The Evangelical Lutheran Church (ELCA) has overwhelmingly approved a resolution calling on the American government to halt all aid to Israel if the building of “settlements” continues in Judea and Samaria. It also demands that Israel “end its occupation” and recognize a Palestinian state.
The resolution, which passed at an extremely wide margin of 751-162 at a triannual assembly in New Orleans, stated that the United States must end all financial and military aid to Israel if Israel does not “stop settlement building and the expansion of existing settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, end its occupation of Palestinian territory, and enable an independent Palestinian state.”
The church also called on the American president to recognize the “State of Palestine” and refrain from “prevent[ing] the application of the State of Palestine for full membership in the United Nations.”
It passed a separate resolution giving a nod to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, calling for “a human rights-based investment screen for its social responsibility fund”, which essentially meant divestment from Israel and “positive investment in Palestine and other under-resourced areas where human rights abuses materially impact the well-being of all people.”
The ELCA claims about four million members in 10,000 congregations throughout the country.
The resolutions were sponsored by an anti-Israel group within the church called Isaiah 58, which said its goal was to “ensure the church is not profiting from human rights abuses, including Israel’s nearly half-century-old military occupation of Palestinian lands.”
Isaiah 58 released a press release praising the move and claiming that the Lutheran church “has long opposed Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise and supported nonviolent action in support of Palestinian rights.”
The statement also bragged of being in league with other anti-Israel churches, saying the ELCA was joining “the growing number of US churches that have endorsed economic acts of conscience in support of Palestinian freedom and human rights, including the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ, and others.”
In fact, though the United Methodist Church is indeed known for its Israel divestment, in May the church voted down four pro-BDS resolutions.
The actions of anti-Israel churches have received strong pushback from other Christian groups and ministries in the US. The Southern Baptist Church passed a pro-Israel resolution in June which condemned BDS and stated strongly that the church “supports the right of Israel to exist as a sovereign state.”
Pastor John Hagee, the head of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), has called anti-Israel Christians “misguided.”
“Yes, our Christian values demand that we have compassion for those that suffer. But if you blame Palestinian suffering on Israel then you’re ignorant about this conflict,” he told Breaking Israel News in July.