he asserts that the divestment measure enfolded a confirmation that there was still abiding support for two states in the disputed territories. But that ignores the fact that the very same General Assembly that voted up this measure also voted up -- by a much greater margin than the divestment approval -- an Overture, 04-01, aimed at re-evaluating the Presbytery's erstwhile support for two states altogether!
That indicates strongly that the General Assembly is now recklessly comfortable, after all, with the dangerous one-state idea, which only the extremists on both sides -- the illegal Jewish settlers on the one hand and the anti-Semitic radicals on the other -- still support. Why this virtual signing on to such a destructive position?
In fact, up to now, Presbytery has been on board on the two-state idea. So Overture 04-01 can only have been aimed at changing that on the ground, not supporting it. Otherwise, there would have been no point to such an Overture at all -- duh! Since support for two states has been the abiding position of the Presbyterian Church hitherto, no measure aimed at re-evaluating that position makes any sense unless aimed at ultimately removing such support entirely, which gives the lie to the fig-leaf that glibly reaffirms support for two states in the divestment measure.
The landslide for the Overture 04-01 (passed by over 400 votes versus less than 100 against), an Overture effectively challenging any support for two states at all, is at least as central to the Detroit story as the narrower approval of divestment. It is sloppy, at best, and utterly deceptive at worst, for Rada, in this interview, to
A) stress the enfolding of two-state support in the divestment measure but
B) make no mention at all of the landslide given the even more drastic Overture aimed directly at the heart of any hope for two states, the Overture 04-01.
Posted by: Stone at July 16, 2014 02:47 PM
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