The nine members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) General Assembly Middle East study team met Nov. 11-13, 2009, in New York City. Meetings were held at the Presbyterian United Nations office and at First Presbyterian Church of New York City.

The group’s agenda focused on further conversations with Palestinian and Israeli leaders, as well as ecumenical and Presbyterian leaders, as they begin to craft their final report to the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the PC(USA).

While at the Presbyterian United Nations office, team members held conversations with Ambassador Riyad Mansour of the Palestinian Observer Mission, Ambassador Daniel Carmon of the Israeli Mission, and Chris Ferguson, representative to the United Nations from the World Council of Churches.

The team also heard a report from the Rev. Brian Ellison (Heartland Presbytery) and elder Elizabeth Letzler (Long Island Presbytery) of the PC(USA)’s Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) committee. At its meeting in early November, MRTI issued a recommendation that the PC(USA) General Assembly denounce Caterpillar, Inc., for its products’ involvement in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, specifically bulldozers that have destroyed many Palestinian homes and businesses and earthmoving equipment used to construct the “separation barrier between Israel and the West Bank.

The study team, appointed by the current and previous past two Moderators of the General Assembly, was asked by the 218th General Assembly (2008) to “prepare a comprehensive study, with recommendations, that is focused on Israel Palestine within the complex context of the Middle East.”

“The evolving situation in Palestine and Israel has intensified the need for and the urgency of the committee’s report and recommendation,” said the Rev. Ron Shive (Salem Presbytery), chairperson of the team. “Our plan is to release the report and recommendation at the beginning of March.”

The group will meet one final time (January 29-30, 2010) in Louisville, Ky.

In addition to Shive, the team consists of the Revs. Susan R. Andrews (Hudson River Presbytery), John Huffman (Los Ranchos Presbytery), Rebecca Reyes (New Hope Presbytery), Marthame Sanders (Greater Atlanta Presbytery), and Byron Shafer (New York City Presbytery); and elders Frederic W. Bush (Los Ranchos Presbytery), Nahida H. Gordon (Muskingum Valley Presbytery), and Lucy Janjigian (Palisades Presbytery).

Staffing the team are the Revs. Christian Iosso (Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy) and Victor Makari (coordinator, Middle East, Asia Minor, Jinishian Memorial Program, General Assembly Mission Council), elder Doug Dicks (mission co-worker, Israel Palestine, General Assembly Mission Council), and the Rev. Kerry Clements (director for Communication, Development, and Technology, Office of the General Assembly).