With the 219th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) days away, 16 former GA moderators are calling for commissioners to approve a study report on Middle East peace that was requested by the 218th GA.
“Breaking Down the Walls” is the report of the Middle East Study Committee. The committee was charged with preparing a comprehensive study focusing on Israel/Palestine with regard to the context of the Middle East. The report includes recommendations and study materials.
“Breaking Down the Walls” affirms Israel’s legitimacy as a state but calls the occupation of Palestine (West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem) “illegitimate, illegal under international law, and an enduring threat to peace in the region.”
The report’s recommendations call for the PC(USA) to dedicate 2010-12 as a time of prayer and action about the Middle East; create a Middle East monitoring group to ensure implementation of GA directives; strongly denounce Caterpillar’s profit-making from non-peaceful uses of its products in the region; encourage PC(USA) bodies to invest in sustainable economic development projects in the area; send a delegation to the area with other faith leaders; endorse the Kairos Palestine document developed by Palestinian Christian leaders; promote donations to Christian education in the region; and encourage Presbyterians to travel to Israel/Palestine.
The full text of the letter from 15 past moderators, encouraging commissioners to approve the report:
June 15, 2010:
Dear Commissioners to the 219th General Assembly,
Thank you as elders and ministers for taking the time to serve the church in your local congregation and session, presbytery, synod and now on our highest governing body, the 219th General Assembly. We know the amount of reading material before you can be overwhelming. You are in our prayers as you discern the will of God and seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit for our beloved PC(USA) on all the issues before the Assembly.
The purpose of our letter is to ask you to support and approve the Middle East Study Committee report for the following reasons:
1. The committee membership was chosen to represent the church by our 3 moderators, mandated by the 218th General Assembly, and consisted of different points of view. One from our midst, Rev. Susan Andrews who was the Moderator of the 215th General Assembly, served on the committee.
2. Their mandate was to write a comprehensive report about the Middle East — focusing on Israel/Palestine, in the context of the whole region. They were asked to talk with the people in the region, particularly our Christian partners, and Jews and Muslims. Their mandate did not focus solely on talking with the American Jewish community. That dialogue is essential as we move forward, but this is a Presbyterian statement and is a work in progress.
3. Their report builds on — and assumes — all the reports and statements that have been adopted by the GA in previous years — including the many statements that give voice to a Jewish and Israeli perspective. This report gives voice to the Palestinian Christian voice in a way that has not been heard before — in response to the urgency of the moment and the plea of our Christian brothers and sisters in the region to be heard. There is unanimity among all the many diverse Christian voices in the region in a way that has never happened before. It is a voice of suffering and urgency — and is echoed by moderate Muslim partners. The window of opportunity is closing for a peaceful solution to the problems in Israel/Palestine, and the threat of renewed violence is everywhere. The Christian presence has dwindled significantly in the past 50 years in Palestine/Israel, and so, the voice of reconciliation that Christians have always represented in the region is being silenced.
4. Their report reaffirms what the PCUSA has wanted for decades — a desire for commitment to a peaceful two state solution, within secure and recognized borders, in a nuclear free Middle East; the right of return or compensation for refugees, the security barrier pulled back to the 1967 borders, the end of settlement expansion, the right of Israel to exist next to a sovereign, independent and economically viable Palestine, a shared Jerusalem, all with a clear repudiation of anti-Semitism.
5. Their report lifts up the Kairos document for study — not approval — so that a collaborative Palestinian Christian voice can be heard. The study team report affirms the emphases in the Kairos document on non-violence and reconciliation and hope. The report does not affirm or endorse language about boycott, divestment, or sanction, although, it reaffirms corporate engagement and other non-violent ways to end support for the occupation.
6. The biblical and theological section clearly repudiates any hint of Christian Zionism or supercessionism. What it does do is tie responsibilities for justice, human rights and hospitality to the biblical understanding of land rights.
In light of the urgency of the situation in Israel/Palestine, the 43 years of Israeli military occupation over the lives of 4 million Palestinians in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, the continuous building of settlements is making the two state solution increasingly difficult.
We urge you to be a prophetic assembly by approving this report to help the whole church begin a two year study of Israel and Palestine and asking our people to travel and meet Israeli Jews, Palestinian Christians and Muslims, and see the situation for themselves. Our church must continue to love both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs and continue to struggle with them to work for truth, freedom, justice, reconciliation and peace.
Again, we urge you to support and vote in favor of this report.
Sincerely in the service of Jesus Christ,
(Our names below indicate our support)
- The Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, 2008-2010 218th
- Elder Rick Ufford-Chase, 2004-2006 216th
- The Rev. Fahed Abu-Akel, 2002 214th
- The Rev. Jack Rogers, 2001 213th
- The Rev. Syngman Rhee, 2000 212th
- Elder Freda A. Gardner, 1999 211th
- The Rev. Douglas W. Oldenburg, 1998 210th
- Elder Marj Carpenter, 1995 207th
- The Rev. Robert W. Bohl, 1994 206th
- The Rev. David Dobler, 1993 205th
- The Rev. John M. Fife, 1992 204th
- The Rev. Dr. Herbert Valentine, 1991 203rd
- Elder Price H. Gwynn, III, 1990 202nd
- The Rev. Benjamin Weir, 1986 198th
- The Rev. Dr. Albert C. Winn, 1979 119th
- Elder Jule C. Spach, 1976 116th