Christian leaders say yes to Palestine U.N. membership

International law, basic fairness at stake, say PC(USA)’s Parsons, others

October 25, 2011


Leaders of four denominations, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, have issued a statement backing the Palestinian Authority’s bid for membership in the United Nations.

U.N. membership for the Palestinians is deserved, the four leaders say, “not only on the basis of international law and basic fairness … but to preserve a multi-religious holy land that includes Christian Palestinians.

In addition to Parsons, the statement was signed by the Rev. Geoffrey Black of the United Church of Christ, the Rev. Sharon Watkins of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Jim Winkler of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society.

The full text of the statement, given to Presbyterian News Service on Oct. 24:

The Palestinians deserve membership in the United Nations — not only on the basis of international law and basic fairness — but to help preserve a multi-religious holy land that includes Christian Palestinians. We write as elected leaders of Protestant denominations with mission histories in the Middle East, a deep commitment to our sisters and brothers in Christ in the region, and a concern for the security of Israelis and Palestinians. We serve a God who calls us to seek justice. We look forward to the day when, by God’s grace, swords are beaten into plowshares. We stand united in prayer for peace and reconciliation among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. We write aware that an Obama Administration veto of Palestinian membership in the United Nations would put further pressure on Palestinian Christians and Christian minorities elsewhere in the Middle East.

We understand the view expressed by United States and Israeli representatives that international recognition by the UN is no substitute for two-party, two-state negotiations. But the reverse is also true, given the prolonged and undeniable failure of the negotiations between parties of vastly different power. Membership for Palestine does not preclude either the need for or the possibility of negotiations. Outstanding issues including an end to the occupation, final borders, the status of Jerusalem, settlements, and the right of return would remain to be resolved through negotiation. We believe that UN membership for Palestine would increase the likelihood of fair and transparent negotiations on these issues, as those negotiations would then take place between two members of the United Nations.

Moves in Congress to cut development aid to the Palestinian Authority to punish it for seeking UN membership seem unwise and counter-productive. Funds to strengthen security, education, and healthcare programs for ordinary Palestinians should not become pawns in the politics of a UN confrontation. In fact, cuts in aid from the U.S., the largest single-state donor to the Palestinians, would erode the quality-of-life improvements that have been achieved in the West Bank. Moreover, these cuts would be detrimental to the security of Israelis and Palestinians alike, not to mention U.S. interests in the region.

We are committed to the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security with their neighbors, within internationally recognized borders as described by UN resolutions that envision two viable states. We believe UN membership for Palestine would be a step in that direction.

No church leader wants controversy, yet we share a Bible that includes the critical and self-critical voices of the prophets. We invite those who disagree with us to visit Palestine and Israel, to go through the walls surrounding Bethlehem and Gaza, to understand the economic chokehold of the occupation.

We urge the Obama Administration not to use the veto for a 42nd time when the Security Council considers the recommendation for membership for Palestine, but to abstain—for the sake of a better future for the entire holy land.

Geoffrey A. Black
General Minister and President
United Church of Christ 

Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) 

Jim Winkler
General Secretary
United Methodist General Board of Church & Society 

  1. I am just back from Israel and Palestine. Americans must become better informed (most of the posts above are totally ignorant of the facts) and back off from our support of Israel--$8 billion dollars every single day. The constant harassment and punishment of Palestinians is outrageous.

    by Ann Turpin

    February 25, 2015

  2. The ignorance in some of these comments is appalling! To the people who claim that the term Palestinians is a recent name reveals utter lack of knowledge about the Bible, because Palestine is mentioned as far back as Exodus. I have met many Muslims who have documents certifying their land ownership as far back as 450 years ago. Israel is a military occupancy--a term confirmed by a Jerusalem born Israeli Jew.

    by Ann Turpin

    February 25, 2015

  3. Reading some of the comments make me vomit, the ignorance of the world is killing me . People before being pro Israeli you should come and then you will see yourself shifting to pro human being. Christian people are not leaving Bethlehem because of the harassment from Muslim the number is reducing because of your ignorance . fulfilling the prophecy and following the Zionist movement. people are leaving. people leave because of the occupation, and the brutality of the occupier. Bethlehemiet people living in big prison no access for basic needs . By the way I am Palestinian Christian living in Bethlehem and if you want to open your eyes, and stop being blind I am ready to correct the misunderstanding. and I am inviting you to come and see

    by lucy

    February 12, 2015

  4. Palestine has suffered enough. It is time to end the Occupation.

    by Nancy Horman

    January 19, 2015

  5. It is time to have a foreign policy that favors peace and justice in our international relations, not Israeli Zionist efforts at ethnic cleansing. If a nation did to us what Israel has done to Palestine, and we were as small as Palestine, we would seek international help.

