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Lutheran activists fear new church leadership will stifle criticism of Israeli occupation

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This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

According to retired church personnel of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America the new presiding bishop, The Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, is seeking to retrench the church’s position on Israel/Palestine. And they fear a witch-hunt against those church workers who demand substantive action on Israel-Palestine.

Dissenters in the church want the interfaith ecumenical dialogue trip-wire crossed. They want Jews of Conscience as their new dialogue partners and a Jewish-Christian solidarity based on justice for Palestinians.

Bishop Eaton wants the Jewish-Christian dialogue resurrected as if nothing has changed.

The evidence I’ve seen raises questions about the future policies of the Lutherans regarding Israel and the Palestinians. All of this is filtered through Bishop Eaton’s desire to keep the Jewish fires at home tamped down and to discipline the prophetic.

Bishop Eaton seems afraid that the cost of moving rhetoric surrounding the Palestinians issue into the Jewish-Christian dialogue is too much. She fears the reappearance of her tradition’s anti-Semitic history. But she should also fear abandoning those on the other side of Jewish power. At this point the Bishop sits on her Lutheran-Jewish fence. In doing so she chooses – Jews – in power.

Times have changed. We’re no longer dealing with Martin Luther’s dementia about Jews. Luther had Jews on his brain. Today we’re dealing with real Jews visiting the cycle of violence and atrocity upon others. Bishop Eaton needs a (Jewish and Palestinian) reality check. Rather than retreat, she needs to move her denomination forward.

The first evidence of the Lutheran retreat is Bishop Eaton’s appearance on a television program emanating from Beirut on August 10th, as Israel’s violence in Gaza had already taken a terrible toll.  The critique of her performance within the denomination wasn’t about policy as much her limited knowledge, even ignorance of the issues at hand. At points during the interview, the Bishop fumbles her seemingly rehearsed responses. At other points, she is unsure of herself. Clearly, she is inadequately prepared.

Bishop Eaton doesn’t seem to get the urgency of the situation. As Gaza is being bombed into oblivion – with more to come – Bishop Eaton lifts up the beauty of the monotheistic religions. The Palestinian death count mounts. The Bishop parses the tired Christian trope of love for all.

Although it was strongly suggested to have a representative from the church who knows her stuff, Bishop Eaton demurred. Was this because she wanted to display her authority or set a different, more conciliatory posture toward Israel and the Jewish community? Bishop Eaton does state the official Lutheran position of two states for two peoples. But if she had listened carefully, her denominational advisers would have told her that the two state solution has become a faith statement rather than a political possibility.

Then there is a curious exchange of letters about this very issue with the denomination’s youth group – Young Adults in Global Mission – regarding a religious service on behalf of the victims of the Gaza war that the Lutherans agreed to co-sponsor. Suddenly, the co-sponsorship was unilaterally withdrawn by Bishop Eaton. Some retired church personnel believe that Bishop Eaton’s withdrawal of the co-sponsorship was due to pressures from the Jewish establishment.

An all too familiar story historically. To be continued?

In their response to Bishop Eaton’s decision, the Young Adults in Global Mission, along with others of different denominational affiliation, are quite specific. They hold their ground and highlight what’s at stake. Below are some salient excerpts from their response especially in relation to the church’s dialogue stance with respect to the issue of Israel and the Jewish community:

We, as a church, have a long and special relationship with the Holy Land, with the State of Israel and with Palestine. Unfortunately, much of that relationship has revolved around a conflict that has claimed countless lives and destroyed billions of dollars’ worth of civilian infrastructure over the decades. Sixty-five years of direct involvement — through relief, humanitarian and development aid, and support to schools and churches — and a wealth of expertise among American Lutherans has provided our church with invaluable resources for peace-building. We believe the ELCA has an inherent responsibility to fully utilize the expertise within the ELCA and provide leadership among our ecumenical and interfaith partners.

Broad engagement with a variety of partners and with ministries in the Middle East is one of the things that makes the ELCA a rich environment for discussing the sensitive and complicated issues related to Israel and Palestine. We are proud to be in a church that chooses to renounce the inappropriate and anti-Jewish writings of Martin Luther, reject violence — including suicide bombings and all violence targeting civilians — and stand strongly against the Israeli occupation and the human rights violations necessary to enforce that occupation. Just as we choose to distance ourselves from Luther’s vitriolic writings, so too do many Jewish groups distance themselves from the State of Israel’s illegal actions.

Indeed, criticism of Israel’s policies, like our criticism of Luther’s writings, does not indicate weakness but an ability to distinguish between that which is part of God’s vision for the world and that which is antithetical to both of our religious traditions. Thus, despite all the voices crying out otherwise, criticism of Israel’s policies that prolong and deepen the occupation is not anti-Jewish, anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian, or any other label than pro-peace and pro-justice. If we believed that actions supporting the end of the occupation were in any way anti-Israeli or anti-Jewish, we would of course want nothing to do with it. But ending the occupation can only serve to strengthen Israel, Judaism and Jewish-Christian/Lutheran relations.

The letter continues:

In this environment we would fully expect input from Jewish partners, but there must also be input from a wide variety of Jewish partners. We encourage the ELCA to listen to diverse voices in the course of its ecumenical and interfaith work. Jewish-Christian relations are certainly important and you mention them clearly as a priority, but we are concerned that you do not mention Muslim-Lutheran relations as a factor in your discernment process. Yes, we are aware of your interview on Al-Mayadeen and that the ELCA has close relationships with the ELCJHL and its Arab Christian partners. The fact remains, however, that 98.5% of Palestinians are Muslim. Muslims constitute the majority in the region and Christian-Muslim relations in the U.S. are equally if not more strained than Jewish-Christian relations at the moment. ELCA Social Policy Resolution CA 13.06.27 adopted at the 2013 Churchwide Assembly reaffirms the commitment of this church to: “Lift up the voices within both communities, especially those of victims of violence that seek peace with justice through nonviolent responses to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” It is very important to communicate and reach out to our Jewish neighbors as we have in the past, yet this should not inhibit our ability to foster relationships with voices in many different communities. Can we make Muslim-Lutheran relationships an integral part of the discussion too? This should not be an issue resolved only through the lens of Jewish-Christian relations…

The ELCA’s claim to have broad and healthy Jewish relationships would be strengthened if the ELCA would consult equally with segments of the Jewish community representing legitimate and moderate but sometimes opposing voices. Based on the history you mention in your letter, it seems that Jewish-Christian relations are tense now largely because of a controversy with some Jewish partners over the State of Israel’s violations of human rights that we and other denominations have rightly called out in the past. Nevertheless, if we do not directly address the root causes of the conflict, especially settlement expansion, land confiscation, and all of the harsh measures used to maintain the occupation, then the situation will never fundamentally change and those under occupation who we should be accompanying will be left in the dust.

In conclusion:

We understand that the ELCA cannot speak directly to each new event within the conflict, however it was startling that as we were discussing the issue of the prayer service, the Israeli government announced a plan to seize nearly 1,000 acres of West Bank land (the largest land appropriation in thirty years), 110,000 Gazans were living in emergency shelters, 450,000 people were unable to access municipal water in Gaza, and 16 homes were demolished in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. More than five hundred children have been killed by Israel in the two month period leading up to the prayer service of mourning.

The timing and scope of these recent actions by the Netanyahu government make the possibility of two states ever more unlikely. As hopes for a two-state solution disappear, the emotional and physical weight of the occupation deepens. In January 2013, Peace Now released a report stating that Netanyahu’s government, through its policies and action in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, has disclosed, a “clear intention to use settlements to systematically undermine and render impossible a realistic, viable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.” This was made evident in the events of the last week with the unprecedented land seizure and the unparalleled attacks on Gaza in July and August…

It is wonderful that the ELCA can support ministries such as Augusta Victoria Hospital, the schools of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and documents such as Kairos Palestine. But we can do more. Sending aid to Gaza for victims is wise and necessary as a part of our churches calling, but it overlooks the deeper reasons as to why this aid was necessary in the first place. To quote the theologian and courageous witness Dietrich Bonhoeffer again, “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.” It is good to pray and be thoughtful in our responses through statements and letters, but real change will not come without an upending of the status quo. As young people, we worry that our church may sink into the pitfalls of institutionalism marked by complacency and fear of change. We would prefer to make the choice to be leaders in the march towards peace and justice.

“Let us pray, let us learn, let us act” – that’s how this group of young adults end their powerful and detailed letter. What a challenge to the church hierarchy and specifically to a Bishop who seems intent on hewing to the church’s position while disciplining the prophetic. During and after the war in Gaza, disciplining the prophetic amounts to inaction, retreat and, if truth be known, complicity in the ongoing suffering of the Palestinian people.

