The Revds. Winnie Varghese and C. Eric Funston express their disappointment in the lack of discussion allowed or action taken by General Convention 2015 on Israel/Palestine. The resolution died in the House of Bishops, never getting to the House of Deputies.
From Varghese in the Huffington Post, “Episcopal Bishops Did Not Reject Divestment from Israel”
Last week The Episcopal News Service ran this headline: “Bishops Overwhelmingly Oppose Divestment in Israel, Palestine”.
Except, they didn’t…
…I was on the sub committee of the committee that considered all of the resolutions that related to any kind of shareholder action in relationship to the occupation of Palestine. We moved a very mild resolution that asked that the church investigate its investments that support the occupation and generate a list of products produced in the illegal settlements. We were told by very excited staff that we do not hold any such investments, until we were told by less excited staff that we do hold problematic investments. We have nothing in place to prevent future investments. That was just the beginning of the fun. The illegality of both the occupation and the settlements was not debated. In our church they are non negotiable. The Church of England, the mother ship, has modeled for us a way forward to consider our significant holdings with integrity. We included their good work in our resolution.
It was this resolution that the bishops rejected…
…We are currently being targeted by advocacy groups whose agenda is to insure no public criticism of Israel, none, not of occupation; illegal settlement; or illegal attack. It is perverse that we as Christians will undermine the voices of Palestinian Christians who have worked for decades on non-violent resistance in the Occupied Territories. Palestinian Christians are overwhelmingly Orthodox, Roman Catholic, and Anglican. We are on the record as abandoning them and the oldest sites of Christian worship that are currently under attack by extremist Israelis. …
…I do not live under the delusion that the government of Israel cares what the Episcopal Church does. I know that there are plenty of well paid people whose work it is to insure that Israel is never criticized. I know the bishop of Jerusalem will have trouble with the government of Israel no matter what we do; he is a resident of the West Bank and vulnerable. I know plenty of Israelis and American Jews who are appalled by the state of the Occupation and have dedicated their lives to justice for Palestinians and security for Israel. I do not understand how intelligent people can believe that interfaith conversation and more site seeing trips with no risk-taking on our part and no use of power: financial, political, or moral is anything but an adventure in vanity…
…I will never understand why we would not listen first to our brothers and sisters truly on the ground, the lay and ordained Palestinian Christians who have been displaced; who work for justice; and who ask for our help.
Read it all here.
From Funston’s blog “That Which We Have Heard and Known” Neither Hot nor Cold
… It’s not that the [statements we did make] are not important and vital issues; they are. It’s not that our voice, added to so many others, is not worth raising about these issues; it is. It’s not that we should not be taking a stand on these matters; we should. We should and we have and we will continue to do so, but we are not being particularly prophetic when we do so. We are merely doing what comes naturally moving a large, heavy institution over the rough terrain of difficult issues. Like Uzzah steadying the Ark of the Covenant, it may be dangerous, but it’s not particularly prophetic.
We did have the opportunity to be prophetic, but we failed to take it. A resolution numbered D016 was offered for our consideration. It would have called upon our church and our leadership to
“work earnestly and with haste to avoid profiting from the illegal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, and [to] seek to align itself with, and learn from, the good work of our Ecumenical and Anglican Communion partners, who have worked for decades in support of our Palestinian Christian sisters and brothers and others oppressed by occupation. (Resolution D016 as originally proposed)”
It did not call for divestment from Israeli investments. It did not call for the boycotting of products made in the occupied territories. It did not call for sanctions against Israel. It did not call upon us to join the “BDS” movement as it is called – Boycott, Divest, Sanction. It was opposed on the grounds that it did, but in truth it did not.
We could have taken such action; we could have joined BDS although the resolution did not call for it. Alternatively, we could have proclaimed that, instead of doing that, we would work through positive investment and constructive engagement with both Israelis and Palestinians to foster reconciliation and peace. Or, we could simply have done as the resolution sought and undertaken a time of intentional study and discernment as to what our ministry as a church with important ties to the Holy Land might be, how we might try to encourage healing in that broken, wounded, and bleeding place. We could have done any of those things, any of those prophetic things. But do you know what we did?
We ducked the issue. We played it safe. We closed off debate. We failed to act. The House of Bishops rejected Resolution D016 so the House of Deputies never had a chance to consider it and, thus, we did nothing. – We should know better!…
Read more here
posted by Ann Fontaine