The Rev. William Borror, religious leader of the Media Presbyterian Church, wants to make it clear that not all members of his denomination are reflexively anti-Israel. In fact, he said, it's a small minority that has repeatedly raised the issue of divesting from certain companies with ties to Israel.
The Church's Committee of Mission Responsibility Through Investment recommended on Sept. 9 that the Presbyterian Church USA, the national body, divest from Motorola, Hewlett-Packard and Caterpillar. The move came seven years after the church first raised the issue of divestment, which severely strained ties between the liberal-leaning denomination and the Jewish community.
"There are elements in the denomination who will not let it go," Borror said in an interview. "It not only hurts our Presbyterian-Jewish relationship, it causes as much damage with inter-Presbyterian relationships," said Borror, who previously sat on the Presbyterian Church USA's task force on Jewish-Presbyterian dialogue.
The 2004 call for divestment was overturned in 2006, but the mission responsibility committee has raised the issue at each biannual General Assembly since.
Borror said that the renewed controversy convinced him to agree to a request by the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia to testify in front of Philadelphia's City Council. On Sept. 15, the body passed a resolution opposing a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood, a measure of expressed support for a U.S. Senate Resolution passed in June.
Borror and the Rev. Cynthia Jarvis of the Presbyterian Church of Chestnut Hill each spoke to the council in favor of the resolution, asserting that they backed Palestinian statehood but thought it should come about through negotiations. Both traveled to Israel earlier this year on an interfaith mission sponsored by JCRC.
Though Borror supported the council's resolution, he said he opposes the language about cutting American aid to the Palestinian Authority.
The reverend, who sits on the church's national Middle East oversight committee, said he'll work publicly and behind the scenes to oppose divestment. He acknowledged that the church's actions have fed into the narrative that the denomination — which once enjoyed far closer ties to Jewish groups — and other Main Line Protestant churches now sit squarely in the pro-Palestinian camp.
At the same time, many socially conservative evangelical denominations are staunchly pro-Israel.
Borror said he is trying to articulate a more nuanced approach, one that takes an interest, but not necessarily a hard-line stance, in the conflict.
He said he has a huge problem singling out Israel "when Syrians are shooting their citizens in their street. I have a lot of trouble with Israel as the moral equivalent of South Africa."
At the same time, he's highly critical of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, arguing that the current government has done little, if anything, to advance the peace agenda.
"He doesn't, in good conscience, want a Palestinian state," asserted Borror.