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Neither hot nor cold: General Convention on Palestine/Israel

Neither hot nor cold: General Convention on Palestine/Israel

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


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Paul Woodrum

Every time a representative of the government of Israel opposes American negotiations with Iran over atomic weapons (Iran has none), I wish the reporter would ask how many Israel has. I guess it’s one of those questions we’re not allowed to ask, in part, no doubt, because of our own complicity.

Ann Fontaine

Here is an open letter from the Rev. Naim Ateek: July 9, 2015

To: Presiding Bishop-elect Michael Curry

Dear Bishop +Michael: Please know that I join with all those who congratulate you on your election as the Episcopal Church’s 27th Presiding Bishop. Your election is a new sign of hope to many people who wish to see the Church speaking prophetically for a just world. Already, many Palestinians in the Episcopal diocese of Jerusalem have said to me that as the first Presiding Bishop of African descent, you know firsthand about racism, oppression and the importance of being a prophetic voice for justice. This gives us hope.

I write today to say that I was heartbroken when I heard the news and discovered that the House of Bishops in General Convention, held in Salt Lake City, yet again, failed to take a stand for justice on behalf of the oppressed in Palestine.

Although some of us would like to see Archbishop Suheil Dawani assume a stronger prophetic role, what the American bishops said and did at General Convention has a deeper ramification. The American bishops viewed the Israeli/Palestinian conflict within the narrow parameters of our small Episcopal Church in Jerusalem led by Archbishop Dawani. Whether intentionally or not, the American bishops failed to see the conflict as it adversely affects all Palestinians — Christians as well as Muslims. There are many Churches and organizations, religious and secular, from around the world that are courageously taking a stand against the injustice which is being perpetrated by the Israeli government and have adopted nonviolent methods to resist it, including economic pressure.

The Israeli government would like the American bishops to be intimidated by veiled threats against Bishop Suheil and his institutions and thus silence the prophetic stance of an historic Church. The Bishops capitulated to these threats and thus lost their focus. They started thinking about what is going to happen to Archbishop Suheil rather than what is happening to over 4 million Palestinians who are suffering on a daily basis. The problem is not Bishop Suheil and the Church’s institutions. They will endure with international donor support and advocacy for the Archbishop. The problem is Israel’s illegal occupation and its repeated violations of international law. It is not about Archbishop Suheil; it is about where the American Church takes its stand vis-a-vis the oppressed, and how it understands the Church’s complicity through its unmonitored investments in companies that may be undergirding the occupation and contributing to the suffering of millions of Palestinians. You cannot talk about positive investments and then ignore your other potentially unjust investments in an illegal and even evil system of occupation.

Additionally, the Bishops masqueraded under false arguments of “interfaith relations” or “positive investment and not divestment.” These are tantamount to what we in Palestine know un-affectionately as “The Interfaith Ecumenical Deal.” The agreement is to have polite conversations and wonderful dinners with the U.S. Jewish establishment organizations provided we remain silent about justice for the Palestinians. The “ecumenical deal” looks impressive from the outside but in actual fact it silences the prophetic and smothers the truth. In the House of Bishops, interfaith concerns trumped justice—-again.

Let me be clear. From the perspective of the victims of injustice the Bishops’ empty words on our conflict is perceived as betrayal. The Bishops in essence took a stand to support the status quo, which always benefits the oppressor. They refused to see or were unwilling to respond to the dire situation on the ground.

We as Palestinians are daily humiliated by the Israeli forces; our human rights are violated daily; our homes are demolished daily by bulldozers manufactured in the United States; our olive trees are uprooted, daily; our land is confiscated and turned over into illegal settlements, daily; our young people languish in Israeli jails, daily, with no legal charges or due process for months on end; our teenagers are taken from their beds in the middle of the night and imprisoned by the Israeli army on an average of two per night; and the Israeli government continues its daily violations of international law while the Church remains silent. The Bishops had a Kairos moment to speak a prophetic word of justice and chose not to do so. I am mortified to say that the action of the Bishops is a slap in the face of our own Archbishop Tutu who has said repeatedly that Israel’s injustice against the Palestinians is worse than apartheid.

There are two questions that every Bishop needs to answer before God: Who, in his or her opinion, has benefitted from the Bishops’ vote: the Palestinians or the Israeli government? And whom did the Episcopal Church USA protect through its vote, the oppressed or the oppressor?

It takes strong leaders with the courage that Jesus Christ and the prophets modeled for us to champion the cause of the oppressed. Sadly that did not happen.

