On July 8, 2022, the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (PCUSA) issued a statement declaring Israel an apartheid state. Its general assembly voted 266 to 116 on a resolution stating, “Israel’s laws, policies, and practices constitute apartheid against the Palestinian people.” The following is the response of one Presbyterian pastor, Reverend Kenneth Larter, to the PCUSA declaration.
As you will see in his letter, the position of the PCUSA does not necessarily reflect the perspective of every pastor or church member in the denomination. We encourage you to read Reverend Larter’s open letter carefully and to consider writing a letter yourself to the leadership of the PCUSA. You can send your letter to 100 Witherspoon Street, Louisville, KY 40202 or [email protected]. We also encourage you to read our article, “Is Israel an Apartheid State?” if you have not already.
Thank you for caring,
The staff of the Alliance for the Peace of Jerusalem
In the year 2002, I was called to be the minister of Deerfield Presbyterian Church, a member of what was then the West Jersey Presbytery of the PCUSA. This move necessitated my leaving the Presbyterian Church in America to be received into your denomination. I sat through ordination examinations, despite having been ordained in the Free Church of Scotland decades before. I was willing to submit to the presbytery, however, because of a strong sense of calling to serve the people of Deerfield. I soon became better acquainted with the presbytery and appreciated the warmth and sense of collegiality among its members.
After some years, however, it became apparent that a pronounced shift was occurring in the denomination, with profound theological and political implications. A progressive movement increasingly divorced itself from biblical and confessional standards of faith and life, leaving conservatives as a beleaguered minority.
Along with this change, I observed an increasingly aggressive stance toward the State of Israel in the pronouncements and actions of the General Assembly. This was personally troublesome to me as a lifelong Christian Zionist. I believe that a plain reading of Scripture indicates the Jews have a special place in God’s plan of redemption and their return to the land in our time is the fulfillment of prophecy. The PCUSA’s departure from this biblical worldview saddens me. One of the consequences of this departure is the embrace of the secular narrative that Israel is an illegitimate apartheid state, worthy of destruction. This embrace was clearly articulated by the moderator of the last meeting of the general assembly and confirmed in its motions within the last year.
The leadership of the congregation I serve shared with me these same concerns, and over a three-year process, we won a gracious dismissal from our presbytery to join the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. Our main impetus for seeking dismissal from the PCUSA was our desire to be aligned with a body holding to the historic Christian faith. Additionally, the issue of overt hostility to Israel and the Jewish people meant I could no longer identify with a body standing in opposition to a land and people so close to my heart.
As a minister who initially welcomed my reception into the PCUSA, it grieves me to see the majority of the denomination embrace institutional antisemitism. This embrace departs from the historic roots of Presbyterianism and paves the way for further division and confusion. While I appreciate the fact a minority remains within the PCUSA that opposes Jew- and Israel-hatred, their voices seem powerless to stop the process of secularization and departure from biblical truth within the denomination.
Rev. Kenneth Larter
 Eetta Prince-Gibson, “Presbyterian Church Vote Declaring Israel an Apartheid State Upsets Jewish Groups,” Washington Post, July 15, 2022, accessed December 13, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2022/07/15/presbyterian-church-vote-declaring-israel-an-apartheid-state-upsets-jewish-groups/.