In fact, the disciplining of the prophetic seems to be Bishop Eaton’s thing these days. Her blog for October hits at the prophetic directly:

This constricted conversation is becoming a habit. It is the default setting for us when our position is challenged or when we challenge someone else. It is a bad habit. And like all bad habits it is, in the short run, a lot easier and more fun to practice than its corresponding good habit. I’ll admit it, there is something satisfying about being so certain. It’s easier to ascribe motive than to engage in an open dialogue with the sincere intent of seeking understanding. Righteous indignation feels good.

In the church this is called “prophetic,” as if being prophetic only takes the form of scolding. I have received letters and emails suggesting I do things that are anatomically impossible and certainly not appropriate to reprint in a church publication. These epistles sometimes end with “In Christian love ….” I know a conversation is going to head south in a hurry when it starts with these words: “With all due respect ….”

There is another way.

In his Small Catechism, Martin Luther gives us this explanation of the Eighth Commandment: “We are to fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbors, betray or slander them, or destroy their reputations. Instead we are to come to their defense, speak well of them, and interpret everything they do in the best possible light.”

What a beautiful and generous way of being. The self is no longer at the center. The focus is no longer on justifying or defending one’s own position. All attention and care can be given to the other. As the volume is turned down our sight improves—we now see a precious child of God. Paradoxically this gentle approach makes it more possible to have difficult conversations.

What could Bishop Eaton possibly mean by downing the prophetic in such a trite way and encouraging instead polite conversation when Israel’s aggressive policies continue and the devastation of Gaza remains? Doesn’t injustice, massacre and the cries of the bereaved cry out to heaven?

The young adults remain grounded. They’re focused on the task at hand. Invoking rather than disciplining the prophetic, they quote from a more contemporary Lutheran minister, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.”

Bonhoeffer’s “spoke in the wheel” calls Lutherans and others, including Jews, to speak on behalf of suffering Palestinians rather seek solace from an empowered and culpable Jewish establishment.

In Israel-Palestine the powerful are Jews. In America, the culpable Jewish establishment who argues for Israel is made up of Jews.

Bishop Eaton needs to wake up to this fact, face the Jewish establishment music and get on with her vocation as a church leader.

I could be wrong – I’m willing to be corrected – but since Israel’s invasion of Gaza it seems that some of the churches have gone silent, run out of steam, thought better of their boldness or descended into internal bickering. Are they now retreating to their faded gilded chapels for prayer and reflection?

Yes, the Middle East isn’t easy for the churches in America and Europe. There are so, so many Muslims “out there” and so few Christians in the Middle East.

The state of Israel casts a long shadow over Christian history – Christianity’s relations with Jews marks Christian history in the most negative of ways. To preserve their own sense of righteousness, churches in the West don’t want to be seen as beating up on the Jews.

Better to take a break and let the Palestinians lick their wounds. Front and center for some Christians is repairing broken relations with the mainstream Jewish community. Jews of Conscience are left out in the cold.

Gaza was an especially difficult issue for the churches – precisely because Israel’s devastating aggression was crystal clear. Before Gaza, some of the churches were speaking more and more boldly on behalf of Palestinians. This was true despite having to fight the Jewish establishment every step of the way.

With Israel’s invasion of Gaza, a moment of decision appeared. A radical break with the Jewish establishment had to occur in the face of Israel’s aggression.

The churches didn’t pull their ethical trigger. The cost to their self-image was too high.

Rhetorically, yes, during the Gaza war some church denominations and those affiliated with them appealed to international law, spoke about war crimes and even questioned US aid to Israel. But breaking with the Jewish establishment that enables Israel’s policies and American aid to continue? Not even close.

Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His latest book is Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures.

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111 Responses

  1. joecatron on September 29, 2014, 11:45 am

    In other news from America’s mainline Protestant establishment, the United Church of Christ appears on the right path:

    “The Steering Committee of the United Church of Christ Palestine Israel Network, on Sunday, called on the United Church of Christ Board, United Church of Christ Pension Boards, United Church Funds, Conferences, local churches, members and other related United Church of Christ entities to divest any holdings in companies profiting from the occupation of the Palestinian Territories by the state of Israel.

    “The Committee also called on the church and church members to study the Kairos Palestine document and take heed of its call for solidarity with the Palestinian people.

    “This is one of a number of resolutions passed by regional committees, including the Central Atlantic Conference, the New York Conference and, now, the Central Pacific Committee, in the leadup to the Thirtieth General Synod of the United Church of Christ, which will be held in 2015.”

    “The Central Atlantic Conference is the latest group within the UCC to move to use economic leverage as tool to end conflict in the Middle East, when on June 14 during its annual meeting, delegates adopted a resolution aimed at ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories. That followed a move by the New York Conference of the UCC, which passed a similar resolution two weeks earlier.

    “Both measures are almost identical, calling on UCC members and numerous settings of the church to divest from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and to boycott goods produced by Israeli companies in the Occupied Territories. The resolutions ask church leadership to continue pressing Congress to ensure that aid to Israel complies with U.S. laws, and affirm a commitment by the church to engage in interfaith dialogue among the three Abrahamic faiths — with emphasis on congregation-to-congregation interaction and conversations.

    “The New York and Central Atlantic resolutions will be forwarded for consideration by the General Synod, which is scheduled for June 26-30, 2015, in Cleveland.”

    • ckg on September 29, 2014, 3:02 pm

      This is great news. Thanks.

      • just on September 29, 2014, 3:55 pm

        It is good news.

        Hopefully Lutherans around the world will not succumb to Bishop Eaton’s lack of a conscience that is willfully commingling with the “mainstream Jewish community”. The “mainstream” seems ultra extremist to me, too. (h/t seafoid)

        Personally, I prefer to commingle with any or all Peoples With Conscience.

    • RockyMissouri on August 1, 2015, 11:38 am

      Good news!!

  2. seafoid on September 29, 2014, 12:00 pm

    “Front and center for some Christians is repairing broken relations with the mainstream Jewish community. ”

    the ultra extremist mainstream Jewish community

    • Talkback on September 29, 2014, 12:32 pm

      for some wanabee Christians

      • seafoid on September 29, 2014, 12:49 pm

        Supporting Zionist nihilism is not the Christian thing to do

  3. Mooser on September 29, 2014, 1:00 pm

    I mean, there it is. If you were a high-echelon Lutheran who suddenly realized the human commonalities of Martin Luther and Portnoy’s dad, and went looking for a Jewish community to repair relations with, what would you be likely to find? Who would welcome you with a hail-fellow-well-met and a firm handshake, ready to agree with your guilt, and detail it’s expiation?

    • seafoid on September 30, 2014, 7:01 am

      Probably the people in the exercise yard of wherever IDF deserters are imprisoned.

      • Mooser on September 30, 2014, 10:42 am

        Sorry, Seafoid, I over-elaborated in a futile attempt to connect two of the world’s foremost costives in a clumsy attempt at ecumenicism.

        All I meant was that these days, if you go looking for Jews to repair relations with, ten-to-one you’ll run into a Zionist first, ready to deal.

  4. Horizontal on September 29, 2014, 1:41 pm

    “The churches didn’t pull their ethical trigger. The cost to their self-image was too high.”

    I don’t know much about the Lutheran Church, but I’m wondering if it was their self-image that was at stake or was it the image that others would have manufactured for it — i.e., being anti-Semitic. I’m not sure it’s exactly the same thing.

    In our political realm, the same moral cowardice is at work every day, and not just on I/P issues, but there it’s certainly crystallized for all who care to see it. And the more-or-less murder of nearly 500 children hasn’t moved the rock of outrage very far. What stuck me about the continued silence after such an outright outrage was this: So there is apparently nothing that Israel can be legitimately criticized for, because what could they do worse than this? After this point, their actions can only be topped by scale, not by immorality.

    And still the silence prevails.

    Among politicians, I understand the bought-and-soldness of it all, along with the shallowness that goes with it. I guess I’d hoped that religious institutions would answer to less material concerns; I suppose that’s my mistake. I’m encouraged by the Young Adults Global Mission, and others who have spoken out loudly and clearly against injustice.

    Still, why’s it so hard to just do the right thing?

    • Mooser on September 30, 2014, 10:44 am

      “Still, why’s it so hard to just do the right thing?”

      And sit on cruddy folding chairs, in a drafty building or (shudder) storefront, listening to a lousy sound-system and no video projection? You call that religion?

    • Pixel on October 4, 2014, 7:40 pm

      Lutheranism tends to be very conservative.

      UCC, quite liberal. As a matter of fact, I’m surprised that it’s taken the UCC this long.

  5. W.Jones on September 29, 2014, 1:42 pm

    Yes, Bp. Eaton blog post against the prophetic didn’t have substance except to just ask people to respect each other and care about each other’s views.

    I didn’t notice anything I seriously disagreed with in M. Ellis’ writing this time. Luther really did have an intolerant side.

    • Mooser on September 30, 2014, 10:45 am

      “Luther really did have an intolerant side.”

      Says a man who has a perfect digestion. Luther operated under an intolerable pressure.

    • Keith on September 30, 2014, 3:34 pm

      W JONES- “Luther really did have an intolerant side.”

      In contrast to Maimonides?

      • W.Jones on September 30, 2014, 11:53 pm

        I did not mention making a contrast with Maimonides.

        FYI, I find the book of Esther troubling because of all the Persians killed.

      • Keith on October 1, 2014, 10:57 am

        W JONES- “I did not mention making a contrast with Maimonides.”

        No, I did. The whole point being that when historical Jewish/Gentile relations are brought up the focus is almost always on perceived anti-Semitism. Jewish anti-Gentile chauvinism is rarely, if ever, mentioned.

      • Mooser on October 1, 2014, 10:58 am

        “FYI, I find the book of Esther troubling because of all the Persians killed.”

        If the book bothers you, don’t go see the movie! All the violence, and a whole lot more sex, too.

      • W.Jones on October 1, 2014, 12:23 pm

        Keith, Israel Shahak wrote about this topic a bit, I think.

      • Keith on October 1, 2014, 11:18 pm

        W JONES- “Keith, Israel Shahak wrote about this topic a bit, I think.”

        Indeed he did, but to what avail? From time to time I recommend “Jewish History, Jewish Religion,” by Shahak, but fear that I am becoming repetitious.

      • W.Jones on October 3, 2014, 1:53 am

        Marc Ellis’ column is a staple of the kind of thing you describe.

  6. amigo on September 29, 2014, 3:57 pm

    “To preserve their own sense of righteousness, churches in the West don’t want to be seen as beating up on the Jews. ”

    It is similar to a defense attorney asking for sympathy for his rapist client because he had a ” miserable childhood.

    Israel is still raping and murdering and what happened in the past is no justification for clemency.

  7. Betsy on September 29, 2014, 4:17 pm



    For immediate release – It is with heavy hearts that we compose this statement. At the time of this writing, the Israeli military’s ground, naval, and aerial bombardment of Gaza has killed at least 2,104 Palestinians. The majority of these victims were civilians, according to the United Nations. Palestinian rockets and anti-tank fire have killed four Israeli civilians, one Thai migrant worker, and 64 Israeli soldiers.

    We deplore and condemn the use of violence by anyone, anytime, anywhere. For, each of these casualties is a child of God; each has a name; each has a family; each has a life story that has come to an abrupt and tragic end.

    These deaths do not occur in a vacuum. The current onslaught takes place within the context of a seven-year old Israeli and Egyptian imposed blockade of Gaza and forty-seven year old Israeli occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza.

    Most of Gaza’s residents, moreover, are from families that were driven from their homes in Palestine in 1948, when the state of Israel was created, and have since not been permitted by Israel to return. Those Palestinians and their descendants who did manage to stay in Israel after 1948 are subject to institutionalized discrimination and increasing hostility from right-wing Israelis.

    In the face of this oppression, Palestinians everywhere must struggle for their dignity, human rights, and equality. Right now in Gaza, every Palestinian is literally struggling to stay alive.

    Israeli aggression against Palestine, both in the past two weeks, and over the past several decades, has been largely enabled by American military aid and international military sales. The US government gives Israel $3.1 billion a year to purchase the most advanced weaponry in the world. European Union countries, as well as Brazil, India, and Chile have also sold advanced weapons to the Israeli military.

    We support efforts to prevent the distribution of weapons to Gaza.

    We likewise call for a blockade of weapons to Israel.

    We are therefore joining the six Nobel Peace Laureates and thousands of others in endorsing the Palestinian call for an arms embargo on Israel. We will continue endorsing this call until the current bloodshed, blockade, occupation, and exile come to an end.

    We ask that you join us in this action and in continuing to pray for a just peace in Israel/Palestine.

    In peace and hope,

    American Jews for a Just Peace

    American Muslims for Palestine

    Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America

    Beacon Mountain Monastery

    Build Bridges Not Walls…. Bubbes and Zaydes (Grandparents) for Peace in the Middle East

    Chicago Faith Coalition on Middle East Policy

    Christian-Jewish Allies of Greater Philadelphia

    Christians Witnessing for Palestine, Friends of Sabeel

    Citizens for Justice in the Middle East—Kansas City

    Des Moines Catholic Worker, Rachel Corrie Project

    Disciples Justice Action Network

    Ecumenical Working Group for Middle East Peace, Greater Philadelphia

    Emmaus Faith Community

    Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network

    Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding

    Federation of Muslim Organizations, Leicestershire, UK

    Friends of Sabeel-DC Metro

    Friends of Sabeel-North America

    Friends of Sabeel-Sacramento Region

    Friends of Sabeel-South Florida

    Hyde Park Mennonite Fellowship

    Interdenominational Advocates for Peace

    The Interfaith Council for Peace in the Middle East

    Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA)

    Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council Co-Founders, Rabbi Brant Rosen and Rabbi Alissa Wise

    Jews for Justice in Palestine

    Lutherans for Justice in the Holy Land – Central Lutheran Church, Portland, OR

    Kairos USA

    Keep Hope Alive, Bay Area, California

    Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship

    Mennonite Palestine-Israel Network

    Middle East Task Force of Chicago Presbytery

    Muslim Peace Fellowship

    Muslim Progressive Traditionalist Alliance

    Newman Nonviolent Peacemakers/ Fr. Bill O’Donnell Social Justice Committee

    Northern California Pax Christi

    Palestine-Israel Action Group of Ann Arbor Friends Meeting (Quakers)

    Palestinian Christian Alliance for Peace

    Philadelphia Jews for a Just Peace

    Presbyterian Peace Fellowship

    Quaker Palestine Israel Network

    Reconciling Ministries Network

    Shomer Shalom Network for Jewish Nonviolence, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb

    St. Michael’s Task Force on Israel-Palestine, NYC

    Tree of Life Educational Fund

    Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East

    Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East – Massachusetts Chapter

    United Church of Christ Palestine Israel Network

    United Methodist Kairos Response Steering Committee

    United Network for Justice and Peace in Palestine and Israel, United Church of Canada

    Vancouver Catholic Worker

    West Hills Friends Church, Portland, Oregon

    Westminster Presbyterian Church, Wooster, Ohio

    World Council of Arya Samaj President Emeritus, and URI Global Trustee, Swami Agnivesh

    If you would like to add your group’s name to this list please contact : [email protected] e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

    Press Contact: Bob Ross, [email protected] e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

    Read on Religion News Service Website.

  8. seafoid on September 29, 2014, 4:29 pm

    The purpose of a system is what it does. Lutheran contact with mainstream Zionist Jews gives respectability to the occupation in the name of interfaith dialogue

    Listen to Max Blumenthal’s Russell Tribunal presentation on what all those Israel firsters supported in Gaza this summer.

    Remember how Hillelesque Rav Rick Jacobs was in standing up to the madness last July

    “As you know, the conflict in Gaza has intensified. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the Israeli soldiers killed in action, with our brothers and sisters in Israeli, and with all who are in danger.
    When the conflict began, the Reform Movement made a decision to join Stop the Sirens, a community-wide campaign, coordinated by Jewish Federations of North American (JFNA), to provide relief and support to the most heavily impacted Israeli communities. We did this rather than creating our own campaign to support our Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism (IMPJ) congregations and the vital work the IMPJ itself is doing because we thought it was important to show support for the larger communal effort.
    We encourage all members of Reform congregations to continue to provide funds and donations to their local Jewish Federations to assure that continued funding will be available in the coming weeks as it is likely that the current crisis will not end in the next few days. Our ongoing support for Israel and its citizens will continue to be desperately needed. ”

    Rick is a great man for interfaith bullshit while Israel runs the brutality 24/7

  9. Betsy on September 29, 2014, 4:31 pm


    What is the language of the measure regarding a two-state solution?
    04-01. On Reviewing General Assembly Policy Regarding the Two-State Solution in Israel Palestine—From the Presbytery of San Francisco.
    1. “1. Instruct the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) to do the following:
    a. Provide a comprehensive history of the establishment of General Assembly policies favoring a two-state solution in Israel Palestine.
    b. Prepare a report to the 222nd General Assembly (2016), utilizing the report of the Middle East Study Committee approved by the 219th General Assembly (2010)—Breaking Down the Walls (Minutes, 2010, Part I, pp. 1021ff); the subsequent follow-up report by the Middle East Monitoring Group to the 220th General Assembly (2012) (Minutes, 2012, Part I, pp. 1413ff); and relevant and recent reports by the United Nations General Assembly Human Rights Council, the World Council of Churches, other corresponding ecumenical partners, and reliable human rights organizations that achieves the following:
    “(1) Provides the most up-to-date information regarding all aspects of the
    Israeli occupation of Palestine including
    “(a) the present status and pace of illegal settlement building;
    “(b) the appropriation of Palestinian land and natural resources;
    “(c) the restriction of movement on Palestinian citizens in Palestine;
    “(d) the extent to which human rights are denied to the Palestinian people.

