WASHINGTON—A senior member of Congress on Tuesday blasted the Presbyterian Church (USA) on the House floor for its recent decisions on marriage and Israel while refusing to stand with persecuted Christians in the Middle East.
Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., said the denomination’s decisions to redefine marriage and denounce Israel “deeply grieved” him. “I feel increasingly alienated from this rich faith tradition, which includes John Witherspoon, the only active clergyman to sign the Declaration of Independence,” said Wolf, a lifelong PCUSA member.
Wolf’s sharp remarks came five days after the PCUSA voted to fully recognize same-sex marriage and allow pastors to perform same-sex ceremonies, which Wolf said “runs counter to Scripture.” He acknowledged a “seismic shift” in cultural opinions about marriage but said most troubling is that the church is participating in redefining “the fundamental building block of any society.”
Wolf announced he was entering into the official record a statement of protest by the Presbyterian Lay Committee Board of Directors.
Wolf also submitted for the record a Wall Street Journal op-ed criticizing the PCUSA for voting to divest its stock in three companies—Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions—because they do business with Israel in the disputed West Bank. The denomination said the companies continue to “profit from their involvement in the occupation and the violation of human rights in the region.” Wolf said the “deeply misguided decision” only serves to increase “rising anti-Semitism” in Europe and the United States.
The PCUSA couched its Israel decision as sympathetic to suffering Palestinians, but Wolf noted the hypocrisy of such rationale. He said the PCUSA recently declined to sign on to a pledge of solidarity and call to action for persecuted believers around the globe—communities that have been decimated in places such as Egypt, Iraq, and Syria. More than 200 religious leaders across ecumenical lines signed the document, but Wolf said PCUSA leaders believed the document would be perceived as “anti-Muslim.”
“The pledge itself was carefully crafted with input from faith leaders here in the United States and throughout the region and conveyed that the time had come for the church in the West to pray and speak with greater urgency about this human rights crisis,” he said. “With the PCUSA’s decision not to associate itself with this urgent call to action, I find myself once again out of step with my denomination in profound ways.”
The PCUSA has 1.8 million members, making it the largest Presbyterian denomination in the country and the sixth-largest Protestant denomination overall. Its latest decision continues a long slide in both adherence to the Bible and membership: The PCUSA has lost almost 30 percent of its membership since 2000 and more than 500 church congregations since 2007.
Wolf, 75, is a long-time member of Vienna Presbyterian Church west of Washington, D.C. A member of Congress since 1981, Wolf earlier this year announced he would not seek reelection in November.