The hopes and fears of all the years

December 10, 2010

Linda Valentine and Gradye Parsons speak at the 219th General Assembly

Linda Valentine and Gradye Parsons —by Danny Bolin


The following statement is from Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Linda Valentine, Executive Director of the General Assembly Mission Council.

Each December Presbyterians join Christians around the world in turning our thoughts to the place of Jesus’ birth — the little town of Bethlehem. When we do, the image is typically of a still, small, sleepy village, which continues on oblivious to the ages. But nothing could be further from the truth. As tourists to Bethlehem know, the “little town” is all but surrounded by the 25-foot concrete wall, built for Israel’s security, but creating significant difficulties for Palestinian residents. While tourists are ordinarily able to pass quickly through the massive check-point that controls the route to nearby Jerusalem, Palestinian residents and those who would visit them often endure long hours of delay and harassment there.

The contradictions between religious hopes for peace and the realities on the ground in the Holy Land are often overlooked. We have strongly advocated for the right of both peoples to live peacefully within mutually recognized, secure borders. We have affirmed Israel’s legitimate concern for the security of its citizens and the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. We have unequivocally condemned all forms of violence.

Given the failure of many attempts at peace negotiations, our church has decided to take an active role in just peacemaking. We have begun a process of corporate engagement with companies whose products are used in the region for non-peaceful purposes. To this point, we have not divested from any company, but rather are using our position as stockholders to further the prospects for peace in the region.

Far from using anti-Semitic or “replacement” theologies to “demonize” or deny Jewish claims to Israel, as alleged in the recent opinion-editorial by Rabbis Martin Heir and Abraham Cooper published in the Wall Street Journal, our approach has been to seek to persuade Jewish friends, neighbors and relatives to support a two state solution that allows Israelis and Palestinians to live in dignity, peace and prosperity.

At our 2010 General Assembly, commissioners reviewed and debated an extensive report on Israel and Palestine within the context of the Middle East. That report included the recognition (confirmed in congressional testimony by General Petraeus) that the continued Israeli occupation of Palestine poses an enduring security threat to other U.S. interests in the region. The General Assembly also commended for study the Palestinian Christians’ Kairos document and endorsed its emphases on hope for liberation, nonviolence, love of enemy, and reconciliation.

The specifics of the Presbyterian report include reaffirmed support for the state of Israel with internationally-recognized borders at peace with all its neighbors. We clearly support an end to the occupation and an overall de-militarization of the Middle East. As followers of the “Prince of Peace,” we cannot support U.S. foreign policy that underwrites the domination of one people by another or the arming of undemocratic regimes of any kinds— nor do we idealize any of the political entities in the Middle East. We believe that all governments should obey international law and should serve the well-being of all those under their power.

Much is stake, as the familiar Christmas carol notes regarding Bethlehem: “the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) calls for prayers that hope for peace will cast out fear and lead to better future. The security of Israelis and Palestinians is inextricably linked to a just peace for both peoples.

  1. Thank you for PCUSA's thoughtful and principled Advent statement that calls us to be in solidarity with our sisters and brothers on all sides of the present conflict in Israel and Palestine. It is clear that those who pursue peace and justice through non-violent resistance will be met by smear campaigns and attempts to silence their work. It has always been that way and will probably become more difficult in the months and years ahead, until there is a tipping point toward truth-telling and justice. Those who visit Israel and Palestine regularly have seen the systemic oppression of Palestinians in Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and even the 20% of Palestinian population inside Israel. We have heard the cries of those on both sides who have told us: "Enough! Come and join us in changing the destructive course that Israel and the United States are currently pursuing here in the Holy Land and throughout the Middle East." In this Advent season let us join those voices and peace-makers who are laboring daily despite this wilderness of media neglect and governmental and religious institutional resistance to the things that make for peace. May PCUSA continue to be steadfast in their work for God's Kingdom that lifts up the lowly while calling those in power to accountability, as the text says: "according to the promise made to our ancestors, to Abraham and his descendants (Jews, Christians, Muslims and all who hear God's call and are motivated by God's inclusive love for all people) forever." (Lk. 1:55)

    by Don Wagner

    December 15, 2010

  2. The BDS movement has nothing to do with advocating any particular political solution, e.g. one state" or "two states. "Accusing" the IPMN or any other organization or individual of endorsing "one state" is a "subtle" way of saying "these people want to destroy Israel!" The denomination's faithful consideration, year after year, of actions calling Israel and corporations involved in the occupation to account for over six decades of violations of human rights is not about hurting Israel. This Jew is here to tell you that this is the most profoundly loving act that Christians can perform -- as individuals and as a denomination. God bless you in your work. Mark Braverman

    by Mark Braverman

    December 13, 2010

  3. I sincerely hope that this is partly, perhaps minutely , a subtle way of addressing the Israel/Palestine Mission Network’s joining of the Boycott, Divestment Sanctions movement, which is a movement pushing for a one state solution, as well as their beginning push for a one state rather than a two state solution. I plead for a Christian organization that will love the Israelis as much as the Palestinians. I plead for a fair organization whose Facebook page will link to both the bad of Israel and the bad of Hamas, the Good of Israel and the good of the Palestinians. That will feel badly when rockets hit Israel and say so, as they say so when Israel over steps the bounds in defending herself.

    by Viola Larson

    December 10, 2010

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