    2. “(2) Examines present General Assembly statements about the viability of a Palestinian state and honestly evaluates these statements in light of the most recent developments regarding the true facts on the ground in Palestine;

    3. (3) Makes a recommendation about whether the General Assembly should
    continue to call for a two-state solution in Israel Palestine
    , or take a neutral stance that seeks not to determine for Israelis and Palestinians what the right “solution” should be.

    4. Provide a study guide for the report to the 222nd General Assembly (2016) that will help inform the whole church of the situation on the ground in Palestine, pointing out the enormous difficulty of helping ’in the development of a viable infrastructure for a future Palestinian state’ (action taken by the 220th General Assembly-2012). This study guide should honestly point out that:

    “a. For every two-year period occurring between General Assembly meetings,
    Palestinians are suffering an increasing loss of their human rights, freedom, livelihoods,
    property, and even their lives;

    “b. Simple, financial investment in a completely occupied land where the occupiers
    are relentless and unwavering regarding their occupation is not enough to dismantle the
    matrix of that occupation or dramatically change the vast majority of communities or
    individual lives that are bowed and broken by systematic and intentional injustice.”

    • ckg on September 29, 2014, 8:47 pm

      Thanks, Betsy, from a fellow PCUSA member.

  10. joecatron on September 29, 2014, 6:00 pm

    An open question for anyone else who’s geeky about this stuff: why do Reformed denominations have the strongest Palestine solidarity efforts among churches?

    This is true not only in the US, but also the UK, where the Kirk clearly leads the major sects (

    I can think of a few possible reasons: the enhanced role of laity and frontline clergy in presbyterian governance, Reformed theology’s dismissal of Christian Zionist claims (, and the absence of sister churches in the Holy Land, freeing them from most threats of Israeli retaliation.

    Have I missed anything obvious?

    • W.Jones on September 29, 2014, 6:23 pm


      It’s because they make up maybe 70-80% of Americans. obviously that is going to affect what denominations Americans involved in the issue belong to.

      There Catholic organizations and ecumenical ones working on the issue though. eg. Maryknoll and Sabeel, respectively.

      • W.Jones on September 29, 2014, 6:24 pm

        70-80% are Protestant, ie Reformed, eg. the Reformation.

      • ckg on September 29, 2014, 10:12 pm

        The one thing that I can’t figure out is how the Reformed movement gave birth to two recent reactionary colonialist enterprises (NI and SA) and yet recovered with its moral instincts intact. I think we have short memories, fortunately. The ELCA, which is not Reformed, may still harbor reticence dating from the aftermath of WWII.

      • ckg on September 29, 2014, 10:28 pm

        W.–Many distinguish generally between Reformed denominations and other non-Catholic denominations by their lineage to John Calvin. My Presbyterian church lobby, for example, has a stained glass window depicting Calvin, but I doubt you would find the same in a Lutheran, Episcopalian, Methodist, Baptist, or Mormon building.

      • W.Jones on September 29, 2014, 10:46 pm

        OK. Well, if you are going to count Methodists and Episcopalians as if they are outside of the Reformed movement, then you would be ignoring a major part of the Solidarity movement among Christians. Methodists, Presbyterians, and Episcopalians can all be found on the “scene”. There is a Methodist Kairos Response for example. And there is an Episopal Mission Network on Palestine.

      • Mooser on September 30, 2014, 10:50 am

        Now wait a minute, I don’t want to get left out of the discussion, so I need a little info. Was Calvin the guy who invented a ball game, or the guy who measured extreme temperatures? I get them mixed up.

      • W.Jones on September 30, 2014, 1:20 pm


        Luther was the main Protestant theologian, and after him was John Calvin. There were in the 16th century.

      • Mooser on September 30, 2014, 4:50 pm

        “Luther was the main Protestant theologian, and after him was John Calvin. There were in the 16th century. “

        Luther, then Calvin, Protestant theologians, 16th Century. Got it. Thanks. Discussion much clearer now.

      • ckg on September 30, 2014, 9:38 pm

        Hi W.–Yes, Methodists and Episcopalians are also at the forefront of Protestant denominations with members supporting Palestinians. Methodists, like Presbyterians, had a schism over slavery in the 1840’s leaving the mainline branch with a mostly northern congregation. Episcopalians are the most affluent–and educated–of large Protestant denominations.

      • ckg on September 30, 2014, 9:57 pm

        Mooser– both Luther and, to a lesser extent, Calvin were polemical in their writings about Jewry. It’s the cross we bear.

      • W.Jones on September 30, 2014, 11:49 pm

        Mooser– both Luther and, to a lesser extent, Calvin were polemical in their writings about Jewry. It’s the cross we bear.
        If you are going to be stuck that hard to the concept of tradition and church fathers, you might as well go back to Eastern Orthodoxy, before Luther’s antisemitism started.

        A big part of protestantism is supposed to be to avoid responsibility for tradition.

      • W.Jones on September 30, 2014, 11:51 pm


        There are all these hot headed debates about Luther’s antisemitism, about Israeli national restorationism (Jeff cited Spurgeon), etc. And Palestinian Christians generally are from the period before all those crazy debates and yet have borne that burden, of all kinds of misrepresentations.

      • Mooser on October 1, 2014, 11:00 am

        Gosh darn it, now I’m all confused again.
        I know what’s going on here. Somebody is playing Calvinball with me. And I’ll probably end up the Luther, too.

      • Mooser on October 1, 2014, 12:58 pm

        ” It’s the cross we bear.”

        Don’t worry about the cubs being grouchy, it’s the mama you have to watch out for!

      • Mooser on October 3, 2014, 11:54 am

        “A big part of protestantism is supposed to be to avoid responsibility for tradition.”

        You make “protestantism” sound very attractive. Always something new!

    • ckg on September 29, 2014, 9:10 pm

      Hi Joe, I’ve been curious about this too. I think the answer may be less theological than sociological. Reformed denominations are among the oldest in the U.S. and therefore have the most affluent members who may have been fortunate to go to college. Many like myself, who grew up in fundamentalist/evangelical churches, migrate to mainline denominations seeking ‘enlightened’ congregations. Conversely, many literalists who welcome CUFI eschatology may make the reverse migration. Also, mainline churches have a considerable missionary presence in the West Bank and Jerusalem. Many immigrate to the U.S.

      • ckg on September 29, 2014, 9:15 pm

        Many older mainline denominations, including Reformed congregations, had schisms during the Civil War, that were never healed in Reconstruction. The mainline denominations were left with Northern adherents largely immune to the evangelical movement that embraced Christian Zionism.

      • W.Jones on September 29, 2014, 10:49 pm

        See my note above. If only Calvinists count as Reformed, then one would be missing the relevance of Methodists and Episcopalians to emphasize “Reformed” churches in the movement. Also, like I said, Catholics are a minority in the US, but they also contribute to Solidarity, eg. Maryknoll and peace programs at Catholic colleges.

    • JeffB on September 30, 2014, 7:22 am


      I think you are missing a few things.

      1) The Northern Presbyterians was the center of the International Peace Movement. The PCUSA inherited from its grandparent denomination being anti-colonial before being anti-colonial was cool.

      2) Presbyterianism doesn’t have the same kind of screwy love / hate relationship with Judaism that many other Christian denominations do. Presbyterianism is cleanly supersessionist so Jews theologically are just like any other of the unsaved. For Presbyterian theology Christianity is the continuation of biblical Judaism with modern Judaism having no particular theological significance at all. The theology that Christians should dictate to Jews what is authentic Judaism that you see in for example Zionism Unsettled: A Congregational Study Guide just couldn’t happen in groups that are more conflicted in their supersessionism.

      3) Presbyterianism had the earliest break with evangelicalism and the sharpest as evangelicals followed Machen out the door. Also as American mainstream Evangelicalism became explicitly Arminian this fed into even less involvement. So there wasn’t much less involvement of the Northern Presbyterians in the American Board of Missions during the 1940s-50s. They never went through the transitions away from “Jews aren’t real Americans” that many of the other denominations did, towards a more positive view.

      3′) As a result of the Machen breaks Presbyterian denominations are more cleanly organized left to right politically (interestingly enough a lot like American Jewish denominations are). There is simply less concern among left leaning Presbyterians in not alienated the right because they broke away so long ago. And moreover alienated moderates are also often in other denominations.

