Mainline Protestants are facing internal and external conflicts over their position on Israel, writes Sarah Pulliam Bailey in a Religion News Service-based article in the Washington Post (Sept. 16). The recent resignation of Episcopal chaplain Bruce Shipman at Yale University over a letter he wrote to the New York Times linking growing anti-Semitism in Europe with what he considered Israel’s intransigence over the Palestinian, revealed some division within that denomination over issues such as divestment from Israel and anti-Semitism, Bailey writes. The Episcopal Church supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but there is a growing divide on the question of divestment. One activist said there is a “gap between the leadership of the church and networks within the church.”
Jeff Walton of the conservative Institute for Religion and Democracy said that there is significant pressure from groups inside and outside mainline churches to be critical of Israel. “This is most pronounced in the Presbyterian Church (USA), but we’re seeing signs in the Episcopal, and Shipman’s letter is an example of that.” The Presbyterian Church (USA)’s decision to divest from Israel this summer was criticized by Jewish groups as hurting interfaith relations. In a recent Pew Research Center survey, it was found that 55 percent of mainline Protestants sympathize more with Israel than with Palestine, compared with 70 percent of evangelicals.