new_age_peace_thumbOne of the things I was dreading about GA221 is another round of the fight we’ve been having about divestment for the past decade, a debate that has dominated much of my GA experience. I knew it would get ugly, and it has. Friends are treating each other like enemies. I confess my own complicity in that.

The committee that considered divestment this week voted by a 2:1 margin to recommend that the assembly pass it when it comes before us in plenary. It remains to be seen what will come of that vote. But whether we divest or not, I’m wondering what comes next for us in our pursuit of peace for the people of the Middle East.

One thing that must happen is that we need to leave this assembly reconciled with each other as Presbyterians. Our differences on this issue are real, but our capacity to contribute to peacemaking is significantly diminished when our house is divided. We must find ways to leverage our various passions and relationships in our common hopes for a peaceful and just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I also hope, whether we divest or not, that we will commit ourselves to balanced relationship building across the parties involved in this conflict as a way for us to most effectively be peacemakers and agents of reconciliation. This is why I have offered “the Chicago Paper” for GA221 to consider endorsing and recommending as a model of how to best engage this conflict moving forward.

I strongly believe that the ministry of reconciliation is our calling in Christ. In order to be agents of reconciliation, we must be in relationships with all parties so we can speak the truth in love, raise the critiques we need to raise, and advocate for the human rights of all those involved.

In the aftermath of the initial divestment recommendation in 2004, I have seen this happen in Chicago and have participated in some of this work myself. Our presbytery’s Ecumenical and Interreligious Work Group has done incredible work building bridges and maintaining meaningful relationships and I would love for their approach to this conflict to be replicated around the PC(USA).

So regardless of our diverse perspectives on divestment as a peacemaking strategy, and regardless of how we vote later this week, I would love for GA221 to rally around this third way approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If you are a GA221 commissioner, please read 04-14 and vote to approve it on Friday.

John W. Vest

John is a "church hacker" attempting to overcome the limitations of church as we know it. To connect with him and learn more about his work, please visit

Reader Interactions


  1. I support the Chicago Paper & the Commissioners Overture put before G.A.221 by John Vest et al. The State of Israel faces far graver existential crises this year than the BDS movement & the reckless publication of ‘Zionism Unsettled.’ Since 2004 I have participated in at least one hundred meetings in regard to anxieties raised by our MRTI. process & BDS overtures. These debates have not brought even one Palestinian child closer to having a secure, viable homeland with a positive future. BDS threats & ‘Zionism Unsettled’ have only confirmed suspicions that some Presbyterians are inspired by hostility and prejudice against Israel per se. Thanks, John!

  2. John — I haven’t read this paper yet, but will do so soon. If I like it, I’d like to help you with this idea at the next GA where I will be a commissioner. Do you think you could have the Chicago Presbytery overture GA this paper? I could work with my presbytery to provide the necessary second. Again, I’d like to read it carefully first, but it seems like a good idea from what I hear.

  3. What is a progressive Christian? Do yo believe that Jesus is the way the truth and the life, and no man comes to the father but by him? Do you believe what is written in Romans !? Do you believe the Bible is the word of God?

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