      4) The PCUSA doesn’t have a strong outreach to 1/2 Jews so it doesn’t have a meaningfully sized internal lobby of members for whom Zionism is tied emotionally / psychologically into their faith.

      5) Presbyterians don’t have a legacy of much anti-Jewish persecution and arguably looking at the record as a whole their legacy is rather positive. They have less to feel guilty about. There is no Spanish inquisition, holocaust or centuries or persecution. Presbyterians can look at Jews and say “you are treating the Palestinians worse than we treated you” while most other Christian denominations cannot come close to saying that.

      • W.Jones on September 30, 2014, 10:33 am


        Where did you get (2) from?
        The PCUSA is the most “antisupersessionist” of any church. They have published study documents attacking “Supersessionism.” There has probably never been any “clean Supersessionism” in any major denomination including even medieval Catholicism, if by that you mean one that totally excludes Jews from any hopes or promises. This is because of Romans 10-11.

        Zionism Unsettled itself expresses different views on the topic on different pages (note the end of the book).

        About Your Point (5): The other Protestant groups didn’t persecute Jews either, except for the Lutherans in Germans. This is partly because Protestantism showed up in about 1500, after medieval times.

        The best answer is that Joe is overlooking Methodist and Episcopalian involvement when he made that statement.

      • Mooser on September 30, 2014, 1:16 pm

        Gosh JeffyB, I don’t know what Betsy would do if she didn’t have you to explain her own church to her.

      • Betsy on September 30, 2014, 7:12 pm

        @Mooser: ;)

      • Mooser on October 1, 2014, 11:04 am

        Betsy, the best to you and your efforts!

      • joecatron on October 1, 2014, 4:38 pm

        What have I overlooked, W.? I said – clearly enough, I thought – that efforts in Reformed denominations are more advanced, and have produced more results to date, than those in other denominations, including Methodism and Episcopalianism.

        Am I mistaken? How? Where?

      • W.Jones on October 1, 2014, 8:50 pm


        Efforts are probably most advanced in the Quaker movement, if not also the Mennonites. They are standard peace churches, and I think that Divestment is further along among Quakers than among the PCUSA. Mennonites might be considered Reformed, but Quakers aren’t.

        There is also comparable movement among the Methodists as there is to the PCUSA:
        United Methodist Kairos Response

        See also the Episcopal group on the subject:

        PCUSA is going to produce more results than the Quakers in America because there are a lot more of them. However, Catholics and Quakers will tend to have a better orientation overall on the issue, because of the influence of Christian Zionism in Reform Protestantism. When I was a kid in a liberal, Reformed church, when I read about the modern Israeli state, I associated it with ancient Israel in my Bible. Quakers are not really Bible-heavy, while Catholics stick to their traditional interpretation of Israel. Naim Ateek showed a survey revealing that other Protestants often thought the way I did.

      • W.Jones on October 1, 2014, 9:04 pm

        You are right to notice PCUSA, because they along with the Episcopalians and Methodists are some of the biggest church groups in the US. They have serious movement on the topic and strong work.

        But they are not the most advanced(that might be the Quakers, who have been involved with Palestinian refugees for decades), nor are they the most “theologically correct” on the issue. For example, Jeff B quoted Spurgeon as supporting the restoration of a nation-state, while Catholics would be more “agnostic” about Restorationism. The Catholic position is more progressive from a modern standpoint: I don’t see why there is a religious need to have a religious state in the Levant, although I could even sympathize with the appeal under some conditions.

      • RoHa on December 25, 2015, 7:12 pm

        “Presbyterians … and arguably looking at the record as a whole their legacy is rather positive.”

        But the Scottish ones were a bunch of misery-guts.

  11. W.Jones on September 29, 2014, 7:18 pm


    (Do you ever read our comments?)
    The main motivation is really because she wants to be part of the establishment. There is a status quo mentality. It’s not really about fear of anti-semitism, although I do think that it’s a secondary factor- people don’t want to get attacked as racist against Jews for opposing Israeli policies.

    I can see that Lutherans as an organization shouldn’t take the lead on the issue for a similar reason to why modern Germany shouldn’t. In my opinion, the early Church writers weren’t racist, but sometimes Luther really was. But Lutherans could still join onto another organization’s events, like the youth group you mentioned wanted to.

    What I generally hear from those Lutheran leaders is that they don’t want to rock the boat too much. It’s not mainly about anti-semitism, but about being part of the “consensus”.

  12. bilal a on September 29, 2014, 7:42 pm

    Jim Trafficant . read a few obits, not much discussion of his central issue, the Israeli owned traitors in the congress.

    weird how in a democracy , ‘history’ can be snitized.


  13. JeffB on September 30, 2014, 8:54 am


    I don’t think you can really say Reformed Churches are anti-Israel. For example the PCA has explicitly condemned the PCUSA’s stand on Israel as taking a stand outside the legitimate over-sight of the church. Certainly the Reformed elements of the SBA are generally pro-Zionist. All reformed are going to affirm things like, “the true Israel is those who believe in Christ, both Jew and Gentile” and thus reject key elements of Christian Zionism like dispensationalism. On the other hand while they reject dispensationalism’s separation of the church and Israel they do believe that the biblical promises are to be taken at face value. Spurgeon while not completely endorsing British Restoration were what we would call today pro-Zionist, “we shall at once profess our attachment to the pre-millennial school interpretation, and the literal reading of those Scriptures that predict the return of the Jews to their own land.” And I think a 120 years later that’s still the dominant conservative Reformed position. That Israel is the land of the Jews and that via. Zionism they are returning to their land. Berkhof (1960s conservative reformed leader) used to use Israel (the country) as an analogy of election of grace: Israel was cruel (i.e. did bad works) yet was favored by God just as we are elected without our own merits.

    Even in the PCUSA itself there are ministers who are appalled by what’s happening, “the PCUSA is perfectly comfortable with one of its constituent groups [referring to the IPMN — Israel Palestine Mission Network] making repeated forays into the swamps of falsehood, bigotry, and hate. It is a scandal for the denomination, and one that this summer’s General Assembly would be wise to address.”

    So to summarize I think Reformed is less friendly than Arminian on balance. Liberals are much less friendly to Israel than conservatives. The PCUSA being both seems willing to openly institutionally fall just short of BDS level hostility. But they are bitterly divided on the issue. As you move right I think the Reformed are mostly allies. Israel is mostly liked by the western right. And frankly even in the PCUSA Jews aren’t doing that badly. The Israel haters only won narrowly. In America Jews are enough of a slice of the population that they have been able to head off anti-colonialist anti-Zionism/antisemitism on the left. But in churches Jews don’t have the membership numbers (0 or close to it) to make a difference.

    Or to summarize my summary, I think it is a left problem more than a Reformed problem.

    • W.Jones on September 30, 2014, 10:42 am

      Were there other major mainstream Calvinist theologians who thought this way:

      Spurgeon while not completely endorsing British Restoration were what we would call today pro-Zionist, “we shall at once profess our attachment to… the literal reading of those Scriptures that predict the return of the Jews to their own land.”

      besides Spurgeon?

      I am not talking about Liberal Christian Zionists like Niebuhr.

      • JeffB on October 1, 2014, 11:04 am


        Were there other major mainstream Calvinist theologians who thought this way: –

        Sure John Gill “That the Jews upon their conversion in the latter day will return to the land of Judea again, and possess it, is the sense of many passages of Scripture” Cotton, Mather… all held this view of an eventual return.

        Pre-Darby the London Jewish society (early 19th century group dedicated to helping Jews living in the UK to successfully convert) becomes adamantly Zionist. Lewis Way, Joseph Wolff, Charles Simeon, William Hechler… In England though the change really happens with Darby who starts to argue not for some sort of far off eventual event but as a current reality. Was it certain from scripture that the Jews would need to convert first before their return or could the return start to happen prior to their conversion? So for most Presbyterians who are now confronted with this, mostly they were unable to argue sola scriptura for the traditional view that the conversion had to happen first. And remember they are in a defensive position theological so they take the more defendable position that Jewish return should neither be helped nor hampered, that’s an issue between God and the Jews. Which in the 19th century is objectively mildly pro-Zionist since it allowed Zionists to operate freely in Presbyterian territory.

        In Europe more generally there is the response to Napoleon’s advocacy. Once the idea hits America though America becomes the center of Zionism as Adventism finds fertile ground here. I’m being way too brief, but my short answer is yes many. I think a fair statement was that Presbyterians considered Zionism in the early 19th century and mostly held the Catholic position with a few exceptions, moved a bit in the pro-Zionist position under pressure and Spurgeon’s view was mainstream.

        I guess do you want to get more specific?