    by Robert Worley

    January 19, 2015

  6. Please don't murder over dirt.

    by Kimberly Tittle

    January 15, 2015

  7. I do not believe that pre-empting negotiations between the Palestinian authority and Israel by forcing U.N. membership for the Palestinians will result in peace or justice. There are agreements which have not been fulfilled- Palestine recognition of Israel's right to exist is one.

    by Gertrude Reif

    November 24, 2011

  8. It is truly alarming that people calling themselves Christians have not bothered to read either the Bible or to study the true nature of this conflict. Even now enemies of Israel are plotting major attacks. Israel cannot defend herself with the borders you desire.Palestinians admit that they are working toward an ultimate goal of one state with no Jews. Check their own maps. And BTW there is a Palestinian state. It is called Jordan. You should check read some history. What is your problem that you can't see that tiny Israel takes up a fraction of 1% of Arab lands. Arabs there have more freedom and representation than their brothers in any of the surrounding lands. Please take the time to read the Old Testament prophets and see what God has to say about those who seek to divide His land in these last days. Check on the cartoons and the educational materials the Palestinians provide (at Western expense) for their children. Read how the Christian population of Bethlehem has been reduced greatly because of harassment, thefts from their shops, and rape of their daughters by their Muslim neighbors. Both parties need to earnestly desire peace. Israel has proved repeatedly that they desire peace. You need only look at what happened after they foolishly gave up Gaza to see what the future holds when we force them to give up more land. I do truly feel for those Palestinians who do desire peace and freedom. But their leadership and the majority of the citizens do not. You are all false teachers. You need to get off your pedestals and submit to God's Word as the basis for your thoughts and actions. Your vain imaginations are amiss.

    by Christine Shoffner

    November 19, 2011

  9. I am always in support of Christians who are being persecuted. However, if you know the Word, you will know that this land belongs to God's chosen people. It will be returned to them/ You may think that I am uneducated in whatt is going on and I will admit that I have never been there, but I do believe that the land belongs to the Jews and we are to support the Jews, even though they are not perfect and neither are we. Israel has made a lot of conscessions to the Paletinians and they have responded with violence. I would hope that the Chrisian Palestinians are not part of that, but are they truly biblical Christians or Christians by religion only.

    by Gary E. Mank

    November 19, 2011

  10. The main reason I am leaving the Presbyterian Church is this revisionist and anti-Biblical view of Israel. First of all, the Israelis are not "occupiers." Disputed territories were FORFEITED by the Arabs when they launched an unprovoked attack upon Israel in 1948. Extant historical records prove that as the Arab states were preparing to annihilate fledgling Israel, the Arab Higher Committee for Palestine was urging the Arab population to vacate the area, allowing Arab armies the freedom to kill Israelis without fear of "collateral damage." The Jordanian newspaper Falastin reported on Feb. 19, 1949, "The Arab States encouraged the Palestinian Arabs to leave their homes temporarily in order to be out of the way of the Arab invasion armies." On June 8, 1951, Habib Issa, Secretary General of the Arab League, wrote in the New York Lebanese newspaper, Al Hoda, "...Brotherly advice was given to the Arabs of Palestine to leave their land, homes and property and to stay temporarily in neighboring fraternal states, lest the guns of the invading Arab armies mow them down." These "refugees" were assured that the destruction of Israel would be a cakewalk and that they would soon return to plunder the Israelis of their possessions. The Jewish population viewed this exodus with dismay, not exhilaration. The Jewish mayor of Haifa even appealed to the Arab delegation to reverse its decision. At the same time, nearly one million Jewish residents of the surrounding Arab nations were truly being forcibly expelled without compensation for their property and possessions. Most of those refugees resettled in Europe, Canada and the U.S. In the end, Israel turned the tables on her attackers and handed them a decisive defeat, leaving the Palestinian Arabs out in the cold. Now those Arabs are insisting upon their "right of return." How very ironic. Do the Jews have any "right of return" to their former homes in Arab countries? Hardly. So much for reciprocity. Creating a Palestinian state would simply entrench the already-existing virulent anti-Semitism of the Arabs, who have wholeheartedly committed themselves to annihilating the State of Israel. Christians in the disputed territories are already being persecuted; creating a Palestinian state would seal their fate. Most telling is the attitude of Arabs living in Israel and particularly in Jerusalem who do not wish to see the formation of a Palestinian state. If the Presbyterian Church wishes to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East, it should begin by urging the Arabs to recognize Israel's right to exist. However, the Bible clearly teaches that in the end times, all nations will come up against Israel and attempt to destroy her. So far, world events are pointing in that selfsame direction.

