A Pastoral Letter on Jerusalem
At their March retreat, the House of Bishops issued a pastoral letter on the status of Jerusalem. That letter was issued to comply with General Convention 2018’s Resolution B003 stipulation that the House of Bishops “…disseminate as soon as is practicable a Pastoral Letter supporting Jerusalem’s prophetic identity as the Holy City of Peace.” Disappointed by the pastoral letter, the Steering Committee of EPF PIN wrote a statement of response, published as a press release by Episcopal News Service on April 4
Preparing for the 2022 General Convention: A Round of Testimonies on Resolutions Relating to Palestine
This past Thursday, Committee 07, responsible for addressing resolutions on Social Justice & International Policy prior to the July General Convention in Baltimore, met virtually to receive testimony on three resolutions. Each person who registered to testify was given three minutes to present their argument, and Committee members were free to respond with questions.
The first to be considered was Resolution C041, entitled On Defending the Right to Boycott. The Resolution calls on the President and Congress to “oppose legislation penalizing or criminalizing support for nonviolent boycotts, divestment and/or sanctions on behalf of Palestinian human rights.”
According to information available from Palestine Legal, more than 30 statehouses have passed legislation restricting citizen’s rights to participate in a boycott of Israel. Four of those laws have been found to be unconstitutional at the district court level but winning in court can be a long and expensive process. Similar legislation has been introduced into the current Senate session, but remains in Committee because of concerns over freedom of speech restrictions.
Two individuals offered testimony on the resolution, which had been submitted by the Diocese of Washington (DC), with one speaking in favor of the Resolution while another opposed it. After the statements had been made, a Committee member suggested expanding the Resolution’s language to include urging state legislators to oppose such legislation, and the person testifying in support of the resolution agreed.
The second item considered was Resolution C013, Freedom of Speech and the Right to Boycott, put forward by the Diocese of Chicago. Similar in wording to the previous resolution, it was supported by a broad coalition of speakers, including Episcopalians from Washington, Vermont, and Los Angeles. Presbyterian and Jewish partners who worked with activists in the Diocese offered their support, and Palestinian-Americans shared stories of Nakba displacement with the Committee. No one had registered to speak against the Resolution.
Resolution C039, with the title of Justice and Peace in the Holy Land – Our Call to Action, was the last to be considered during this first round of testimony. Sponsored by the Diocese of Olympia in the Pacific Northwest, the resolution had a dozen people registered to testify, all in support, with half coming from Olympia and others from Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Washington. Jonathan Kuttab, the Executive Director of Friends of Sabeel North America, was one of two Palestinian voices who gave testimony to the Resolution which, if approved at Convention, would condemn “the continued occupation, segregation and oppression of the Palestinian people;” and urge the President and Congress to “take action to oppose Israeli laws and practices that result in unequal rights for two peoples.”
There was some concern raised among the Committee members about the impact that this resolution might have on the work of the Diocese of Jerusalem, and Bishop Gutierrez, a member of the Board of the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, said he would make sure Archbishop Hosam was aware of the resolutions which had been proposed. This will complement the information that EPF PIN leadership had shared with Archbishop Hosam early in February.
The Committee will now consider these resolutions prior to the start of General Convention in separate sessions which are open to registered observers. An additional hearing is planned for tomorrow, April 8th, when testimony will be taken on Resolutions C012 and C40, which address concerns about Christian Zionism. The Committee will also take testimony on Resolutions C025, C031, and C042, on the subject of Israeli Apartheid. EPF PIN supports all of these resolutions.
We oppose Resolution C001, entitled Regarding Antisemitism and Palestinian Christians. EPF PIN condemns antisemitism in the strongest terms possible, but believes the resolution conflates antisemitism with legitimate and necessary criticism of Israeli laws and policies which oppress Palestinian Christians, Muslims, Druze and other minorities within Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and the Palestinian diaspora around the world.
Following virtual deliberations and testimony and in-person testimony and discussion at General Convention, the committee will take decisions on forwarding the resolutions to the House of Bishops or House of Deputies for debate on passage.