Iraq withdrawal supported

Convention votes on relatively few international resolutions
June 30, 2006

General Convention dealt with relatively few of the proposed international resolutions as its work bogged down with debates about Windsor Report responses. Some wondered aloud if that failure might weaken the church’s strong voice of witness to Congress.

Bishops and deputies did, however, declare themselves convinced that the war in Iraq failed to meet the standards of a “just war.” They called upon President George Bush and Congress to “immediately develop … a plan for the stabilization of Iraq, to be followed by the prompt withdrawal of U.S. Armed Forces.”

The nine-part resolution asks all Episcopalians, as an act of penitence, “to oppose and resist through advocacy, protest and electoral action the continuation of the war.” A retired senior naval officer, the Rev. George Clifford, former chaplain at a naval postgraduate school in California, warned at a legislative hearing, “If we withdraw precipitously, we create a power vacuum. Iran moves south. And they will.

“Iran is the world’s largest Shiite nation,” he said. “The Shiites are 60 percent of Iraq, and they make common cause… We need to leave, but in a way that builds peace rather than accelerates the process of death and destruction.”

Many other international resolutions, the subject of study and discussion for three years by committees and advocacy groups throughout the church, failed to earn final approval. Louie Crew, a deputy from the Diocese of Newark and retired Executive Council member, called it “a grim consequence” of the time taken to deal with Windsor resolutions, as well as convention’s longtime failure to revise its parliamentary procedures.

“It’s always disappointing for those who work long and hard to develop resolutions,” said Maureen Shea, director of government relations in the Washington Office. It also can affect the office’s work. “The Episcopal Church’s advocacy ministry is grounded in the resolutions of General Convention and the Executive Council.” For some issues, she said, existing resolutions will allow her office to engage lawmakers.

A single resolution addressing the Israel-Palestine conflict passed both houses. It called upon the church to urge congregations and institutions to pray for sisters and brothers in the Holy Land, visit Christian congregations there, receive visitors from there, and work for peace and reconciliation.

Resolutions recognizing the rightful existence of Israel and Palestine with Jerusalem as a shared capitol and calling for an end of violence and the withdrawal by Israel from all occupied Palestinian territories, eradication of anti-Semitism, removal of the barrier wall where it violates Palestinian territory and elimination of corruption within the Palestinian Authority passed only the House of Bishops before adjournment.

A resolution addressing the trade embargo against Cuba also lost out to the clock, disappointing Bishop Leo Frade of the Diocese Southeastern Florida, a Cuban by birth. “How can we explain to the Cuban Episcopalians that we didn't find time to heed to their plea for help because we were so busy?” he asked. “We can find time to deal with the suffering that others cause, but [we] failed to deal with the suffering that our country has created for four decades to the people of Cuba.”

Bishop Macleord Ochola, retired bishop of Kitgum in northern Uganda, spoke eloquently during a hearing about the ongoing tragedy in his nation. “Over 1,000 children have died per week. Is this not genocide? Is it not deliberate? I lost my daughter in this war. I lost my wife in this war. ... I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, this is the time for us to stand as the prophetic voice of Christ and speak out to the world. Uganda needs to hear this.”

The “Ending Genocide in Uganda” resolution received no final action, either. Nor was the resolution opposing a pre-emptive strike against Iran voted upon, although advocates passionately supported it at hearings.