    by William Burt

    November 19, 2011

  11. I wouldn't like to be in your shoes when judgment day comes. Ignorance of the BIBLE is no excuse for stupidity. ISRAEL is the LAND promised to the descendants of ABRAHAM, ISAAC & JACOB, ONLY. Since there never were ANY "palestinians" until Arafat made up the word in 1967 in order to steal the land from the JEWISH NATION, after Palestine had been the homeland of the Jews since the destruction of Judea by the Romans in 70ad & again in 135 ad. There are 22 other Arab dictatorships around the Middle East, with land area 800 times the size of ISRAEL. But, only one Jewish Nation that is OOVENANT LAND, that is prophesied for the return of all 13 tribes of Israel in these last days (Joseph is EPHRAIM, A COMPANY OF NATIONS of GEN 48., and MANASSEH), to a Promised land from the River NILE to the River EUPHRATES (GEN 15:18), so when you BELIEVE THE LIES OF THEIR ENEMIES, you become a GOAT of Matthew 25:33,40-41, BEWARE OF WHICH god YOU SERVE!

    by Aussie Phil

    November 19, 2011

  12. The Jewish people are God's chosen race on earth. Israel belongs to them through the promises of God and His concern for them will not be denied. The only real and lasting Peace in the Holy Land will take place when Jesus Christ returns and rules this world in Love.

    by Matt Graenish

    November 19, 2011

  13. More liberal so-called Christians helping to pave the way for the Anti- Christ. May God open their eyes before it is to late. The Palestinians are squatters on the land God gave the Jewish People. Come quickly Lord Jesus!!!

    by Frank Varner

    November 19, 2011

  14. I agree that Palestinians should be aided. However, that aid needs to be predicated on the cessations of attacks by Palestinian and other Arab extremist groups via rockets and bombings of innocent Israeli citizens. If negotiations are really their choice, they can join the civilized world and seek meaningful dialogue and be willing live with the results. Too many times in the past, negotiations have resulted in so-called "agreements" which the Palestinians have had no intention of honoring. For the Palestinians, the ruse of negations is only to have a forum to endlessly spout their rhetoric of oppression while failing to ease tensions to make progress possible. Every instance of compromise by the Iraeli government in the past has resulted in increasing demands and not in a lessening of tensions. The power for the Arab leaders is maintained only by having the whipping post of the state of Israel to blame. There is absolutely no interest in helping their own citizens or in aiding the Palestinians. The fact that the Palestinians are not welcome in any of the other Arab states is a telling fact about the real agenda of the Arab states. For religious leaders in this country to blame Israel shows a lack of knowledge of the real issues and actually encourages the continuance of conflict that they say they want. When the entire world makes any attacks by one or more member states of the UN without cause punishable by expulsion from the UN, we may see a change. However in the current environment the UN is little more than a propaganda forum that all too often has too little effect on bringing peace to the world as was envisioned by those who established it.

    by James A. Dunny

    November 19, 2011

  15. Genesis 12:3 "I will bless them that bless thee and curse them that curse thee" is the promise that God gave to Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation. I prefer to be on the side of those that chose to bless Irsael and enjoy the blessings of God.

    by Donald

    November 19, 2011

  16. I cannot believe this statement. The so-called Palestinians have proven over and over that the leadership are simply terrorists; yet, these American Christian leaders have blindly followed them to the illogical conclusion that they somehow deserve part of the tiny nation of Israel, rather then part of the much larger land-holdings of other Arab nations. Look at recent history. Over the last thirty years, every time Israel has made (or been forced to make) concessions to Hamas, the demands by Hamas have increased--along with the violence from Hamas. Daily the Palestinians bomb Israel, yet too many in America and the rest of the world are blind to their thirst for the annihilation of Israel and the Jews. As far as the tiny minority of Palestinian Christians, as long as they are willing to live peacefully, I would like them to be able to live where ever they would like. Wake up to reality. Israel is fighting for its existence and the life of its people.

    by Prof. Tana Aivazian Colburn

    November 19, 2011

  17. What a farce! I am absolutely dumbfounded by the stance taken here by leaders of Churches. Have these leaders ever researched History behind the Bible, or of the Middle East? Do they know God says fear not? Palestinians need to fight the Jordanians, because that is there ancestral homeland, not Isreal.

