Bishops reject resolution on Israel/Palestine, call for more balanced approach

July 16, 2009

The House of Bishops on July 17 rejected a resolution that called for dismantling the wall between Israel and Palestine and for creation of a "sovereign Palestinian state." Several bishops who opposed the measure said they favored a more balanced approach toward Israel and Palestine.

The bishops voted 53 to 43 against Resolution B027, which would also have called for "an end to the ongoing confiscation of Palestinian land, demolition of housing and the displacement of people" and for a just resolution for Palestinian refugees.

However, bishops adopted Resolution A037, urging that every Episcopalian "pray, especially in Advent and during the Christmas season, for the wall around Bethlehem and all other barriers to come down."

The Episcopal Church's official policy has been in support of a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine, based on resolutions previously passed by General Conventions and the Executive Council.

In a statement following convention, the Rev. Canon Brian Grieves, senior director for mission centers, and Maureen Shea, director of the Office of Government Relations, said: "The Episcopal Church, based on resolutions passed at its previous General Conventions regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, remains firmly committed to a just peace that ends the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land, guarantees Israel's security and Palestinian aspirations for a viable sovereign state with Jerusalem as the shared capital of both Israel and Palestine."

They noted that previously adopted resolutions include "opposition to the settlements built on Palestinian land, the building of the 'separation barrier' or wall, and the demolition of homes. These resolutions also call for an end to violence and anti-Semitism."

Bishop Edward Little of Northern Indiana called Resolution B027 "deeply troubling" and urged defeat.

Several bishops, however, urged passage. Among them, Bishop James Jelinek of Minnesota, a member of the National and International Concerns legislative committee, said the resolution was designed to "get Israel's attention."

"Walls are always troublesome," said Bishop Geralyn Wolf of Rhode Island who opposed the measure. "However, I do believe the resolution is not as balanced as I'd like it to be."

Bishop Leo Frade of Southeast Florida described what he witnessed during a visit to the Holy Land and he begged bishops to approve the measure. "Only justice will return peace to this land of God," he said, adding that it's hard to understand how the wall protects Israel from Palestinian attacks. Frade said that attacks continue with or without the wall.

Bishop Suffragan Gayle Harris of Massachusetts said she was recently in Palestine and saw the wall. "I witnessed how the wall was bringing hardship," she said.

The bishops passed Resolution D012 about civil rights for transgendered people following lively debate.

Bishop Tom Shaw of Massachusetts told bishops that hearings on the resolution evoked "some of the most moving stories … that some of the most violent hate crimes in this country are against people around gender identity expression. This is a resolution our office for government relations can use to influence Congress."

Bishop Marc Andrus of California said: "This is a highly vulnerable category of people. This is one of the most vulnerable populations in our society." He said that a transgender person is murdered every month across the globe. "Almost universally, they lose jobs and are unable to gain jobs again for considerable periods of time."

Bishops also concurred with the House of Deputies and adopted resolutions calling for:

  • support for Honduras (B031);
  • an end to the blockade with Cuba (A034);
  • support for Haiti (A036);
  • support for the Church and People of Pakistan (D084);
  • reconciliation in Southern Sudan (A033);
  • protection of all victims of human trafficking (A167); and
  • support for climate change action (D031).

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