11-01 On Peace and Justice in Palestine and Israel
Source: Presbytery Sponsor:
Greater Atlanta Presbytery
Committee:
[11-01] Peacemaking and International Issues
Type:General Assembly Full Consideration
Topic:Unassigned
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ASSEMBLY ACTION
On this Item, the General Assembly, acted as follows:
Approve Alternate Resolution
Electronic Vote - Plenary
Affirmative: 504
Negative: 171
Abstaining: 7
Final Text:
That the 218th General Assembly (2008) approve the following resolution:
 
The 218th General Assembly (2008):
 
1.         Affirms the obligation of the church to speak to the governments of the United States and all other nations where it sees those governments violating the commandments of God. In the words of The Theological Declaration of Barmen, which speaks to the dependence of the Church on the Word of God and its independence from any state or ideology, “we reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords … . The state has by divine appointment the task of providing for justice and peace … [The church] calls to mind the Kingdom of God, God’s commandment and righteousness, and thereby the responsibility both of rulers and of the ruled. …” (The Book of Confessions, 8.15, 8.22). The sovereignty of God thus judges all claims of sovereign nationhood, all boundaries, all exercises of force, and all uses of resources by human beings. The Church is thus called to help discern where the Spirit is working in the world, guided by Scripture and its confessions.
 
2.         Endorses the “Amman Call” regarding Arab-Israeli peace, issued by the World Council of Churches’ conference, “Churches Together for Peace and Justice in the Middle East,” at Amman, Jordan, June 18-20, 2007, including its affirmation of the UN resolutions that are the basis of a projected “two-state” solution, a shared Jerusalem, and the human rights of refugees and occupied peoples, its call to resist extremism and push for reconciliation, and its commitment to imperatives of ecumenical solidarity in action for Just Peace, directing that the Amman Call be printed in the Minutes of the General Assembly and considered in any study processes of the church.
 
3.         Directs appropriate offices of the General Assembly Council to provide video, cyber, and print resources on the church’s historic concern for justice and peace in Israel and Palestine, such as those proposed by the Presbytery of Atlanta, using existing materials whenever possible, including back issues of Church & Society as suggested, to interpret such matters as Mission Responsibility Through Investment, the status of Jerusalem, the impact of the security barrier (or “wall”), etc.
 
4.         Commends the nonviolent witness of the Christians in Palestine and Israel with whom we share membership in the one Body of Christ, joining them in prayer and mutual remembrance, advocating for fair treatment for them and their neighbors.
 
5.         Encourages Presbyterian individuals, congregations, and councils to take pilgrimages and trips to Israel and Palestine that are in harmony with our principles, specifically that include: significant time visiting local Christians and church leaders, significant time in the Occupied Territories (witnessing conditions, helping sustain isolated and impoverished local economies), opportunities to meet Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers, and opportunities to engage in interfaith discussion of a range of perspectives; such travel to be assisted and resourced as feasible by the General Assembly Council, mission personnel, the Israel/Palestine Network, and our ecumenical partners in the region, as outlined by the Presbytery of East Iowa, all with the goals of helping the church grow in solidarity, mercy, and peacemaking.
 
6.         In continuing the process of corporate engagement with companies supporting or profiting from the occupation of Palestine and/or other violence in the region, instructs the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) to report regularly to the General Assembly Council on its communication and the compliance, or lack thereof, by Caterpillar, Motorola, and other corporations involved with regard to General Assembly guidelines and concerns for justice and human rights.
 
7.         Requests that the full texts of all overtures submitted on the Middle East be considered in the report on the Middle East recommended by the General Assembly Council to be prepared for 2010.
COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATION
On this Item, the Peacemaking and International Issues Committee, acted as follows:
Approve Alternate Resolution
[Counted Vote - Committee]
Affirmative:47
Negative:17
Abstaining:1
Final Text:
In response to this recommendation, that the 218th General Assembly (2008) approve the following resolution:
 
The 218th General Assembly (2008):
 
1.         Affirms the obligation of the church to speak to the governments of the United States and all other nations where it sees those governments violating the commandments of God. In the words of The Theological Declaration of Barmen, which speaks to the dependence of the Church on the Word of God and its independence from any state or ideology, “we reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords … . The state has by divine appointment the task of providing for justice and peace … [The church] calls to mind the Kingdom of God, God’s commandment and righteousness, and thereby the responsibility both of rulers and of the ruled. …” (The Book of Confessions, 8.15, 8.22). The sovereignty of God thus judges all claims of sovereign nationhood, all boundaries, all exercises of force, and all uses of resources by human beings. The Church is thus called to help discern where the Spirit is working in the world, guided by Scripture and its confessions.
 
2.         Endorses the “Amman Call” regarding Arab-Israeli peace, issued by the World Council of Churches’ conference, “Churches Together for Peace and Justice in the Middle East,” at Amman, Jordan, June 18-20, 2007, including its affirmation of the UN resolutions that are the basis of a projected “two-state” solution, a shared Jerusalem, and the human rights of refugees and occupied peoples, its call to resist extremism and push for reconciliation, and its commitment to imperatives of ecumenical solidarity in action for Just Peace, directing that the Amman Call be printed in the Minutes of the General Assembly and considered in any study processes of the church.
 
3.         Directs appropriate offices of the General Assembly Council to provide video, cyber, and print resources on the church’s historic concern for justice and peace in Israel and Palestine, such as those proposed by the Presbytery of Atlanta, using existing materials whenever possible, including back issues of Church & Society as suggested, to interpret such matters as Mission Responsibility Through Investment, the status of Jerusalem, the impact of the security barrier (or “wall”), etc.
 
4.         Commends the nonviolent witness of the Christians in Palestine and Israel with whom we share membership in the one Body of Christ, joining them in prayer and mutual remembrance, advocating for fair treatment for them and their neighbors.
 
5.         Encourages Presbyterian individuals, congregations, and councils to take pilgrimages and trips to Israel and Palestine that are in harmony with our principles, specifically that include: significant time visiting local Christians and church leaders, significant time in the Occupied Territories (witnessing conditions, helping sustain isolated and impoverished local economies), opportunities to meet Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers, and opportunities to engage in interfaith discussion of a range of perspectives; such travel to be assisted and resourced as feasible by the General Assembly Council, mission personnel, the Israel/Palestine Network, and our ecumenical partners in the region, as outlined by the Presbytery of East Iowa, all with the goals of helping the church grow in solidarity, mercy, and peacemaking.
 
6.         In continuing the process of corporate engagement with companies supporting or profiting from the occupation of Palestine and/or other violence in the region, instructs the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) to report regularly to the General Assembly Council on its communication and the compliance, or lack thereof, by Caterpillar, Motorola, and other corporations involved with regard to General Assembly guidelines and concerns for justice and human rights.
 
7.         Requests that the full texts of all overtures submitted on the Middle East be considered in the report on the Middle East recommended by the General Assembly Council to be prepared for 2010.
RECOMMENDATION

The Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, having held dialogues with members of the Atlanta Israeli, Palestinian, Islamic, and Jewish communities and with representatives of Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations, and having an ongoing concern for peace and justice in Palestine/Israel, respectfully overtures the 218th General Assembly (2008) to do the following:

1. Produce a video and study guide—including participants from the Jewish, Islamic, Palestinian, Israeli, and human rights communities (both Israeli and Palestinian)—addressing the questions: “What is your vision for a just peace in Israel/Palestine and how do we achieve it?” and “What can the PC(USA) do to make that vision a reality?”

2. Request Peace and Justice, through the Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI), to produce a guide for congregations and individuals to reflect on their investments in light of biblical and theological principles and to suggest possible actions persons might take in light of those reflections. Such a guide would include the careful process of principled corporate engagement that MRTI has undertaken with regard to peace and justice in Israel/Palestine (the Sept./Oct. 2002 issue of Church & Society’s article, “The Presbyterian Church as Investor,” is a helpful starting point).

3. Request World Mission, through its Office for Interfaith Relations and its Office of the Middle East to produce a guide to help Presbyterian congregations and members seek out and live into intentional friendships with Jews, Muslims, and Middle Eastern Christians who reside in their communities.

4. Continue to lift up the plight of the dwindling Christian community throughout the Middle East, recognizing that there are various reasons for the churches’ difficult circumstances, and expressing special concern for those in areas of active military violence. Thus, we will continue to seek ways to support and pray for the Church in the lands of its birth.

5. Urge the president of the United States to appoint a special envoy for Israel/Palestine, based in Jerusalem, to begin immediately as a sign of active, principled U.S. engagement toward solving Israeli-Palestinian abuses and conflicts.

FINANCIAL IMPLICATION

Original Financial Implications- (2008): $0; (2009): $17,171; (2010): $0 [Mission]

Committee Action Financial Implications- (2008): $0 ; (2009): $0 ; (2010): $0 [Mission]

COMMENT
COMMENT
Advice and Counsel on Item 11-01—From the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP).

The Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) advises that Item 11-01 be answered by approving the following alternate resolution:

“The 218th General Assembly (2008):

“1. Affirms the obligation of the church to speak to the governments of the United States and all other nations where it sees those governments violating the commandments of God. In the words of The Theological Declaration of Barmen, which speaks to the dependence of the Church on the Word of God and its independence from any state or ideology, ‘we reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords … . The state has by divine appointment the task of providing for justice and peace … [The church] calls to mind the Kingdom of God, God’s commandments and righteousness, and thereby the responsibility both of rulers and of the ruled. …’ (The Book of Confessions, 8.15, 8.22). The sovereignty of God thus judges all claims of sovereign nationhood, all boundaries, all exercises of force, and all uses of resources by human beings. The Church is thus called to help discern where the Spirit is working in the world, guided by Scripture and its confessions.

“2. Endorses the ‘Amman Call’ regarding Arab-Israeli peace, issued by the World Council of Churches’ conference, “Churches Together for Peace and Justice in the Middle East,” at Amman, Jordan, June 18-20, 2007, including its affirmation of the UN resolutions that are the basis of a projected ‘two-state’ solution, a shared Jerusalem, and the human rights of refugees and occupied peoples, its call to resist extremism and push for reconciliation, and its commitment to imperatives of ecumenical solidarity in action for Just Peace, directing that the Amman Call be printed in the Minutes of the General Assembly and considered in any study processes of the church.

“3. Directs appropriate offices of the General Assembly Council to provide video, cyber and print resources on the church’s historic concern for justice and peace in Israel and Palestine, such as those proposed by the Presbytery of Atlanta, using existing materials whenever possible, including back issues of Church & Society as suggested, to interpret such matters as Mission Responsibility Through Investment, the status of Jerusalem, the impact of the security barrier (or ‘wall’), etc.

“4. Commends the nonviolent witness of the Christians in Palestine and Israel with whom we share membership in the one Body of Christ, joining them in prayer and mutual remembrance, advocating for fair treatment for them and their neighbors.

            “5.        Encourages Presbyterian individuals, congregations, and councils to take pilgrimages and trips to Israel and Palestine that are in harmony with our principles, specifically that include: significant time visiting local Christians and church leaders, significant time in the Occupied Territories (witnessing conditions, helping sustain isolated and impoverished local economies …), opportunities to meet Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers, and opportunities to engage in interfaith discussion of a range of perspectives; such travel to be assisted and resourced as feasible by the General Assembly Council, mission personnel, the Israel/Palestine Network, and our ecumenical partners in the region, as outlined by the Presbytery of East Iowa, all with the goals of helping the church grow in solidarity, mercy, and peacemaking.

“6. In continuing the process of corporate engagement with companies supporting or profiting from the occupation of Palestine and/or other violence in the region, instructs the Committee on Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) to report regularly to the General Assembly Council on its communication and the compliance, or lack thereof, by Caterpillar, Motorola, and other corporations involved with regard to General Assembly guidelines and concerns for justice and human rights. In accordance with resolutions approved by the General Assembly in 2004 and 2006, the General Assembly Council is authorized and encouraged to act on this information, and as it deems appropriate and timely, to implement divestment procedures.

“7. Requests that the full texts of all overtures submitted on the Middle East be considered in the report on the Middle East recommended by the General Assembly Council to be prepared for 2010.”

Rationale

            The presbyteries involved, including those concurring, have provided the church valuable service that we believe could be consolidated for effective action by commissioners.These actions are all consistent with existing General Assembly policy and program, much of which is noted in the helpful comments of the General Assembly Council. Other concerns are noted in Advice and Counsel on Items 11-02, 11-06, and 11-07.

Comment on Item 11-01—From the General Assembly Council.
Several of our partner Christian and interfaith organizations and institutions in the Middle East have produced statements, resources, and other materials that have been helpful in their own efforts to promote mutual understanding and to build healthy and cooperative relations between Christians and other faith communities in the Middle East. Such materials could be exceedingly helpful to our own congregations and members in reaching out in friendship to Jewish and Muslim neighbors, as they model both intentionality and commitment to build communities that seek justice and pursue peace.

The Office for the Middle East (World Mission) works collaboratively with various other GAC offices, along with constituency entities such as Mission Networks (for Egypt, Israel/Palestine, Iraq, etc.) and task groups to raise awareness of the Christian presence and witness in the Middle East, paying particular attention to the crisis of dwindling numbers of Christians and the increasing difficulties our partner churches are facing, due to a variety of causes. It is noteworthy that this alarming reality pervades the consciousness of our partners in the region as a primary challenge not only for themselves but also for many of their non-Christian neighbors, and certainly for the world’s Christian community.

As one example of our church’s response to this crisis, this office—in cooperation with colleagues offices of the General Assembly Council—worked closely with the Israel/Palestine Network for the production of the widely circulated illustrated booklet, The Cradle of Our Faith: The Enduring Witness of the Christians of the Middle East. Now in its second printing, this resource was produced in partial response to an action overwhelmingly passed by the 217th General Assembly (2007) inviting all of our 11,000 congregations to join in “a Week of Prayer and Witness with Christians in the Middle East” during the season between Easter and Pentecost 2007. Many congregations did.

The Middle East Office, together with others, plans to continue to lift up and facilitate awareness of this issue through all available means (e.g., the church’s Website, mission to the U.S.A. opportunities, missionary itineration, etc.), and within the limitations of staff time and financial resources.