    by David Evans

    November 19, 2011

  18. First of all the Bible does say that Jesus was a Jew although He spoke Arabic because of the area he lived in after being born. And it clearly states that he was Hebrew. However, I cannot for the life of me recall where it states that He was a Palestinian. Nope, it's not in there. But this is the NEW WORLD ORDER's attempt at stealing Jerusalem away from Israel and giving it over to Palestine so that the when the emergent Anti-Christ is ready to plop his butt in the throne in the Holy of Holies room of the Jerusalem Temple, he doesn't have to fight to get there. Anyone who tells you that the Anti-Christ has already come is delusional. Many Anti-Christ's have come and gone, but The Anti-Christ (Satan) appears when the whole world is united under a one world government. I left the Presbyterian church two decades ago because of their Apostasy then. It's just so much worse now. To know the truth, you must read your own Bible. The King James Version or the NIV are good copy. Newer versions have been created to include the necessary changes for the coming of the New World Order and are not reliable. Stay close to older copy. 1599 - 1700.

    by ajfrench

    November 19, 2011

  19. These people do not know what they are saying

    by Francis E Nearhoof Sr

    November 19, 2011

  20. By the truth, you shall know them! What is wrong with so many "so called followers of the risen Christ, that they don't know TRUTH?" Let us all pray that they back up the Jews and realize really what is happening! Pray! Thanks for the opportunity to state THE TRUTH!

    by Marie Emery

    November 19, 2011

  21. I stand with Israel, the Palestinians have all the other countries around Israel. Do you really think they will leave all the Christian sites alone, NO!

    by Jennelle Martin

    November 19, 2011

  22. My wife and I recently resigned membership in the United Methodist Church- after my wife devotedly served for 50 years, and I only 40 years. We did it just in time! I would not want to be remotely connected to this and several other "liberal"-type support. The church has done many good things, but they are changing too much for me!

    by Bob Weete

    November 19, 2011

  23. I read this letter several times and still find it hard to comprehend how the leaders have come to the conclusion they have. The bible is very clear all of Israel belongs to the Jewish people.

    by Rhonda Smith

    November 19, 2011

  24. as usual, Americans are left in the dark regarding real issues in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian question. We must depend on the Internet for our information. Thank you, Presbyterian News, for bringing us up-to- date on Grady Parsons and other's clear vision and nerve in telling it like it is.

    by Donna Robertson

    November 16, 2011

  25. I am a bit late on, but grateful for the WCC for having alerted me to the statement you and other church leaders issued on Palestinian membership in the UN. Ted Settle said it so well here that I say simply, Amen. Thank you for your mor4l leadership in a time when it is so desperately lacking.

    by Dwain Epps

    November 11, 2011

  26. Thank you, Gradye, for your leadership in the bold ecumenical witness in behalf of Palestine's membership in the UN and the right of both Israelis and Palestinians to live in security and peace with their neighbors.

    by Belle Miller McMaster

    November 7, 2011

  27. I'm from Brasil, my country agree whith the palestine state at UNESCO. And I'm a presbiterian from IPB (PCUSA is our spiritual's father) and I very happy whith this declaration. God still blessing your church!

    by Leandro Souza Cruz de Andrade

    November 2, 2011

  28. Thanks be to God for the church leaders who articulated and issued this statement, and especially for our Stated Clerk, Gradye Parsons and his servant-leadership. The statement is indeed timely and much needed when our politicians and corporations continue to pursue war, violence, and corruption. The Church is called to speak truth to power in humility and integrity.

    by Raafat Zaki

    November 2, 2011

  29. I agree with your position for Palestine. All voices in the middle east should be heard. (elder and active with public policy as it relates to women and children)

    by Millicent C. Hankla

    October 30, 2011

  30. Presbyterian leaders being truthtellers, aka prophets. Bravo!

    by john newton hickox

    October 30, 2011

  31. I am very pleased to learn of the position these four church leaders have taken. It takes courage to do the right thing. May we all find the courage to speak out in favor of justice and fairness.

    by Annette Washburn

    October 28, 2011

  32. We appreciate your speaking truth to power. We will continue to pray for God's peace that includes all His children of Israel/Palestine.

    by Heidi and Elie Saikaly

    October 28, 2011

  33. Dear Grady, Many thanks to you and other church leaders for this bold statement. I wonder at Israel's continued membership in the UN since they have been abusing the Palestinians, taking their property, building walls, destroying roads and homes, building settlements prohibited by the UN and preventing economic progress for all who live in Palestine. These include our Christian sisters and brothers. Will the militarized conditions in Israel mean Christians will continue leaving this area? Can the future include all three religions of this historic area? My prayer is that everyone will see that violence and abuse are never the answer, that children growing up in an atmosphere of hatred, fear and deprivation will not have the skills to live in peace. I hope your well reasoned statement will resonate with our leaders and citizens. May it be so.

