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Poll: Most PC(USA) members unaware of GA divestment action

Presbyterian ministers, members divided over divestment

by Jerry L. Van Marter

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

LOUISVILLE—Despite widespread media attention, most Presbyterian laity are not aware of the 216th General Assembly's decision to "begin a process of phased, selective divestment" of companies profiting from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

The findings by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Research Services office, based on a November 2004 survey of 3,000 ministers, elders, members and specialized clergy known as the Presbyterian Panel were released on the eve of a national conference here entitled "Steps Towards Peace in Israel and Palestine."

Though their members may not know about the Assembly's action (61 percent of members and 51 percent of elders), Presbyterian ministers are well aware of the controversial action. Sixty-five percent of pastors serving congregations and 50 percent of specialized clergy said they're "very aware" of the decision. Another 30 percent of pastors and 36 percent of specialized clergy said they are "somewhat aware."

Ministers and laity are divided on whether divestment is a good idea. More laity—42 percent of members and 46 percent of elders—oppose selective phased divestment than favor it (28 percent of members, 30 percent of elders).

Pastors favor the Assembly's action by a 48–43 percent margin and specialized clergy favor the divestment decision by a margin of 64–24 percent.

Those identifying themselves as "liberal" favor the divestment process (77 percent of ministers, 50 percent of members), while those calling themselves "conservative" oppose it (75 percent of ministers, 55 percent of members).

Among "moderates," more laity oppose divestment than favor it (35–30 percent) and more ministers favor it (50–38 percent).

On other Israel/Palestine issues addressed by last summer's Assembly, the Panel found the following:

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