PORTLAND, Ore. – After a lively conversation and Bible study, the committee on Peacemaking and International Issues spent much of the morning on 12-5, an overture “On Affirming Nonviolent Means of Resistance Against Human Oppression” brought to the committee from the Presbytery of Muskingum Valley.
The overture highlights the church’s history in nonviolent witness, reaffirming this commitment to peacemaking through means like boycott, divestment and sanctions. It calls for the creation of resources that teach the theology of peacemaking and nonviolence in relation to the church’s historical decisions. Finally, it directs the Stated Clerk to communicate this stance widely.
Those who opposed the overture disagreed with the language of boycott, divestment and sanctions believing it influences perspective on the Israel-Palestine conflict.
YAAD (Young Adult Advisory Delegate) Erin Cech expressed, “While I understand where the majority of the church stands on the Israel and Palestine issue, I don’t believe that focusing on language that includes boycott and divestment would solve this issue. In order to achieve peace we shouldn’t be picking a side, which is often the result from boycotting. We are on this committee to help achieve peacemaking, and item 12-05 will not help us to be successful in this process. Therefore, I would encourage our committee to oppose this overture.”
Overture advocates spoke to the denomination’s historical and recent use of BDS as a means of stopping slavery, human trafficking, violence and oppression – not only in regards to South African apartheid, but also in making changes at fast-food chains like Wendy’s. Those who spoke in favor of the overture emphasized that peacemaking and nonviolent action are ways to follow the example of Jesus.
Proposed amendments attempted to clarify that this action was not specifically focused on divestment from the State of Israel or an endorsement of the global BDS movement. These and other amendments were defeated by close votes.
Ultimately, the overture passed: 27 in favor and 19 opposed with the comment, “inform the GA that the committee does not include support for the concurrence material from Genessee Valley and SF Presbyteries since the overture does not make reference to any specific conflict situations.”