    by Louise Davidson

    October 27, 2011

  34. Mr. Parsons: Thanks very much for your Christian witness on behalf of the Palestinians, specifically their move toward gaining statehood status at the UN. That took courage and true wisdom. Blessings upon you ! I am forever grateful for the PC(USA)'s leadership on behalf of gaining justice and peace in the Palestinian community. I sincerely believe that the PC(USA)'s majority has, for several years, been trying its best to follow a path which our Lord Jesus would follow. Clarence E. (Jack) Prince, Jr., Ph.D. PC(USA) Mission Co-worker, retired ( 20 years Korea, 10 years Indonesia ) Westminster Presbyterian, Austin, TX

    by Clarence E. (Jack) Prince

    October 27, 2011

  35. This does not help the peace process at all. The PC (USA) has little credibility in trying to influence political decisions.

    by Jim Ragan

    October 26, 2011

  36. Thank you for your courageous statement. Standing up for Palestinians does not mean standing against Israel. We are called to work towards justice for all, and to show love for all. I am proud of my fellow Presbyterians today!

    by Nora Wiltse

    October 26, 2011

  37. Thanks to you elected church leaders for a thoughtful, well reasoned, and realistic letter regarding the Palestinian's request, not for statehood, but membership in the UN. Thoughtful because you recognize the interests of the different parties, including the oft forgotten Palestinian Christians; well reasoned and realistic because you also recognize the great disparity in power between the Palestinians and the Israelites, a difference that would be somewhat lessened given membership in the UN, access to international courts, and more likely to result in negotiations that could produce a just peace. Given the PC(USA's) long history of involvement in the Middle East and since 1948 with the issues of a just peace between Israel and Palestine, it is most appropriate that Gradye Parson, its Stated Clerk, be a signatory to this letter. Well done!!!

    by Ted Settle

    October 26, 2011

  38. Thank you so much for spearheading the action to get/ecumenicaldenominational support for Palestinian statehood through the United Nations. We believe this is the right action to take at this time.

    by David and Polly Johnson

    October 26, 2011

  39. Many thanks to the leaders of our churches who have stood up to express a position that is in my opinion the only correct way to look at the UN situation. The Palestinians have been made to wait far too long for this opportunity, and it would be shameful for the United States to veto this move that is clearly designed to set the Palestinians and Israelis back on the track to negotiations.

    by Melinda Thompson

    October 26, 2011

  40. One of the requirements for UN membership is that a member will not seek to destroy another member. When the Palestinians agree to recognize, and not seek to destroy, the Jewish State, then they will be ready for membership.

    by Whitman Brisky

    October 26, 2011

  41. Many thanks for speaking out on this important issue. As Christians, we must stand for peace and justice!

    by Sue Dravis

    October 26, 2011

  42. I support the four church leaders who have taken a bold stance in relation to the Palestinians' effort to gain membership in the U.N. We need that kind of prophetic witness in our world today, especially when addressing the needs of the most vulnerable in our world. Many thanks from the bottom of my heart!!

    by Linda B. Brebner (Rev. Dr.)

    October 26, 2011

  43. The Israel/Palestine Mission Network linked to an excellent piece from both the Atlantic & S. Daniel Abraham Center. They are exploring 4 essential problems that need to be solved in the Middle East Conflict. Just reading it and listening helps one to understand the real need for solution before the UN calls for a Palestinian State. The Palestinian state does need to happen but not this way. The mainline church leadership have jumped too fast and they are not listening to the whole church nor to the needs of both sides in the Middle East.

    by Viola Larson

    October 26, 2011

  44. I'm so glad that we are standing with Christian brothers and sisters in Palestine, and witnessing that God desires peace and justice that for all of Abraham's spiritual children. Proud to be a Presbyterian today!

    by Cindy Shepherd

    October 26, 2011

  45. Yes, let the critics GO and SEE. In the tradition of the "critical and self-critical prophets," you have not shied away from taking the side of justice. A thousand thank yous, Prophet!

    by Noushin Framke

    October 26, 2011

  46. Thank you, Gradye! Thank you. Your bold stance for a just peace makes me proud to be a Presbyterian! Grace and Peace be with you! John

    by John Morgan

    October 25, 2011

  47. I have been saying yes to the Palestinians since I went to Israel/Palestine in 2009. They have been treated terribly and deserved their own land. Of course, they now occupy the worst land in the area. Maybe the Israeli's could give them the choice of land as Abraham did for Lot!!!

    by Maryann Smith

    October 25, 2011