(Go to JAT-Action Home Page or Presbyterian Section)

Two Staffers Gone in Wake of Hezbollah Meeting

GAC deputy executive Lueckert, ACSWP coordinator Sulyok are out
by Alexa Smith

[This article could be viewed originally at the following link.]

November 11, 2004

LOUISVILLE — Two key Presbyterian Church (USA) staff members were apparently fired early this morning by General Assembly Council (GAC) Executive Director John Detterick — with no clear public explanation for their departures.

According to a memo released this morning, Kathy Lueckert, the deputy executive associate director of the GAC, the governing body of the church's mission program agency, and the Rev. Peter Sulyok, coordinator of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP), are no longer employed by the GAC.

Leuckert has served the denomination for five years, Sulyok for nearly twelve.

Lueckert supervised Sulyok and both were members of an ACSWP fact-finding delegation to the Middle East last month that included a televised meeting with Hezbollah, an organization that is on the U.S. government's watch list of terrorist groups.

The meeting and its widespread airing on Arabic television drew immediate protest from Jewish groups and from some within the PC(USA).

In a memo released to GAC staff, Detterick implied that legal reasons prevent disclosing why the two staffers are no longer employed by the PC(USA). He said that he intends to begin searching for an interim deputy executive director before the year's end. Staff under Luekert's supervision will temporarily report to Detterick.

Oversight of ASCWP has been delegated to the Rev. Curtis Kearns, the director of the PC(USA)'s National Ministries Division.

Detterick's other published comments were succinct:

"It is with sadness that I tell you that Kathy Lueckert's tenure as deputy executive director has come to an end today. Kathy has made contributions to the work of the GAC and for that I will always be very grateful ... I am also sorry to tell you that Peter Sulyok is leaving the GAC. Peter, too, has contributed much, especially to the work of ACSWP."

He concluded, "I know these decisions raise many questions for staff, but please realize that all staff have the right to confidentiality regarding their employment. Therefore, this is all I can say. I am keeping Kathy and Peter in my prayers and hope you will also."

Detterick told the Presbyterian New Service that it is not appropriate to comment further on personnel matters.

The Oct. 14 meeting in southern Lebanon between the ACSWP-led delegation and Hezbollah leaders was immediately declared "misguided" by top leadership here and comments made by Ron Stone, a Pittsburgh elder and member of the delegation, were described as "reprehensible" by Dettrick and others in a post-meeting letter to Jewish organizations pleading with them to remain in dialogue with the PC(USA).

Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick and Rick Ufford-Chase, the moderator of the 216th General Assembly, also signed the letter.

The PC(USA) has just begun dialogue with major Jewish organizations who want the denomination to overturn the 216th General Assembly's decision to selectively divest itself of stock held in multinational corporations who profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestine unless those companies change their business practices.

Stone's remarks came after the group toured the Khiam Detention Center, a former Israeli prison and torture site in southern Lebanon, which is now a Hezbollah-run museum and memorial.

In a joint press conference, Stone thanked Hezbollah for "goodwill" it had expressed toward the American people and he added, "As an elder of our church, I'd like to say that according to my recent experience, relations and conversations with Islamic leaders are a lot easier than dealings and dialogue with Jewish leaders."

News of the meeting and Stone's comments drew immediate condemnation from Jewish groups.

As Detterick's top deputy, Lueckert carried oversight responsibility for several major GAC operations, including communication, mission funding, human resources, social policy development, women's and racial ethnic concerns, and its legal and research arms.

Prior to working for the PC(USA), Lueckert spent 15 years in local government. Her family tree includes Presbyterian ministers reaching back 10 generations.

A clergyman, Sulyok has headed the PC(USA)'s social policy development since February, 1993. He graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1980 and did post-graduate work there.

He was a pastor for seven years in Binghamton, NY, and did interim work in New Jersey while he studied at Princeton.

(Go to JAT-Action Home Page or Presbyterian Section)

Valid HTML 4.01!