Elder Cynthia Bolbach, moderator of the 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Rev. Bruce Reyes-Chow, moderator of the 218th General Assembly (2008), have named the Monitoring Group on the Middle East.
Acting on authorization by the 219th General Assembly (2010), Bolbach and Reyes-Chow selected seven individuals who the assembly said need to have "demonstrated experience with and knowledge of the complex dynamics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within the larger concerns of the Middle East, and shall together comprise an authentic balance representing the fullness of the spectrum of commitments within the PC(USA) toward the people and issues in the region."
The creation of the monitoring group grew out of the assembly's actions on "Breaking Down the Walls," the comprehensive report of the Middle East Study Committee to this year's assembly.
The assembly has asked the group to "assist the appropriate General Assembly Mission Council offices and the Middle East staff team in monitoring progress and guiding actions to ensure adequate implementation of policy directions approved by this General Assembly, given the growing complexity and interrelatedness of issues in the region."
The monitoring group will work over the next two years. No face-to-face meetings are anticipated. Instead, the group will meet via teleconferencing or other means to incur minimal expense.
Named to the group:
The Rev. Roula Alkhouri (Genesee Valley Presbytery): Alkhouri currently serves as the pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Batavia, N.Y. She grew up in Damascus, Syria, and holds degrees from the University of Damascus and Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. In addition to growing up in Syria, Roula has traveled in the region and been active in raising awareness about issues of justice and peace in the Middle East, especially as they relate to the experience of Middle East Christians. She has led many workshops about the Middle East across the country and is committed to ecumenical and interfaith connections and cooperation between Jews, Christians and Muslims.
Elder Laurie Anderson (Heartland Presbytery) and chairperson of the monitoring group: Anderson is the president of the Immigrant Justice Advocacy Movement, national coordinator of the New Sanctuary Movement, and youth director for Argentine United and Southridge Presbyterian churches in Kansas City. She was a commissioner to the 219th General Assembly (2010), where she served as vice moderator of the General Assembly Middle East Peacemaking Committee. As a nationally recognized immigration advocate, Anderson presents immigration workshops and forums and moderates regional and national immigration reform dialogues. In 2009, she was named Heartland Presbytery’s Peacemaker of the Year.
The Rev. J.C. Austin (New York City Presbytery): Austin directs the Center for Christian Leadership at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City. He previously served as an associate pastor at Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City. Austin co-leads an Auburn Seminary program that takes Christian seminarians and Jewish rabbinical students through the region to engage together a complex range of narratives. A Ph.D. candidate at the University of Cape Town in South Africa, Austin’s dissertation focuses on how global Christianity influences public policy toward entrenched social conflicts through moral argumentation, using Israel/Palestine as one of his case studies.
The Rev. Bill Borror (Philadelphia Presbytery): Borror has been pastor of the Media Presbyterian Church in suburban Philadelphia since 1995. He previously served parishes in New Jersey and Texas. He is an affiliate professor of Christian Heritage at Palmer Theological Seminary where his areas of focus have included historical perspectives on Jewish-Christian relations. Since 2005, he has been a member of the Jewish-Presbyterian dialogue group and will participate in the National Council of Churches-Jewish conversation this fall. Borror was a commissioner to the 217th General Assembly (2006), where he served on the General Assembly Peacemaking Committee that dealt with divestment.
The Rev. Laura M. Cheifetz (Greater Atlanta Presbytery): Cheifetz works at the Fund for Theological Education in Atlanta, where her responsibilities include alumni relations, development, and the Transition into Ministry program. She has been involved with the PC(USA) and the National Council of Churches in peacemaking, women's ministries, racial/ethnic specific ministries, and antiracism endeavors, including writing multiple articles and resources. Cheifetz previously served for a year as a young adult intern in the Presbyterian United Nations Office.
The Rev. Jeffrey DeYoe (Scioto Valley Presbytery): DeYoe is pastor of Worthington Presbyterian Church in Columbus, Ohio. He previously served pastorates in Kansas, Minnesota, and Florida and has served as a commissioner to two General Assemblies. Since 2006, DeYoe has been the advocacy chairperson of the PC(USA) Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN). His travels to Israel/Palestine were in 2001 during the Second Intifada, and in 2006 to represent the Presbytery of St. Augustine at the Bethlehem Peace Conference sponsored by the PC(USA) and the International Center of Bethlehem. He helped to write and edit the 2009 IPMN publication/curriculum, "Steadfast Hope: The Palestinian Quest for Just Peace."
The Rev. Ronald L. Shive (Salem Presbytery): Shive is pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, Burlington, N.C., where he has served since 2002. He previously served three churches in South Carolina. Shive chaired the Middle East Study Committee that was mandated by the 218th General Assembly (2008). The committee's report to the 219th General Assembly, "Breaking Down the Walls," was amended and approved by the assembly. One of the amendments was the creation of this monitoring group.
Staffing the Monitoring Group for the Middle East are the Rev. Mark Koenig, peacemaking coordinator, General Assembly Mission Council; The Reverend Victor Makari, Middle East coordinator, General Assembly Mission Council; and the Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly.