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ELCA triennial Churchwide Assembly passes resolution calling for a halt of US aid to the State of Israel

ELCA triennial Churchwide Assembly passes resolution calling for a halt of US aid to the State of Israel


Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Urges End to US Aid to Israel Until Settlement Construction Ends

Isaiah 58, a group of Lutherans working for peace and justice in the Holy Land, welcomes today’s overwhelming approval by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) of a resolution [C1] calling on the US government to end aid to Israel until the latter freezes the construction of settlements on occupied Palestinian land, which violate longstanding official US policy and international law, and are a major obstacle to peace in the Holy Land. The vote on resolution C1, which took place at the ELCA’s triennial Churchwide Assembly in New Orleans, was 751 (82%) in favor, and 162 opposed.

Currently, the US gives more than $3 billion in military aid to Israel annually, without which it could not maintain its occupation of Palestinian lands, which entered its 50th year in June. The ELCA has long opposed Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise and supported nonviolent action in support of Palestinian rights. Today’s vote represents a continuation of the ELCA’s efforts to help bring about peace, justice, and equality for all the peoples of Israel and Palestine.

Isaiah 58 is a group of ELCA Lutherans who advocate for a more engaged church response to calls from Palestinians for an end to Israel’s occupation and a just peace for both Israel and Palestine.

C1 – Recommendation for Assembly Action

To receive with gratitude the memorials of the Northwest Washington, Sierra Pacific, Southwest California, Rocky Mountain, Minneapolis Area, Southwestern Texas, Southeastern Iowa, South-Central Wisconsin, Southeast Michigan, Indiana-Kentucky, Metropolitan New York, Northeastern Pennsylvania, Upper Susquehanna and West Virginia-Western Maryland synods related to Israel and Palestine;

To reaffirm the commitment of this church to:

1. Continue its awareness-building, accompaniment, and advocacy on behalf of a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Israel and Palestine;

2. Take steps to assist the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) and other Christians in sustaining their endangered presence in the Holy Land;

3. Promote the economic empowerment of Palestinians, including investment in Palestinian projects and businesses;

4. Promote the protection of the human rights of Palestinians and Israelis and oppose all violence and actions which discriminate against or deny any people their basic freedom, dignity or human rights;

5. Embrace the principles of restorative justice as part of the ELCA’s advocacy and engagement for the just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and actively seek ways to support Palestinians and Israelis engaging in restorative justice dialogue and other projects; and

6. Continue to pray for the ELCJHL and the work of The Lutheran World Federation Jerusalem program;

[7.] To encourage this church’s members, congregations, synods, and agencies as well as the presiding bishop to call on the U.S. President, in coordination with the United Nations Security Council, to offer a new, comprehensive and time-bound agreement to the governments of Israel and Palestine, resulting in a negotiated final status agreement between Israel and Palestine leading to two viable and secure states with a shared Jerusalem;

[8.] To urge this church’s members, congregations, synods, agencies and presiding bishop to call on their U.S. Representatives, Senators and the Administration to take action requiring that, to continue receiving U.S. financial and military aid, Israel must comply with internationally recognized human rights standards as specified in existing U.S. law, stop settlement building and the expansion of existing settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, end its occupation of Palestinian territory, and enable an independent Palestinian state; and

[9.] To encourage this church’s members, congregations, synods, and agencies to call on the U.S. President to recognize the State of Palestine and not prevent the application of the State of Palestine for full membership in the United Nations.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is a full communion partner of The Episcopal Church.
The ELCA Churchwide Assembly banner is from the ELCA Churchwide Assembly Facebook page.


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Philip B. Spivey

I think it’s fair to say that the Episcopal Church has chosen to turn a blind-eye (aka known as denial)to a growing, universal recognition that Israel is a colonial nation which, for almost 70 years, has made a fine art of deflecting criticism in the name of antisemitism. We see similar tactics in our own nation when critics of injustice here are characterized as un-American. Uncritical support of any nation-state invites tyranny; we see that scenario now unfolding before our eyes.

I agree with Paul Powers(above)that it seems that the leaders of Hamas and Netanyahu have a political investment in keeping things status quo; their constituencies demand it and that’s how they remain in power. But, as the occupier, the onus is on Netanyahu. Fortunately, Israel has a growing progressive wing of young people who see no future for them without a two-state solution. I pray for a surge of enlightenment in Israel.

In the meantime, I wonder why our church won’t support the efforts of justice in the Middle East by throwing our support behind a boycott? Critics of a boycott like say that the Palestinians will be most injured if we withdraw our capital. You have only to look at what dis-investment in apartheid South Africa accomplished to know that sanctions work.

It’s troubling that these issues have not be brought to the floor for discussion. What are we afraid of?

Paul Powers

I don’t think expecting the Israelis to unilaterally withdraw from the occupied territories is realistic. The PA and Hamas would have to show a willingness to recognize Israel and negotiate the border between Israel and a future Palestinian state. This border wouldn’t necessarily coincide with the 1948-67 armistice lines. There could be some swapping on both sides. For example, they might agreeing to swapping Hebron, which has tremendous cultural and religious significance to many Jewish people, for Nazareth, which is already majority Arab and has no particular significance to Jewish people.

