Support Palestinian human rights with the ‘fierce urgency of now’: An open letter to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church

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The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop
Episcopal Church of America

Dear Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori:

I am writing you to thank you for your service as Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church and to urge your full support in passage of all six of the resolutions relating to Israel and Palestine submitted for consideration at the forthcoming 78th General Convention later this month.  These resolutions include AO52; AO62; C003; C012; C018; and D016, three of which call for the Episcopal Church and its membership to adopt a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) in non-violent protest to Israel’s unlawful 48-year-long Apartheid and forced military occupation of Palestine’s Gaza, East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

As you know, a great deal has happened in the Palestine-Israel crisis since I appealed to you last November to support a resolution, “Pursuing Justice, Peace and Security in the Holy Land”, that included “positive investment”, your favorite initiative for the Holy Land, as well as a BDS provision.  But the BDS provision was removed prior to passage at the 120th annual Diocese of Washington convention this past January, apparently in deference to your continuing firm stand against involving the Episcopal Church in the 10-year-old BDS campaign.

I am reminded of a January 18, 2013 letter addressed to your Executive Council from those identifying themselves as “Episcopal Voices of Conscience”, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral.  This letter, dismissed by you as “problematic” and “unhelpful”, stated: “Just as this church stood with South Africa and Namibia during the dark days of Apartheid, so we recognize that we need to be standing with our sister and brother Palestinians who have endured an Apartheid that Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu has described as worse than it was in South Africa.”

In light of the merciless massacre in Gaza last summer and Israel’s ever worsening Apartheid and oppression of their “neighbors”, the Palestinians, I had hoped that you would come to realize how prophetic those “Episcopal Voices of Conscience” really were in January 2013.  Moreover, the Presbyterians, Methodists and a rapidly growing number of other religious and secular organizations worldwide are already actively involved in the BDS campaign to help end Israel’s longstanding unlawful occupation and its countless violations of international law and 4th Geneva Convention in Palestine.  Pope Francis and the Vatican recently joined 138 other sovereign nations of the world in recognizing Palestine as a nation state.

Nonetheless, at a recent Diocese of Washington committee meeting, a member of that group outlined the workings and procedures of the forthcoming 78th General Convention and assured the committee that “the Presiding Bishop considers any resolution calling for BDS dead on arrival.”

The three resolutions, C003, C012 and D016, containing provisions for BDS have a profound meaning for me as a news reporter who covered the Civil Rights Movement in the “Deep South” 50 years ago, when people of color were seeking their freedom, their human rights, and their dignity.  Extraordinarily striking to me are the parallels between Apartheid—segregation—in America back then and Israel’s Apartheid imposed on Palestinians today and for the past 48 years of brutal forced military occupation.

As an Episcopalian, especially meaningful to me now was the abiding and undaunted courage and determination of one of your predecessors, the late John E. Hines.  As Presiding Bishop, from 1965 to 1974, Presiding Bishop Hines stood with Nobel Laureates Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Arch bishop Desmond Tutu in strongly, but non-violently, opposing the injustices of apartheid—segregation—in America, as well as in South Africa and elsewhere in the world.  Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) was employed successfully in breaking the back of Apartheid in South Africa and is now in use around the world to end Israel’s Apartheid and unlawful occupation in Palestine.

But then there are those other voices, repeating year after year, and again this year: that the issues surrounding Israel’s policies in occupying Palestine “need more study”; and that the solution to the “conflict” is “negotiation”.  The record, however, speaks for itself.  Palestine is in its 48th year of enduring Israel’s forced—and all too often brutal—military occupation; and negotiation, stretching over 24 years, along with status quo, is now dead.

Dr. King always connected the issues of civil and human rights with the “fierce urgency of now.”  No doubt that if Dr. King were with us today, he would declare, “the fierce urgency of now” is long past in settling the plight of the Palestinians.  Yet another Nobel Laureate, Nelson Mandela, made the connection between Apartheid in his South Africa and Palestine:  “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.”

In keeping with the righteous and holy principles of Christianity and teachings of Jesus Christ, this is your opportunity, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, at the forthcoming General Convention, to connect the issues of civil and human rights of Palestinians with the “fierce urgency of now.”

Indeed, now is the time, Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, for you to call up the legacy of your predecessor, John E. Hines, in strongly advocating and supporting those three resolutions calling for non-violent protest to help end Israel’s unlawful policies of Apartheid and oppressive occupation in Palestine.


James F. Michie
Church of the Redeemer
Bethesda, Maryland

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What will be her response?

Thanks for sharing your wonderful letter, James. I’ll be sharing it with many~ including my Episcopalian friends.

It’s a shame that Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori appears to be a PEP. It’s certainly not befitting the Church, its history, nor its image.

Well, it’s a good letter. It seems likely Bishop Schori has been playing politics all along, with important allies among the American Jewish Community. If it were just about morals . . . . But the Gaza War last summer, and Netanyahu’s performance through the election and new government formation have to force recalculation, re-triangulation of politics. Does Bishop Schori want to align with Sheldon Adelson and Benjamin Netanyahu? Can’t she find a way to… Read more »

Thank you James Michie!

Thanks Mr. Michie. Hope rev Schori reads it with an open heart/mind. Heck, even with a closed mind it would be hard not to be moved by stories like this:

Israel demolishes Palestinian home and sends bill for demolition to owner: