Tutu, Anderson, others urges Executive Council to "hold Israel accountable"

Last night the Cafe published a story from Episcopal News Service that began:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings have said that a draft letter pressing the Executive Council to intervene in the implementation of the Episcopal Church’s policies on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extremely unhelpful and disregards due legislative processes.

We have since received a media release and a copy of the letter from its authors. The release follows. The letter is below the fold. (Click Read more to see it.)

Episcopalians to church leaders: “Hold Israel accountable”
Prominent Episcopalians ask church leaders to enact resolution passed by General Convention

New York, January 18, 2013 – Prominent members of The Episcopal Church have written a letter to the church’s Executive Council to be delivered on the day honoring the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., asking that they implement policies already approved by the church’s General Convention. These policies call for an accounting of Israel’s use of foreign aid from the U.S. government, and require that the church’s financial resources not be used to support the infrastructure of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. The letter calls for “justice” and “truth,” not only seeking a just outcome for the Palestinian people, but asking “why is it that Congress and the White House are unable to see the injustice of the occupation, where Israel is the oppressor, and the Palestinians the oppressed?”

The signers point out that fifteen of The Episcopal Church’s ecumenical partners have already asked the Congress “for accountability of Israel’s use of foreign aid from the U.S. government, including the leadership of the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, and United Church of Christ.”

The Episcopal Church has a long history of supporting causes of social import, and has been seeking justice for the Palestinian people for more than three decades. The signers of the letter are an ethnically diverse group of women and men that include laity, priests, and bishops. They are some of the church’s most recognized and seasoned advocates for justice. The letter is supported by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and its signers include a former Presiding Bishop and a former President of the House of Deputies, the dean of the National Cathedral, and several other nationally and internationally known Episcopalians.
The full text of the letter and background information can be downloaded at http://epfnational.org/PIN/a-prophetic-challenge-to-the-executive-council/


Episcopal Voices of Conscience Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 21, 2013 A Prophetic Challenge to the Executive Council

“No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’”- Martin Luther King , Jr. August 28, 1963 Washington, D.C.

Today as we celebrate the life and witness of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., we affirm once more that we will continue to build on his dream of a fully inclusive America, “where we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Today we also want to invoke Dr. King’s call for justice on the land where Jesus lived his earthly ministry, the holy land that is precious to all Jews, Christians, and Muslims - the people of Abraham. We affirm that God intends for Israeli Jews and Palestinians to live together in a just peace. Dr. King reminds us that justice must be the arbiter of this conflict, and we add that truth must be its accompanist. This is the justice Jesus called for when he said, “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, … to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

Just as this church stood with South Africa and Namibia during the dark days of Apartheid, so we recognize that we need to be standing with our sister and brother Palestinians who have endured an Apartheid that Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has described as worse than it was in South Africa. All peoples who have experienced oppression, including indigenous peoples who have known what it is to be dispossessed of their land, understand the Palestinian issue.

Israel must be held accountable for allowing an occupation for 45 years that suffocates the dreams of freedom that Palestinians hold every bit as much as African Americans sought on that day when Dr. King told the world that he had a dream. Occupation cannot be justified as a tool of security. Occupation is its own form of violence, a prescription for frustration and rage among those shackled under its harsh restraints.

We ask the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church to look carefully at the full body of our Church’s policy on Israel and Palestine, and to implement those policies whenever the opportunity arises. The Episcopal Church General Convention held in July, 2012, adopted resolution A015 which reads in part: “Resolved, That that the General Convention reaffirms Resolution 1991 - A149, “Urge a Full Accounting of the Use of Foreign Aid to the Middle East,” adopted by the 70th General Convention,” which reads in part: “require(s) the State of Israel to account to the Government of the United States for all aid to Israel…in compliance with the Foreign Assistance Act.”

As elected leaders of The Episcopal Church, we ask Executive Council to:
• Immediately send a message to Congress that the Episcopal Church supports our 15 ecumenical colleagues, who include the church leadership of the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, and United Church of Christ denominations, that wrote to Congress October 5, 2012, calling for accountability of Israel’s use of foreign aid from our government. The voice of The Episcopal Church is woefully missing in the request our colleagues made to Congress.
• Immediately move forward with our Church’s corporate engagement policy so that our financial resources are not being used to support the infrastructure of this suffocating occupation.
• We respectfully ask for a public accounting of the Executive Council’s work on these matters no later than the meeting of Council June 8-10, 2013.

The truth that is so readily seen worldwide, except among our nation’s leaders, is that Israel imposes a matrix of control over the occupied Palestinian territories, locating Jewish settlements on prime Palestinian land, building segregated roads forbidden to Palestinians to connect the settlers to Israel proper, erecting a wall that causes havoc in the daily lives of Palestinians and serves as another pretext to occupy yet more land. We see check points that are used to control the movements of people on their own land where tactics of bullying, intimidation, and detention are practiced; and where the demolition of homes and the uprooting of olive tree orchards are commonplace causing further humiliation and insult, along with the destruction of livelihoods. We see what was once Palestinian East Jerusalem being subsumed through Israel’s settlement policy. We see the teeming population of Gaza held under confinement on land, in the air, and at sea.