Philip B. Spivey

I agree that the particulars of a two-state settlement will be dicey and prolonged. I am less concerned about what the final agreement looks like and more concerned that an agreement be forged.

Both sides are frozen in a death-dance spurred on by (Trump-like) fervor. I believe that nothing less than a pressure from the global community will break this deadlock.

Ergo, sanctions of any kind from individual nations of the global community will eventually move the intransigents in the right direction. I think large scale divestments may do the trick.

Fr. Ken Campbell

It is false to say that, ” They also want Jerusalem…” The various proposals submitted over the past several decades have called for a sharing of the Holy City and/or a UN administration of the city for all. I spend several months living in Jerusalem with Christian Palestinians whose families have lived there for centuries. If you ask the people of the Anglican/Episcopal diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East they are crying out for a free Palestinian state as promised by the UN resolution at the end of World War II.


Please follow the comment policy and post future comments using your first & last names. – ed

What I have found profoundly disturbing in the Episcopal Church has been the actions by the House of Bishops to block any conversation in the House of Deputies, as at G.C. 2015, on the issues that ELCA is responding to. Despite the organizing efforts in many dioceses resulting in resolutions, the dedicated work by EPF-Palestine/Israel Network to bring these resolutions to legislative committee for consideration, the moving testimony by Palestinian and Jewish Voice for Peace observers, we have not allowed to engage at Convention with the growing crisis of the Occupation, siege of Gaza, settlement expansion in East Jerusalem & West Bank … any of it. Nor have we addressed our moral complicity as Americans due to the billions of our tax dollars that flow to the Israeli government every year. I pray that the vision of the Jesus Movement will awaken TEC to the moral challenges that ELCA and our other ecumenical partners have taken seriously.

Jason Poling

Speaking as somebody who was there, I don’t think this is an accurate statement of what happened at GC in 2015.

The resolution in question was discussed in committee (and there was quite a bit of testimony, mostly in favor of BDS). But because the resolution originated in the House of Bishops (this allocation happens randomly), when the HoB voted it down it died–so there was nothing for the HoD to take up. I’m sure there were plenty of resolutions that originated in the HoD that got voted down and therefore never got to the floor in the HoB. There’s no conspiracy here, that’s what happens with a bicameral legislature when one of the houses votes no.

Debate on the action in the HoB reflected the fact that our Bishops have no appetite for getting on board with even a watered-down version of BDS. According to our polity, that means our Church stands apart from the mainline Protestant denominations on this issue.

You may like or dislike the policy, and you may like or dislike the polity, but I don’t think there was anything sinister behind the way the resolutions were dealt with at GC.

Ken Campbell

1. The security of the State of Israel can only be achieved by the existence of a sister Palestinian state with the same basic human rights and dignity as that of the Israelis. The policies of the Israeli government are a profound violation of the principles of Judaism. 2. Almost 90% of the violent deaths since 2000 have been Palestinians ( a large number of them children), not Jewish Israelis. 3. The Palestinian authority recognized the right of Israel to exist more than 20 years ago, (and more recently Hamas did as well) . They insist on the right of return and compensation for at least a portion of the victims of the Nakba ( the forcible removal of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948). 4. Archbishop Tutu is right, Israel has become an apartheid state. 5. Any Americans who visit the West Bank or Gaza are stunned by the oppression of this people, it is David and Goliath reversed.

Paul Powers

When did Hamas agree to recognize Israel?

Paul Powers

Hamas later denied that they were ready to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

Hamas and Netanyahu are each other’s most effective political tool. Makes one wonder whether they’re in cahoots.

Chris Harwood

They also want Jerusalem. Can you see us giving Washington DC to Iran or some other country that shouts ” Death to America”? Palestinians and others do that to Israel to this day. Just look at the Olympics, Middle Eastern athletes forfeited because competing against an Israeli is admitting they have a right to exist and they won’t do it. Running a race is too much for them . (And apparently the Palestinian swimmer lied about no pools, if you’ve been watching.)

Brian Yapko

This superficially seems like a positive development, but it is so misguided. 1) The right of Israel to even exist as a sovereign nation has never been acknowledged by Palestine. Without that acknowledgment, how is a negotiated peace to ever take place? 2) There is no mention whatsoever of the fact that Israel lives in a state of being constantly subjected to terrorism from Palestinians. How dare the ELCA issue a statement which fails to acknowledge that Israel is the victim of untold incidents of terror? and 3) Talk about shooting the U.S. in the foot — the USA relies HEAVILY on Israeli intelligence and military cooperation in keeping the U.S. safe from terror attacks emanating from Islamic terror organizations as well as in making progress in the Middle East wars we are engaged in. How are we to maintain needed Israeli cooperation with this type of resolution? We could have done this in a way which acknowledged Israeli safety concerns and its status as a U.S. military ally of the highest importance. Viewing this from so one-sided a position as has been described above looks — dare I say it — downright anti-Semitic. I am ashamed of what the ELCA has done today. It sounds like good public relations, but history will not be kind.

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