The United Church of Christ (UCC) announced Tuesday that it had voted in favour of joining the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The Just Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict resolution (as it is labelled) aims to end the decades-long violence between Israel and Palestine, and asks the church and its entities to be involved in boycott and divestment.

In order for the resolution to pass, there needed to be a two-thirds percent approval.  Out of 632 votes cast, 508 voted in favour (80%).

Peter Makari, UCC executive for the Middle East and Europe, said “This allows us to sustain and strengthen our voice against the occupation. It bolsters and supports the work we are doing there, and affirms the authentic voice of our partners, particularly Palestinian Christians in the Kairos Palestine document.”

“The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is one of the most enduring and consequential conflicts of our age,” said the Rev. Jim Moos, executive minister of UCC Wider Church Ministries. “Given the injustices and ongoing violence… the resolution calls on the church to engage in specific, nonviolent actions to help end the ongoing conflict and establish justice and peace.”

UCC represents over 5,000 congregations in America with a membership of around 950,000 members, most in North America.  One of the more well-known churches affiliated with this movement is Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, which for many years was headed by pastor Jeremiah Wright, and which US President Barack Obama attended for years before leaving amid controversy during his presidential campaign in 2008.

Some hope for this resolution is that UCC congregations across America are independent in matters of doctrine and ministry and may not necessarily support the national body’s stance on this issue.  UCC describes itself as being “an extremely pluralistic and diverse denomination”.

Many UCC members have taken to social media to show their outrage at the decision, with the majority, it would appear, in disagreement with their church aligning themselves with the BDS movement.  UCC Pastors have also spoken out against the bill saying they are disappointed by the decision.

On the same day, the Synod voted on another resolution which focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but failed to gain enough votes. That resolution would have made the UCC the first denomination to recognize the actions of the Israeli government in the occupied territories as apartheid.

Of the 607 votes cast, 312 were in favour (51.4 percent) of the resolution, short of the necessary two-thirds majority.

Christians United for Israel – UK