Given the importance of this issue in the world community, and given the potential harm and despair that the Bishops action is causing Palestinians, I hope, Bishop Curry, you and other fair minded bishops will revisit this issue in your next meeting, and invite those of us who have a different perspective to engage the House of Bishops so that we might together find the right voice for the Church in these times.

Indeed, God continues to speak and many faithful people hear God’s call and respond to it. We are certain that the prophetic responsibility will never die and there will always be people, including Bishops, who, in faithfulness to God and in love of neighbor will strive “…to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God.” People of faith know that the movement of history is toward justice in the world. The words of Martin Luther King, Jr. are pertinent in this regard, “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

I pray that through your leadership, Bishop Curry, the sun of righteousness and justice will shine again on our Episcopal Church and that your prophetic voice, joined by many of your fellow bishops, will courageously speak truth to power so that the God of love, justice and peace will be glorified.

Faithfully yours,

Naim Ateek
President of the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Board Jerusalem
Recipient of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship Nevin Sayre Peace Award, 2006

Ann Fontaine

1. This statement appeared on the front page of the Arabic language Al-Quds newspaper shortly after Convention. It was apparently in response to public statements in the House of Bishops, reported in ENS, that the archbishop opposed divestment:

“The office of the Archbishop of the Anglican Church Bishop Suheil Duwani
(issued) a statement of clarification that the Bishop did not attend the convention of the Episcopal Church in the USA, and he did not send representative, nor did he issue a statement or comment regarding the issues discussed in the convention. And there is no party that has the
authority to speak in the name of the Archbishop or the diocese except the office of the Archbishop in Jerusalem.”

2. Taking note of the bishop’s statement, Daoud Kuttab, who is a Christian, a Palestinian, a journalist, and a former professor at Princeton, writes this opinion piece in Al-Jazeera. He points out that ENS had to correct their reporting by revising a quotation from Bishop Jay Magness on the debate in the House of Bishops. Kuttab writes that the archbishop has been placed in a difficult position because of the way his purported position on divestment was used and spoken for in the debate in Salt Lake City, because so many of his flock of Episcopalians, and Christians in general in
Palestine, in fact do support the moderate divestment strategies as a legitimate and peaceful form of pressure on the illegal occupation that is
grinding them down on a daily basis.

3. From Kairos Palestine, representing a diversity of Christian voices including Greek Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Episcopalian, Syrian Catholic,
Armenian Orthodox, Armenian Catholic, Lutheran, Coptic, Maronite, and many
more. This statement may be found on their Facebook site, here: Their website
is here:

8 July 2015

Kairos Palestine regrets the decision made by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church USA on July 2nd to overwhelmingly oppose divestment in
Israel. (The decision was made before the General Convention of the church held few days ago in Salt Lake City)

In this regard, we contacted His Eminence Archbishop Suheil Dawani, head of the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East, who denied any connection with the deliberations of the above-mentioned decision.

Kairos Palestine as the voice of Palestinian Christians from the midst of their suffering would have hoped that the decision of the Episcopal Church reflected a prophetic rather than a pragmatic approach and opted to stand clearly and firmly by the oppressed as called for in the Kairos document ‘A Moment of Truth.”

Vicki Gray

“One sided judgements will not make it happen.”
But the situation is one-sided. One people is on its knees. The other has a gone to their head. And we – we Americans – have paid for the gun. That imposes a particular obligation upon us…as Americans and as Christians.

Tim lusk

The last time i spoke on this issue i got my hand slapped for daring to use a term that translate into antijewish. I will try soeak my peace and hope that we can be people od good will and agree to disagree. When the Palestinians were promised land several decades ago Egypt and Jordon took 2/3 of that land. During ongoing discussions of Palestinian rights no one every presses these two countries on the issue. Israel is surrounded by nations that have called for its destruction and continue to up to this day. Hamas who controls parts of Palestinian land wants every jew in the middle east dead. The Palestinian people voted hamas into power. This is a complicated situation which the writers seem to ignore. I am glad the wiser heads prevaled at general conference. I will continue to prayer for peace in the middle east. One sided judgements will not make it happen

JC Fisher

“This is a complicated situation which the writers seem to ignore.”

OK, gotta ask: did you read what the Revds. Winnie Varghese and C. Eric Funston actually said, at length or even in brief?

Disagree with them as you will, but to say they ignore the “complicated situation” that is Israel/Palestine is just factually false. There weren’t “wiser heads” in the HofB. There were just buried heads, trying to shut the “complicated situation” OUT. How long can heads be buried in sand? Another 3 years? Another 30?

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.”

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