      • Mooser on October 1, 2014, 11:30 am

        Like a Spurgeon, endorsing for the very first time…

      • W.Jones on October 1, 2014, 11:36 pm

        OK, Gill and Spurgeon are important for the Reformed. Anyone else?

        I think that the Catholics were basically agnostic about this and didn’t see an ethno-religious “Return” as either demanded nor excluded.

    • Mooser on September 30, 2014, 10:55 am

      “But in churches Jews don’t have the membership numbers (0 or close to it) to make a difference.

      And finally, after thousands of words, JeffB comes up with a fact! Good work, Jeffy!

  14. Mooser on September 30, 2014, 10:58 am

    “Israel was cruel (i.e. did bad works) yet was favored by God just as we are elected without our own merits”

    Now, how’s about that for inter-faith ecumenicism! I don’t see how either a Christian or Jew could find fault with it.

    Yes sir, I’m counting on JeffB to lead us to interfaith unity, given a little gracious slack by God, of course. We all ‘need a little grace to run this Jewish race’!

    • Mooser on September 30, 2014, 1:19 pm

      Oh, that reminds me, JeffyB, where do you stand on the Holocaust= Crucifixion and Israel=Redemption theology advocated by some of the other Zionists here? Do you think it is valid?

      • W.Jones on September 30, 2014, 3:02 pm

        Oh wow, you know about that, Mooser?

      • Mooser on September 30, 2014, 4:54 pm

        Know about it? I was right here when who-ever-it-was brought it up. Gosh, Zionism must be the greatest ecumenical tool ever, incorporating so many vaunted Christian concepts into Judaism.

      • Mooser on September 30, 2014, 5:00 pm

        “are elected without our own merits”

        Unfortunately, being “elected” (surely I remember the concept of the “elect” from Hebrew School?) by God has been declared invalid, after an investigation. Turns out there was nobody to second the nomination.

      • JeffB on September 30, 2014, 8:20 pm


        I think I introduced that analogy here though the analogy was Israel = resurrection not redemption. Redemption in Christianity is what comes from the saving act it isn’t the saving act. So the analogy with redemption is Jews no longer being the terrified slaves walking meekly to the gas chamber but instead a proud people defending their land where they live free having been redeemed. There is no analogy for Judaism, ge’ulah (redemption) is explicitly the end of exile which has happened. Redemption in the Christian sense is an analogy on the literal Jewish interpretation i.e. redemption from slavery to sin is like the redemption from physical slavery arrived at through national liberation.

        As for the rest of your comments on the post… My comment was addressed to Joe who asked for a why not Betsy who didn’t. I don’t know Betsy. If she is a PCUSAer who is part of the anti-Jewish faction that’s not a shock. Its a big faction and look where this discussion is happening.

      • W.Jones on September 30, 2014, 11:41 pm

        There is no analogy for Judaism, ge’ulah (redemption) is explicitly the end of exile which has happened.
        You are living in the End Times, Mooser.

        Wait a minute, Jeff B, wasn’t the Messiah supposed to have shown up somewhere when the Redemption happened?

      • Mooser on October 1, 2014, 11:06 am

        “You are living in the End Times, Mooser.”

        I know! Hell of a name for a suburban subdivision, isn’t it?

      • Mooser on October 1, 2014, 11:18 am

        ” If she is a PCUSAer who is part of the anti-Jewish faction that’s not a shock.”

        So JeffyB, want to tell us more about the “anti-Jewish faction” at the PCUSA?

      • Mooser on October 1, 2014, 11:25 am

        “You are living in the End Times, Mooser.”

        I’m sorry, W Jones. You don’t know how apropos your end-times reference is. There was a little incident here yesterday with surveyors. A neighbor (who paid top dollar for his house at the height of the bubble) found out the house isn’t even sited on a legal lot!. (And his lot is much, much smaller than he’d been led to believe) About a third of the structure is off the lot, and the entire front yard is all county easement. I do believe this makes the house worthless, unlistable and unloanable. Oh, yeah, he’ll be there til the End Times.
        My house, of course, was right where it should be. I made damn sure of that, since it’s easy to move a refrigerator box or two.

  15. Mooser on September 30, 2014, 11:00 am

    “just as we are elected without our own merits”

    Gee, I’m astounded! He’s got a unifying formula a schema which even accounts for Republican Congressional candidates.

  16. Betsy on September 30, 2014, 11:22 am


    Join the conversation

    Advocating for a just peace for Palestine and Israel – What can U.S. Christians do?

    Wednesday, October 1, 2014

    8-9 PM EDT

    Dial: 1-866-740-1260

    Participant Access Code: 2419972#

    The aftermath of 50 days of fighting has left devastation in Gaza which still struggles under a suffocating blockade. More and more land continues to be confiscated for expanding settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The occupation of Palestinian lands continues unchecked. Israelis and Palestinians both suffer from the lack of a peaceful resolution. Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers look to the international community for support in their efforts to change the status quo and work toward a just peace. With the breakdown in peace talks, what direction should U.S. policy take? How can persons of faith be part of the solution through their public policy advocacy? Join us as we take a look at these questions, hear perspectives from experienced advocates on what churches are doing and can do, and engage in conversation about directions for advocacy.


    Catherine Gordon

    Representative for International Issues

    Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Office of Public Witness

    Mike Merryman-Lotze

    Israel-Palestine Program Director

    American Friends Service Committee

    Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach


    Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office

    There will be time for questions and answers, as together we seek a constructive way forward in advocacy for a just peace in Palestine and Israel.

    Sponsored by the Faith Forum on Middle East Policy, a network of national Christian denominations and organizations working for a just peace in the Middle East with a primary focus Israel and Palestine.

    PC(USA) Office of Public Witness website:

  17. RobertB on September 30, 2014, 12:06 pm

    Christian Evangelicals increasingly support Palestinian human rights
    Palestinian Christians

    Alison Weir

    September 29, 2014

    “An article in Middle East Quarterly, a pro-Israel publication, reports that support for Israel is eroding among American evangelical Christians, with only 30 percent in a recent survey stating support for Israel above Palestinians.

    This trend is even more pronounced among youth, according to an article by David Brog, Jewish-American executive director of Christians United For Israel (CUFI), a major pro-Israel organization. Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu has called CUFI “a vital part of Israel’s national security” and columnist Charles Kauthammer has said, “I do not know of an organization in the world more important to Israel than CUFI.”

    Brog’s article, “The End of Evangelical Support for Israel?” is largely pitched as a wake-up call to Israel partisans who, according to Brog, “must take this threat seriously.” (For more on Brog, see below)

    Brog quotes a journalist reporting in 2012 about the “the largest gathering of young evangelical leaders in America,” the Catalyst convention: “In dozens of random conversations, I noted that Millenians … expressed solidarity with the Palestinians and annoyance with Israel. This is a seismic shift in the American church and a serious threat to Israel’s one traditional area of support.” “

  18. James Canning on September 30, 2014, 1:35 pm

    I think good Christians in the US should denounce the endless Israeli occupation of the West Bank ever day of the week, and all through the year.

  19. michelle on September 30, 2014, 3:19 pm

    the good samaritan didn’t stop and ask who are you/who are your people before helping
    the dying man to safety & health
    Our Lord The Christ Jesus was not saving the woman from being stoned to death
    He was trying to save those whos hearts and minds were set on throwing the stones
    He didn’t come to save our bodies/flesh He came to save us/our souls
    G-d is Truth
    first & foremost
    Truth is what we must aspire to
    G-d Bless

  20. Pippilin on September 30, 2014, 3:35 pm

    I am so pleased to have found this article. I was baptized and confirmed in the old Augustana (Scandinavian) Synod of the Lutheran church, now named ELCA. I have grown up to be fairly a-religious, and pick and choose my spiritual beliefs as they do or don’t fit me.

    In 2009 I made a trip to Gaza 4 months after Cast Lead, a trip that changed me forever– from being ignorant and biased pro-Israel to intensely supportive of the Palestinian cause. I also made a telephone call to the ELCA people in Jerusalem to talk about the church’s stance on the I/P conflict; I could not get the spokesperson to commit to any stance. Very disappointing.

    I have contacted ELCA twice since then, and never received answers to my questions which included my asking why the church had not joined with the Methodists and Presbyterians in BDS. Very disappointing, but now I know why.

    How did this Bishop Eaton ever get to hold that title, anyway? She is a shame upon her church and upon the human race. Why would Zionists need an Elie Wiesel to speak up for them when Ms. Eaton lives just around the corner.

  21. JeffB on October 1, 2014, 5:38 am


    Wait a minute, Jeff B, wasn’t the Messiah supposed to have shown up somewhere when the Redemption happened?

