In one fell swoop, Rev. Nelson dishonored Dr. King’s legacy, attacked our Jewish neighbors, and embarrassed the Presbyterian Church. He should apologize immediately.

On January 15th, peaceful worshippers at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas were terrorized by an antisemitic conspiracy theorist. It was a painful reminder of the violent rise of antisemitism in our country and around the world. At Pathways, we are saddened that the Jewish community has once again been targeted.

As Christians, we know that our houses of worship must be safe places of peace and love. When that space is violated, it’s up to all of us to speak out.

Many denominations have issued statements of support for the Colleyville community, yet even after 6 six day, PCUSA has not made any statements. Instead, we read the Rev. Dr. J Herbert Nelson’s statement released on MLK Jr. Day.

Although the statement seems clearly to have been crafted before the attack in Colleyville, it was inaccurate and inappropriate in itself and the church was insensitive to release it when they did. Rev. Nelson’s effort to honor Dr. King by extolling the need for vigilance against injustice and to pursue unity seems at best incongruous with his unjust, divisive attack on a community already feeling vulnerable.

Instead of standing in solidarity with our Jewish friends, Rev. Nelson, the stated clerk of his denomination, first used the occasion to issue a misplaced and inaccurate condemnation of the Israeli government, accusing it of practicing “21st Century Slavery” against Palestinians.

MLK Day is not a day for political smears, especially since Dr. King was a fierce defender of Jews and the State of Israel- calling it “one of the great outposts of Democracy in the world.” That was inappropriate enough. Then, Rev. Nelson stepped over the line between politics and hate. Rev. Nelson failed to remember Dr. King’s words “Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.”

While purporting to represent 1.7 Million Presbyterians, he launched an outrageous attack on our Jewish neighbors.

Rev. Nelson chastised the Jewish community to use their “influence” to end “the immoral enslavement” of Palestinians- and even dared to claim that Jews have forgotten their own agonizing history.

Using a stereotypical antisemitic trope about Jewish influence and attacking American Jews as feckless collaborators isn’t legitimate criticism of Israel. It’s antisemitism.

In one fell swoop, Rev. Nelson dishonored Dr. King’s legacy, attacked our Jewish neighbors, and embarrassed the Presbyterian Church. He should apologize immediately and take appropriate steps to root out similar language in PCUSA.

Rev. Mark Boyd, President
Rev. Jason Poling
Rev. Peter A. Pettit

Pathways for Middle East Peace is a nonprofit educational organization that works to support collaboration between mainline churches and the Jewish community. We advocate for peace and reconciliation through dialogue and building relationships. While the world seeks to build walls and silos, we believe that Christ has created a pathway for us through the example of His life, ministry, death and resurrection: to build community by bringing people together.