01: The rift between mainline Presbyterians and the American Jewish community over the former’s critical position on Israel’s policy on the Palestinian issue was mended to some degree during the denomination’s General Assembly in early July.
Since 2004, the position of the Presbyterian Church (USA) on Israel, calling for divestment from multinational companies operating in the nation, has been a source of conflict between the denomination and the Jewish community. Although “divestment” was changed to a strategy of “corporate engagement” at the 2006 assembly, two years later the church issued a report on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict that was highly critical of Israel.
Leading up to the 2010 assembly, Jewish groups and leaders were active in starting talks and consultations with church leaders and laity, building relationships across the lines of faith. The input was effective enough to convince the Presbyterian delegates to amend the report to state the right of Israel to exist and replace language that had called for Israel to end its blockade of Gaza with milder language recommending that the country allow humanitarian aid and commercial goods into Gaza.
02: With the election of Rev. Matthew Harrison as president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) at the denomination’s convention in Houston, American Lutheranism is likely entering a period of significant polarization.
In a rare victory over the incumbent Rev. Gerald Kieschnick, Harrison was the favored candidate of “confessionalists” who seek to revive adherence to the Lutheran confessional documents and maintain strict orthodoxy, drawing a clear distinction from the liberal Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Kieschnick had a more moderate approach that allowed for borrowing from evangelicals, such as church growth methods.
The convention plans to conduct a study of the ELCA’s decision, taken last summer, to allow the ordination of gays and lesbians. While the July 26 Huffington Post headline “Tea Party Insurgence Ripples through Missouri Synod Election” may be over the top, already conservatives are agitating against “liberal” currents in the denomination, such as toleration of women in leadership positions and intercommunion with those outside the LCMS.