    Messianic theology is less central than the theme of redemption. The land theme is explicit over and over in various rituals, prayers and stories The messiah’s role is implicit and comes from tying together vague comments in scripture into a cohesive whole. Which is why for example you could have 1st century Jews who were quite enthusiastic about Marcus Agrippa as the messiah and others who had come to believe that the world we live in was under the control of forces opposed to God and thus believed in an entirely spiritual heavenly messiah who suffers and dies to redeem us from sin allowing us to one day rejoin God in heaven.

    That being said, I have no problem in considering David Ben-Gurion the messiah. When he started his political career he was defending the rights of Polish-Jewish agricultural workers relative to Russian-Jewish a minority of a minority living in a country where even the majority had no sovereignty in the middle of his career he was defending that all the Jews of Palestine and consequently all the Jews of the world would not settle for the status they had in Bagdad, Cairo, and Damascus but instead wanted their own state and when he left office he had created essentially the army that won the 6 day war as well as Israel’s nuclear arsenal. I don’t believe in prophecy at all, but as long as one is going to interpret them loosely enough that any sort of fulfillment is possible I think we got a fulfillment.

    • Mooser on October 1, 2014, 11:13 am

      “The land theme is explicit over and over in various rituals, prayers and stories…”

      So, JeffyB, let’s get down to brass tacks here. How many acres-per-prayer do you figure you are entitled to? How many dunams-per-ritual? C’mon, don’t be shy, step up and tell us what we are owed. Then we will have a starting point for those “negotiations” you are always blathering about.

      Wow, I pray, and I ritual, and I tell stories, but my property never gets any bigger.

    • W.Jones on October 1, 2014, 12:16 pm

      Hello, Jeff.

      In the Tanakh, there is Redemption from captivity, but there is also Redemption from the grave.
      Psalm 49:7 says: “None of the [rich] can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him”.
      Then the Psalm adds:
      “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.”

      Both kinds of Redemption are repeatedly predicted, as in Isaiah 26, Ezekiel 37, etc.

      Granted, I can also see ransom from sin and its consequences as a redemption, like you mentioned.

      If we only need to think of the Messiah and His Redemption in terms of a nation-state, then how is the current one any better than the one already established in the times of Isaiah and Zechariah who predicted it?

      Thus, in terms of the prophecy,

      • W.Jones on October 1, 2014, 2:47 pm

        I suppose the main problem with seeing Ben Gurion as the Messiah is that he was not particularly close to God, nor did he bring Israel or other nations to God. The Messiah is generally portrayed as someone who has a close relationship to God, eg. “I will be His father and He will be my son”, as the prophecies said.

        I’m not sure that the modern Israelis overall are much more religious than the ancient Israelites were in Isaiah’s, Ezekiel’s and Jeremiah’s time. You yourself said that you don’t particularly believe in prophecy.

    • Mooser on October 1, 2014, 2:08 pm

      “That being said, I have no problem in considering David Ben-Gurion the messiah. “

      No, I wouldn’t think you would have any problem with that, given your religious and ideological perversions, I’m sure he fits the bill. I mean, just look at the description of the Messiah in the Bible and stuff. Twins, that’s what Ben Gurion and the Messiah are, freaking twins. Couldn’t tell ’em apart if you had them in the same room.

  22. Mooser on October 1, 2014, 2:05 pm

    “Wow, I pray, and I ritual, and I tell stories, but my property never gets any bigger. “

    Not that I plan to stop, at least it hasn’t gotten any smaller!

  23. JeffB on October 1, 2014, 11:14 pm


    Where did you get (2) from?
    The PCUSA is the most “antisupersessionist” of any church. They have published study documents attacking “Supersessionism.” There has probably never been any “clean Supersessionism” in any major denomination including even medieval Catholicism, if by that you mean one that totally excludes Jews from any hopes or promises. This is because of Romans 10-11.

    That’s not what supersessionism means. Supersessionism is the doctrine that the mosaic covenant is now void and replaced by the new covenant. And as such Israel has been replaced by the church as center of God’s interaction with man. The doctrine that Jews are unable to be saved at all is a form of racial anti-Semitism. Mostly it doesn’t exist outside things like the Arian Christ movement. And with the exclusion of churches inside the Axis (i.e. excluding the Deutsche Evangelische Kirche and foreign affiliates) I’d agree no major denomination ever believed it.

    About Your Point (5): The other Protestant groups didn’t persecute Jews either, except for the Lutherans in Germans. This is partly because Protestantism showed up in about 1500, after medieval times.

    Bavaria for almost 2 centuries, 1582 Netherlands, Moravia was almost always terrible… The Episcopalians had pretty intense persecution prior to the 18th century and the church institutionally was opposed to lifting the criminal ban on Judaism. I could keep going, but no Protestant groups are not totally clean. Jewish history is miserable which is why there is close to 0 support among Jews for giving up Israel because they know what a “return to normality” entails.

    • W.Jones on October 3, 2014, 1:47 am

      Here’s where you are wrong: “That’s not what supersessionism means. Supersessionism is the doctrine that
      In reality, Jeff, there are tons of even opposing definitions of Supersessionism used all over the place. I know of pro-Israeli Christian Zionists who would disagree with the definition you gave.
      In any case you and I agree that: There has probably never been any “clean Supersessionism” in any major denomination including even medieval Catholicism, if by that you mean one that totally excludes Jews from any hopes or promises.

      Now since you and I both seem to like philosophy, I will throw you a little bone to chew on. Evangelical Christian Zionists and PCUSA folks will both propound that they agree with St Paul in Hebrews 8 and Romans 10-11 about the new covenant and the new status of the Church. However, they both will also say just as loudly that they are anti-supersessionist. In fact, PCUSA and Evan CZs are probably the biggest anti-supersessionist churches.

      Let’s see you have fun with that.

    • Mooser on October 3, 2014, 5:10 pm

      “I could keep going, but no Protestant groups are not totally clean.”

      Medic! Medic! Bring a stretcher, a man fell down and broke his syntax.

  24. JeffB on October 1, 2014, 11:52 pm


    BTW forgot to mention there was even a post independence USA instance of Jewish expulsion by a Protestant:

    In the Tanakh, there is Redemption from captivity, but there is also Redemption from the grave.
    Psalm 49:7 says: “None of the [rich] can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him”.
    Then the Psalm adds:
    “But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.”

    A few comments.

    1) You are starting to ask me to defend Jewish theology rather than just state it. I’m not the best person for this.

    2) Remember the Tanakh itself is 3rd century it is a product of the diaspora Judaism. Though the Tanakh would not have been an unreasonable canon, in so far as Jews even have a concept of canon in the Christian (especially Protestant) sense of the word, it there are 0 instances of that particular list of books ever appearing prior to the 2nd century.

    3) Your translation / interpretation of Psalm 49 is Christian you are essentially begging the question. A Jewish translation sees this as a prayer to avoid premature death at the hands of the rich enemy in Psalm 49, quite material. Christian translational tradition tends to read Jesus back into the Old Testament, you have to be careful using religious Christian translations on this point.

    Both kinds of Redemption are repeatedly predicted, as in Isaiah 26, Ezekiel 37, etc.

    Ezekiel 37 is pretty clearly using resurrection as a metaphor for deliverance from exile and the restoration of the nation. I get that some Jews interpreted this more literally and that passed through to Christianity but I think the Christian interpretation is a bit of a stretch. Ezekiel explicates the metaphor directly in the text itself.

    Isaiah similarly in 27:12-13 ties his metaphor to restoration to Israel the country.

    If we only need to think of the Messiah and His Redemption in terms of a nation-state, then how is the current one any better than the one already established in the times of Isaiah and Zechariah who predicted it?

    I think Isaiah is multiple authors. You have both prophecy of the Babylonian or Assyrian destruction of Judea and later Judea having already been destroyed by Babylon. But ignoring that the theme of Isaiah is that Judea will be destroyed so as to be cleansed and then restored. Nothing much is different about Israel except it is clean. i don’t change much when I take a shower.

    Zechariah is written (supposedly) during the Babylonian exile and is pastoral… God has not left you he will redeem the land and restore you to it once you are pure… So same as Isaiah.

    I suppose the main problem with seeing Ben Gurion as the Messiah is that he was not particularly close to God, nor did he bring Israel or other nations to God.

    I don’t believe there is a God to get close to, but assuming I did… how do you know whether he was close to God? Aren’t you just assuming what you want to prove? One of the running themes of the bible is even those who believe themselves opposed to God can be whom God chooses to fulfill his will.

    That being said, Ben-Gurion himself used messianic language particularly in the struggles of the 1950s. He did win election. So his opinion identifying messianic redemption with Israel was accepted by Jews. I’m being a bit more blunt but it would be hard for a living Ben-Gurion to talk the way I do about Israel without sounding like David Koresh.

