Peacemaking actions provide diverse witness

SAN JOSE, June 24, 2008 — The members of the Committee on Peacemaking and International Issues repeatedly sought and affirmed information and overtures from many different voices regarding the difficult subjects of Israel and Palestine, and the work of the Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) committee during Tuesday’s business, which ran late into the night.

The overtures approved for General Assembly consideration by the committee are complicated and contradictory.

“We’ve been interesting for days,” said the Rev. Nancy Kahaian, committee chairperson, to a committee member highlighting an action about to be taken that would apparently contradict an earlier one.

“Our actions do not provide a uniform witness,” Kahaian said and asked the committee, “Do you agree? ”A chorus of “yes” was audible from many members of the committee at 10:15 p.m. with about 100 observers still in the audience.

Hours of the committee’s time were spent listening to more than 100 people with a wide spectrum of voices. These voices were heard during open hearings and committee deliberations, and speakers included overture advocates, resource people and a few who seemed to cross the lines of those roles, according to Kahaian.

Overtures regarding the region of Israel and Palestine alone prompted more than 70 people to speak during open hearings.

The overture (Item 11-01) dealing with peace and justice in Israel and Palestine is the result of dialogues with members of the Atlanta Israeli, Palestinian, Islamic and Jewish communities. These dialogues also included conversations with representatives of Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations that have an ongoing concern for peace and justice in Palestine/Israel. The committee approved recommending this overture with alternate language provided by the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP) by a vote of 47-17-1. That language was amended to eliminate the last sentence in Item 6, which allows for the General Assembly Council to call for divestment if appropriate.

The committee agreed that other portions of that overture answered Items 11-03 and 11-04. Item 11-04, which calls for the church to act with independence to any state or ideology (reference: The Theological Declaration of Barmen), endorses the ‘Amman Call’ regarding Arab-Israeli peace, issued by the World Council of Churches, and directs appropriate PC(USA) to develop resources.

In another action, the committee approved to recommend Item 11-26 on Middle East peacemaking by a narrow vote (32-29-2). The item calls on the church to “defer from taking actions or making statements that align the PC(USA) with unilateral support from any of the specific parties involved in the struggle.”

The committee also voted down Item 11-23 by a vote of 15-45-4 which, if deemed appropriate, would have given the GAC authority to move forward with divestment of corporations such as Caterpillar, Inc. and Motorola, Inc.

In a narrow vote, 27-35-1, the committee voted down Item 11-07 which, among other actions, called for a temporary suspension of military aid to Israel because of documented atrocities committed against Palestinians.

“Although consistency is not our strong suite, endurance is,” Kahaian told her committee at the end of the night and thanked them for their service.