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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

James Michie

James Michie lives in Bethesda, MD

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16 Responses

  1. Citizen on June 25, 2015, 9:55 am

    What will be her response?

    • JimMichie on June 25, 2015, 1:12 pm

      The Presiding Bishop has not responded to any of my emails and letters to her.

      • W.Jones on June 25, 2015, 4:42 pm

        Fax +
        Mail +
        4 Phone calls during business hours

        Be the squeaky wheel and get back to us on her reply.

        Her phone:
        (800) 334-7626 FREE or (212) 716 6273

  2. just on June 25, 2015, 10:37 am

    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.

  3. David Doppler on June 25, 2015, 2:38 pm

    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 use what’s left of the Episcopal Church’s clout in the US to join the many forces demanding change in Israel’s leadership and pathway? Netanyahu, Likud, and the Neocons hang on by the thinnest of threads, yet they keep doubling down on what they are betting on their failed vision for Israel and the Middle East, what they are demanding from those who would be political bedfellows, including Bishop Schori.

    Why the Episcopal Church, America’s version of the Anglican Church, might use its own deeply political history as guide to nudge the American Jewish community away from the racist extremism gripping Israel. The Anglican Church was founded when the Pope in Rome sought to ex-communicate Henry VIII over his divorce from his Spanish Queen, and England’s Christians had to choose between King and Church. Elizabeth, daughter of Anne Bolyen and Henry VIII, grew up under constant threat of assassination, her half-sister Queen Mary, a good Catholic, riding the bucking bronco of religious history at the dawn of the Renaissance, before Elizabeth took on the challenge, and led England from obscure Island on the fringe of Europe, to the threshold of its global empire, and its Church to its position of outsized influence in America, using extreme intelligence, caution, tolerance, and her other virtues to build and give birth to the American and Western European models of post-medieval society.

    Now you have Ultra-Orthodox Judaism ensconced in Israel with visions of Greater Israel and a new Kingdom, a new Messiah, and the American Jewish community must decide between loyalty to that two-thousand year-old vision of Israel, or their own country and post-renaissance society. There are leaders in the American Jewish community – and in Israel – with whom Bishop Schori can align, with an eye toward a better future. Or she can continue to enable Netanyahu, Adelson, Likud, and the Neocons in their self-destructive spiral.

    I hope she finds some inspiration in Elizabeth’s deft handling of very difficult situations. Ongoing enablement of Apartheid would be shameful.

  4. hammersmith on June 25, 2015, 4:17 pm

    Thank you James Michie!

  5. Amar on June 25, 2015, 4:19 pm

    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:

  6. CigarGod on June 26, 2015, 8:51 am

    If I still lived around the corner…I’d make a: “Bishop Loves Apartheid” sign and take it and a sack lunch and spend the day outside her office.
    But, I’ll make a phone call, instead.

  7. Shrouq Aila on June 26, 2015, 3:03 pm

    Thank you so much Sido Jim for sharing this wonderful letter. I’m a Palestinian girl a refugee from Gaza, my hometown is Yibna located in the occupied Palestinian territories. I am 20 years old and have witnessed 3 wars the same as my little sister 9 years old. She is young enough to a bear three wars of killing, destruction, the missing people, the displaced people, the tears, the wounds, the suffering and bombing everything weather it is humans or stone. We are all under unbelievable amounts of psychological pressure. If anyone breaks down and goes crazy in the street, no one will blame them.” I can’t forget the worst thing in the last 2014 war, is when you realize that you no longer understand what is going on. Throughout the night, the tanks, drones, F16 fighter jets and warships haven’t let up for a minute. The explosions are constant, always sounding as if they’re just next door. Life is getting complicated. You wish that you were simpler and could accept things more easily.
    Words never end the same war. But you can make it easier, think of us, please!

    • just on June 26, 2015, 5:14 pm

      Welcome Shrouq!

      How wonderful that you’re joining in! I was so glad to read your post and more about you here:

      There’s lots of us who never stop thinking of all of you.

      ( Hugs to your little sister!)

      • Shrouq Aila on June 26, 2015, 6:28 pm

        Thank you so much dear. You have to know that we are all grateful for you, Jim, Edie and all pro-Palestinians.
        My best wishes for you :)

    • JimMichie on June 26, 2015, 6:12 pm

      Thank you so much, Shrouq, our adopted granddaughter in Gaza, for sharing your thoughts with us. Edie and I are so Blessed to have you, your brothers, Mohamed and Basil, and our many other Facebook friends to keep us informed about conditions in Gaza, and it means a lot to us to have you call us Sito and Sido (grandmother and grandfather). We are doing our best, and so are a growing number of Americans, to educate those Americans– and there are many– who know very little about the Palestine-Israel crisis and what all Palestinians, Christian and Muslim, continue to endure with so much courage under Israel’s brutal apartheid forced military occupation since 1967. We hope and pray that the Episcopal Church will approve all three BDS resolutions under consideration at the church’s General Convention. And we thank you and your brother, Mohamed, for Skyping with us this evening. Seeing you and hearing your voices gives us all the more incentive to work for Palestine’s freedom, justice and peace. Insha’Allah!
      Ramadan Kareem! And we send our love, prayers and hugs to you, your family, friends and all of Gaza. Cheers!
      Your Sito and Sido in Bethesda, Maryland

      • just on June 26, 2015, 6:41 pm

        How very moving, Jim. Thank you for sharing all of that.

        {{{Sito and Sido Michie}}}

      • Shrouq Aila on June 26, 2015, 6:45 pm

        Sido and Sito, it is pleasure for having you in my life, and we all are glad to Skype with you both today. Insha’Allah everything will be alright with your help and other pro-Palestinians activists help. You know wounds will not be easily healed.
        My hugs and love for my Maryland Sito and Sito, Cheers! :)

  8. michelle on June 26, 2015, 3:12 pm

    to the faithful the heartland is in heaven with G-d
    G-d Bless

  9. PilgrimSoul on June 26, 2015, 7:35 pm

    I have a bad feeling about this. There is what appears to be an approaching genocide against gay people in central Africa, and Canterbury (and the Archbishop thereof) are feeling appropriately pressured by it. They can’t oppose homophobia in Africa too overtly, they feel, or Anglicanism will become the target of mob violence. Furthermore, Canterbury feels that US Episcopalians have been pushing the envelope on marriage equality and gay rights way too enthusiastically, again adding to their institutional worries, because it pisses off homophobes in the African governments. (In the process threatening the future of Anglicanism on that continent.)

    My own sense is that the institutional Episcopalian Church in the US is about to do Canterbury a big mitzvah by orchestrating some kind of pathetic “reconciliation” with the famous (and famously corrupt) organized US Jewish community, whose leaders are today mainly fanatical religious nationalists and neocons in all but name. By doing so, the hierarchy in the US hopes to make up for all the headaches American Episcopalians have given Canterbury. They may try to accomplish this, I’m afraid, by bowing down to the Israel Lobby, whilst saying, “See, we’re not all that radical.” Canterbury will frame it as “reconciliation” with Judaism, whereas their abandonment of the Palestinian people will be simply one more examples of institutional religious complicity with systemic evil.

    On one level there’s a huge class angle to this, wherein Episcopalian leaders went to the wall on an upper middle-class white issue (marriage equality and gay rights in the US) but are about to turn their backs on issues involving non-whites (Palestinians and African gays) in the developing world. The right way for a church to handles these things would be to stop balancing issues off against each other, and stand for universal human rights for everybody, all the time. Don’t hold your breath.

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