We ask today why is it that Congress and the White House are unable to see the injustice of the occupation, where Israel is the oppressor, and the Palestinians the oppressed? Why is it that our government could not recognize the rights of Palestinians to status as a non-member observer state at the United Nations? Why do our country’s leaders embarrass us as a nation by being on the short end of the UN vote, 138-9, and expose our irrational bias? We are mystified that Washington lives in a bubble of unreality in its blind support of an immense injustice perpetrated every day on the Palestinian people, and foments anger across the Middle East and the world.

Just as Dr. King spoke to the throngs on the Mall of our nation’s Capitol so, too, do his words ring true for Palestinians: “I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.”

We believe, as does our Church, in the right of the state of Israel to exist, and we are aware of the threats against it from multiple sources, which saddens and concerns us. We assure all Jews in Israel and everywhere that we too share a commitment to Israel’s security and peace even as we insist that the state of Israel end this miserable occupation, which diminishes both the oppressed and the oppressor. We affirm our commitment to non-violence and reject the use of violence from either side. We oppose the indiscriminate use of rockets fired into Israeli communities as we oppose bombs being dropped on Gaza by Israeli fighter jets. We affirm the right of Israel to be at peace with her neighbors, but insist it be through the prism of justice as we believe Dr. King would insist.

As our Church stated in 1991, we differentiate between anti-Semitism, which we abhor, and legitimate criticism of the state of Israel, especially as Israel imposes an unjust system of occupation upon another people. We affirm the right of Palestinians to non-violent resistance to the occupation just as African Americans resisted the inhumanity of Jim Crow and segregation.

And just as Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream, we hear from Palestinians who have a dream. We hear from Israeli Jews of goodwill that share that dream. May both peoples dream as Martin Luther King, Jr. did: “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

We turn to our elected Church leaders, the Executive Council, to take up the mantle of justice and truth and undertake the long standing witness The Episcopal Church has made over these last three decades. We ask you, our elected leaders, to give voice to our long held policies, remembering that the arc of history bends towards justice.

Signed- Titles are for identification purposes only and do not imply organizational endorsement
Canon Bonnie Anderson, D.D., President of the Episcopal Church House of Deputies, 2006-2012
Owanah Anderson, citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
The Right Reverend Edmond L. Browning, former Presiding Bishop, 1986-1997, Current President of Sabeel, North America
Patti Browning , wife of Edmond Browning and long time activist for Palestinian justice
The Right Reverend Steven Charleston, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alaska, retired
The Right Reverend Leo Frade, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida
The Reverend Canon Brian J. Grieves, former Peace and Justice Officer, The Episcopal Church 1988-2009
The Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean, Washington National Cathedral
Diane B. Pollard, Senior Deputy to General Convention, Diocese of New York, 1979 - 2012
The Right Reverend Gene Robinson, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, retired, current Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, Washington, DC
The Reverend Canon Edward Rodman, John Seeley Stone Professor of Pastoral Theology and Urban Ministry, Episcopal Divinity School
The Reverend Winnie Varghese, Rector, St. Mark’s in- the-Bowery, New York, Executive Council 2006-2012
Supported by Internationals endorsers:
Dr. Jenny Te Paa - Dean, Te Rau Kahikatea, St. Johns College, Auckland, New Zealand
The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu – Archbishop Emeritus, Cape Town, Patron of Sabeel, International

Comments (8)

If I could make a meta- media-critical comment for a moment...

I'm grateful to the Lead for tracking down this letter and "printing" its text. I found the ENS story confusing, not least because it led with the reaction and not with the letter's content and failed to help me understand why this was significant and worthy of such a lengthy article.

In general, I'm concerned at the way ENS at times appears as yet one more tool in the communications arsenal of 815 rather than a news organization. Changes in the last few years have only increased this concern. I'm grateful to places like the Lead, the Living Church, and others that at times serve as a corrective.

Ah, always another reason to drive people out of the church! How about focusing on demographic decline and new liturgies instead of starting another divisive battle?!

Morris Post

I think this letter is a complementary piece to what was passed at General Convention - calling not for an adversarial position with Israel but accountability in its treatment of Palestinians. Sorry that the PB and PHoD took it as an attack.

Thanks for your concern, Morris, but you don't have to worry. Where I am, our church is growing. We are having some trouble incorporating all the new members who seem excited to have found a congregation that seeks to apply the Gospel to our real lives, but there are worse problems to have.

Speaking out about this particular issue is frightening and essential. A much as I might like the star to lead to people to the building fund, it seems to take us back to Bethlehem every year, and you know how that story ends up.

[wsv - please sign your name when you comment. Thx ~ed.]

How do other members of the Episcopal Church add their names to this letter?

As a mere lay member of a tiny, struggling congregation of the Episcopal Church, I can only say I am delighted to see this letter. It is totally appropriate for a Christian church primarily (though not exclusively) based in the US to speak on this issue. After all, Israel's settlements are paid for by our citizens' tax dollars. The occupation of Palestinian land seized in 1967 would have long ago collapsed if the US had not supported its continuation in international bodies and with financial guarantees. Whether we like it or not, our democratically elected government has made every one of us a party to this injustice. The least we can ask of our church is to join other similar denominations in listening to the Palestinians.

Jan Adams

Perhaps anyone who wants to sign on could start a Causes.com post. The letter is here:
http://epfnational.org/PIN/a-prophetic-challenge-to-the-executive-council/

You can sign on to the letter here.

http://epfnational.org/PIN/

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