Many Presbyterians and other observers were startled by the 2004 decision of the 216th General Assembly “to initiate a process of phased, selective divestment in multinational corporations operating in Israel.”
The proclamation was certainly met with controversy; many people both within and without the PC(USA) strongly objected to what they regarded as an unfair, unwise, and immoral Presbyterian policy. Many others wondered what was going on, and no one seemed to have an idea exactly how widespread support for this initiative was among rank and file Presbyterians.
It soon became apparent that the first real opportunity to address the issue would come with the meeting of the next General Assembly (2006) in Birmingham. The best way to make sure that an item is at least considered by the General Assembly is by use of an overture from a presbytery. So far there have been at least fifteen such overtures advanced.
While the overtures differ, they fall into two basic categories - those that would rescind the divestment decision, and those that would continue it. Most of those that would continue divestment tend to involve so-called “positive investment” - and do, in fact, limit the scope of the original initiative. (The wording of the 2004 divestment initiative only required that targeted companies operated in Israel without regard for the nature of their business. Sadly there have been many untruths circulated about this - false claims that it only targeted companies that supported violence or occupation.)
Those overtures calling for divestment to be rescinded:
o Presbytery of Mississippi
o Presbytery of the James
o Presbytery of Eastern Virginia
http://www.pcusa.org/ga217/business/overtures/ovt5905.htm and http://www.pcusa.org/ga217/business/overtures/ovt5705.htm (calling for a new Middle East policy statement to be drafted).
o Presbytery of Peace River (a concurrence on the overture from Mississippi) http://www.pcusa.org/ga217/business/overtures/ovt0105.htm
o Presbytery of Salem (an abridged concurrence on the overture from Mississippi) http://www.salempresbytery.com/meetings/downloads/4feb06presmtg/antidivestmentoverture.shtml )
o Presbytery of New Covenant
o Presbytery of Great Rivers (specifically objected to the targeting of Caterpillar)
o Presbytery of Shepphards and Lapsley (explicitly rescinds divestment and advocates positive investment)
Those overtures supporting divestment:
o Presbytery of National Capitol
o Presbytery of Mission
o Presbytery of Chicago (encourages divestment, but requires positive investment with divested funds) http://www.pcusa.org/ga217/business/overtures/ovt4905.htm
o Presbytery of Transylvania (encourages divestment, but positive reinvestment) http://www.pcusa.org/ga217/business/overtures/ovt3605.htm
o Presbytery of San Francisco
http://www.pcusa.org/ga217/business/overtures/ovt6205.htm (explicitly affirms divestment but also employs the positive investment language)
o Presbytery of Florida
http://www.pcusa.org/ga217/business/overtures/ovt1505.htm (explicitly affirms the actions of the 216th GA but requests unbiased treatment)