    • W.Jones on October 3, 2014, 1:32 am

      3) You practically agreed with me that Psalm 49 was redemption from physical death.
      You write: “A Jewish translation sees this as a prayer to avoid premature death at the hands of the rich enemy”. OK, that is talking about physical death.

      Those who rely on their possessions and boast of their great wealth,
      8. -a brother cannot redeem a man, he cannot give his ransom to God.
      9. The redemption of their soul will be too dear, and unattainable forever.

      Then the Psalm says:
      Like sheep, they are destined to the grave; death will devour them,
      16. But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, for He shall take me forever.

      The conclusion is that David’s soul, unlike the rich man’s soul, is redeemed from the physical grave, because he is with God forever, not just avoiding a premature death.

      Thus, what you consider to be the Christian reading is correct about the plain meaning of the Passage. Anyway, traditional Judaism accepts belief in the Resurrection, so this should be a moot point, IMHO.

      Likewise, I don’t see why Ezekiel 37 is only a metaphor. If the Israelites are resurrected physically, then naturally one would expect them to also have a restoration to their land.

      Sure, I can see that Isaiah was written under the Exile. But in any case, the whole concept of the Messiah is supposed to be based on David’s and Nathan’s prophecies about the extremely great “son of David”. I don’t know that any of those prophecies mentioned the act of restoring Israel. That is, the key definition is not so much restoring Israel but of being a kind of emperor especially close to God, I think. Solomon made temples to false gods, and so his legacy and kingdom degenerated in his wake. Thus, loyalty to God is another key component.

      You ask: how do you know whether he was close to God? Aren’t you just assuming what you want to prove?
      I don’t think that Ben Gurion was noted for leading Israel into a very strong, faithful relationship with God compared to what it had been in preceding decades. Aren’t Israelis much less observant in weekly attendance than their American counterparts?

      • Mooser on October 3, 2014, 5:07 pm

        “Aren’t Israelis much less observant in weekly attendance than their American counterparts?”

        It’s very true, W Jones. That’s why they have to carry those identity cards to remind them they are Jewish. Otherwise they would probably forget.

    • Mooser on October 3, 2014, 5:03 pm

      “I don’t believe there is a God to get close to, but assuming I did….”

      If you did believe in God, you might not be a Zionist.

  25. Betsy on October 2, 2014, 10:46 am

    HELP! can any of you recommend the best overviews of the PC(USA) beliefs re/ supersessionism” (sp?)?

    I started a city-wide discussion group with a-friend-of-progressive-Jewish-background and a Palestinian-American — in which we’re ATTEMPTING to have a reasoned conversation re/ the Middle East. What is happening is that a so-called “progressive” Zionist person-of-Jewish-background is *hounding* me, with accusations that the PC(USA) and I are unconsciously & deeply filled with what he calls “Jew hatred” . We keep trying to turn the conversation towards what is happening in the Middle East. But, he keeps reframing is as a discussion of PC(USA) imputed “Jew hatred”. He is now on a kick in which he says the church (and Zionism Unsettled) is deeply “supercessionist” — when I thought that the church strongly repudiated that.

    I personally don’t care about all of this theology. But, if any of you can quickly send me a link to good PC(USA) writing, I would greatly appreciate it…His singleminded focus on whether or not I & my church are bigoted is side-tracking the whole group. (I have to say I have never in my life been accused of bigotry. If he would just look at my life, work & webs of connection, I think this would seem to be deeply unfair).

    • W.Jones on October 2, 2014, 1:58 pm

      Dear Betsy,

      The short answer is that Yes, the PCUSA repeatedly declares itself “anti-Supersessionist”.
      A good proof of this is the PCUSA’s Study Document:
      General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church [USA], 1987

      But it’s not going to matter with him.

      The long answer is that “Supersessionism” was a term invented in the 1970’s by liberal Christian Zionists to attack St. Paul’s theology in Romans 9-11. In reality, all Christianity is a “version” of “super-sessionism” because Jesus’ teachings have a “higher”(super) authority than the TaNaKh. So if someone points to Solomon’s Proverbs and says that husbands need to cane their bad wives, you can reply that Jesus’ teaching of mercy in the Beatitudes has a higher authority than Proverbs. That’s why Christ, being the Messiah, said He is “greater than Solomon” (Matthew 12:42).

      So in reality, Christianity is supersessionist, as Rabbi David Novak and the Presbyterian Church of Canada have said:

      Zionism UnSettled talks about this on pages 46-47.

      But it doesn’t mean that Christianity is anti-Semitic. Jesus and the apostles were Jewish. Just because a religious community (Christians, Buddhists, Atheists, etc.) think that their religious community is preferable in any way for them to Judaism’s community doesn’t mean that they are “anti-semitic”.

      If you want more information, please contact me on Friendfeed through my profile here.

      • W.Jones on October 2, 2014, 2:00 pm
      • Betsy on October 2, 2014, 7:34 pm

        @WJones — big thanks!!

      • W.Jones on October 4, 2014, 8:24 pm

        OK. How did things go? I would like to talk with you more about the topic.

      • Betsy on October 5, 2014, 8:53 pm

        @WJones — well, the fellow in question dropped out of the group after more arguments, apparently finding us incorrigible. He made a Rosh Hashanah style farewell saying he forgave us & had learned from us. We’ve got about 35 people in an online-discussion group (with three of us moderating, one from Jewish-American, Palestinian / Muslim American & me the Presby) & we’re planning a face to face “retreat” months from now. We’re trying to focus on attracting younger people. More helpful for me is that my Jewish-American moderator pal has joined me in my Presby church in a study group using ZIONISM UNSETTLED which is a really great vehicle for discussion as it turns out. We’re keeping notes on questions & topics that need addressing to build ‘common ground’. It’s pretty great — but super time consuming doing back ground reading. So the more we all can develop / find study guides, cliff notes the better, cause ordinary Americans can’t put as much time into this as it seems to take right now… whew! many thanks! I’ll try to figure out

      • W.Jones on October 6, 2014, 11:16 pm

        OK. Good luck with Zionism Unsettled, it sounds like you have a nice group. I’m sorry that the gentleman left.

        The book is noteworthy because on pp.46-47 it speaks approvingly of Gary Burge’s “form of Supersessionism” while PCUSA documents normally decry “Supersessionism”. The substance of Burge’s view is basically the same as the PCUSA’s. It’s kind of like American communards debating whether they are “communists” or “Reds” based on how for some Americans it’s a negative term. Your acquaintance’s strong objection to “Supersessionism” reflects the connotations the label (like the analogy to “Reds”) carries.

        The main downside to Z.Unsettled is its scathing description of classical theology on pages 24-26. The main concern I would have is if your readers accepted the book’s views on this uncritically. The Protestant authors misportray classical Christian thinkers without explaining their thoughts in light of the Church’s theology. John Chrysostom was NOT saying that the pharisees worshiped actual, physical idols. Meanwhile, the Z.Unsettled book totally misses Martin Luther’s anti-semitism, which was sometimes racial, unlike the church philosophers the book attacks. I would be glad to explain more about this.

  26. Mooser on October 3, 2014, 5:47 pm

    Betsy, the fellows you need to get in touch with is Al Kooper and/or Mike Bloomfield.

    • W.Jones on October 3, 2014, 6:05 pm

      Al Kooper is an American songwriter, record producer and musician, known for organizing Blood, Sweat & Tears, providing studio support for Bob Dylan when he went electric in 1965… Michael Bernard “Mike” Bloomfield was an American musician, guitarist, and composer, born in Chicago, Illinois, who became one of the first popular music superstars of the 1960s…

      • Mooser on October 4, 2014, 12:49 pm

        That’s right, W Jones! Exactly right, and you got it in one! When it comes to supersessioning, there’s nothin’ Kooper and Bloomfield don’t know. They are the supersession kings!

  27. JustJessetr on December 25, 2015, 3:08 pm

    I’m a Jew of Conscience and this article doesn’t speak for me.

    • Mooser on December 25, 2015, 3:24 pm

      “I’m a Jew of Conscience and this article doesn’t speak for me.”

      Uh-oh. Another ‘bad hit’. And a NUPV. If this keeps up, Mondo is finished!

    • talknic on December 25, 2015, 8:23 pm

      @ JustJessetr “I’m a Jew of Conscience ..”

      A Jew of conscience willfully supports breaking the basic common sense tenets of Judaism. AMAZING!

      Israel covets other folks property, kills to steal it and kills to keep it. It falsely accuses, blatantly lies.

      I suggest you keep your nonsense down to a fever pitch

    • oldgeezer on December 25, 2015, 9:42 pm

      Pull the other leg. You have no conscience. You support the most vile crimes the world has ever seen. This is not the first time the world has faced such crimes but you are quite vocal in your support and excuses for them.

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