June 17, 2014 at 11:18 pm

In Detroit meeting, Presbyterian panel recommends church divest holdings in Israel, allow pastors to perform same-sex marriages

A Presbyterian committee at a national convention in Detroit voted Tuesday to recommend the church divest from three U.S. companies accused of profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.

The Middle East Issues Committee of the 221st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) supported the move after lengthy debate Monday at Cobo Center. The recommendation is expected to be presented to the full assembly Friday.

The measure calls for the church “to divest its holdings from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions for their involvement in sustaining Israeli human rights abuses and non-peaceful pursuits,” according to a statement from the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). “This decision was part of a larger action crafted to express ongoing support to both the Israeli and Palestinian people and the ongoing conversation for peace, security, and justice.”

The move was welcomed by groups that favor divestment. “Voting for divestment is a powerful statement of conscience,” said Carolyn Klaasen, 27, of New York City, who is part of the national Jewish Voice for Peace. “It speaks to the Presbyterian heartfelt witness and desire to realize an end to the Israeli occupation and for peace, justice and equality for Israelis and Palestinians.”

In statements, Motorola Solutions said it “supports all efforts in the region to find a peaceful resolution to their differences.”

Caterpillar Inc. said “we believe it is appropriate for such a resolution to be reached via political and diplomatic channels.” Hewlett-Packard said Tuesday: “Respecting human rights is a core value ... and is embedded in the way we do business. We have strong policies that promote regular human rights risk assessments, provide access to independent grievance mechanisms, prompt investigations of credible allegations and encourage transparent reporting.”

Meanwhile, another committee Tuesday also made recommendations involving same-sex marriage.

The Committee on Civil Union and Marriage recommended the church issue an authoritative interpretation of its constitution’s Book of Order that “would allow pastors in states where same-gender civil ceremonies are legal the discretion to marry same-gender couples” after the General Assembly ends on Saturday, according to a statement from church officials. The move doesn’t require congregations perform the unions.

Another recommendation called for an amendment to the church constitution changing the definition of marriage from a “man and woman” to “two people.”