Episcopal Voices of Conscience

Episcopal Voices of Conscience
Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 21, 2013
A Prophetic Challenge to the Executive Council

“No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.’”-  Martin Luther King , Jr. August 28, 1963  Washington, D.C.

Today as we celebrate the life and witness of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., we affirm once more that we will continue to build on his dream of a fully inclusive America, “where we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: Free at last! Free at last!  Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Today we also want to invoke Dr. King’s call for justice on the land where Jesus lived his earthly ministry, the holy land that is precious to all Jews, Christians, and Muslims – the people of Abraham. We affirm that God intends for Israeli Jews and Palestinians to live together in a just peace. Dr. King reminds us that justice must be the arbiter of this conflict, and we add that truth must be its accompanist. This is the justice Jesus called for when he said, “He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives, … to set at liberty those who are oppressed.”

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.  All peoples who have experienced oppression, including indigenous peoples who have known what it is to be dispossessed of their land, understand the Palestinian issue.

Israel must be held accountable for allowing an occupation for 45 years that suffocates the dreams of freedom that Palestinians hold every bit as much as African Americans sought on that day when Dr. King told the world that he had a dream. Occupation cannot be justified as a tool of security. Occupation is its own form of violence, a prescription for frustration and rage among those shackled under its harsh restraints.

We ask the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church to look carefully at the full body of our Church’s policy on Israel and Palestine, and to implement those policies whenever the opportunity arises. The Episcopal Church General Convention held in July, 2012, adopted resolution A015 which reads in part: “Resolved, That that the General Convention reaffirms Resolution 1991 – A149, “Urge a Full Accounting of the Use of Foreign Aid to the Middle East,” adopted by the 70th General Convention,” which reads in part:  “require(s) the State of Israel to account to the Government of the United States for all aid to Israel…in compliance with the Foreign Assistance Act.”

As elected leaders of The Episcopal Church, we ask Executive Council to:

  • Immediately send a message to Congress that the Episcopal Church supports our 15 ecumenical colleagues, who include the church leadership of the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, and United Church of Christ denominations, that wrote to Congress October 5, 2012, calling for accountability of Israel’s use of foreign aid from our government. The voice of The Episcopal Church is woefully missing in the request our colleagues made to Congress.
  • Immediately move forward with our Church’s corporate engagement policy so that our financial resources are not being used to support the infrastructure of this suffocating occupation.
  • We respectfully ask for a public accounting of the Executive Council’s work on these matters no later than the meeting of Council June 8-10, 2013.

The truth that is so readily seen worldwide, except among our nation’s leaders, is that Israel imposes a matrix of control over the occupied Palestinian territories, locating Jewish settlements on prime Palestinian land, building segregated roads forbidden to Palestinians to connect the settlers to Israel proper, erecting a wall that causes havoc in the daily lives of Palestinians and serves as another pretext to occupy yet more land. We see check points that are used to control the movements of people on their own land where tactics of bullying, intimidation, and detention are practiced; and where the demolition of homes and the uprooting of olive tree orchards are commonplace causing further humiliation and insult, along with the destruction of livelihoods. We see what was once Palestinian East Jerusalem being subsumed through Israel’s settlement policy. We see the teeming population of Gaza held under confinement on land, in the air, and at sea.

We ask today why is it that Congress and the White House are unable to see the injustice of the occupation, where Israel is the oppressor, and the Palestinians the oppressed? Why is it that our government could not recognize the rights of Palestinians to status as a non-member observer state at the United Nations? Why do our country’s leaders embarrass us as a nation by being on the short end of the UN vote, 138-9, and expose our irrational bias? We are mystified that Washington lives in a bubble of unreality in its blind support of an immense injustice perpetrated every day on the Palestinian people, and foments anger across the Middle East and the world.

Just as Dr. King spoke to the throngs on the Mall of our nation’s Capitol so, too, do his words ring true for Palestinians: “I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells.  And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.”

We believe, as does our Church, in the right of the state of Israel to exist, and we are aware of the threats against it from multiple sources, which saddens and concerns us. We assure all Jews in Israel and everywhere that we too share a commitment to Israel’s security and peace even as we insist that the state of Israel end this miserable occupation, which diminishes both the oppressed and the oppressor.  We affirm our commitment to non-violence and reject the use of violence from either side. We oppose the indiscriminate use of rockets fired into Israeli communities as we oppose bombs being dropped on Gaza by Israeli fighter jets. We affirm the right of Israel to be at peace with her neighbors, but insist it be through the prism of justice as we believe Dr. King would insist.

As our Church stated in 1991, we differentiate between anti-Semitism, which we abhor, and legitimate criticism of the state of Israel, especially as Israel imposes an unjust system of occupation upon another people. We affirm the right of Palestinians to non-violent resistance to the occupation just as African Americans resisted the inhumanity of Jim Crow and segregation.

And just as Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream, we hear from Palestinians who have a dream. We hear from Israeli Jews of goodwill that share that dream. May both peoples dream as Martin Luther King, Jr. did: “I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

We turn to our elected Church leaders, the Executive Council, to take up the mantle of justice and truth and undertake the long standing witness The Episcopal Church has made over these last three decades.  We ask you, our elected leaders, to give voice to our long held policies, remembering that the arc of history bends towards justice.

Signed- Titles are for identification purposes only and do not imply organizational endorsement

Canon Bonnie Anderson, D.D., President of the Episcopal Church House of Deputies, 2006-2012

Owanah Anderson, citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The Right Reverend Edmond L. Browning, former Presiding Bishop, 1986-1997, Current President of Sabeel, North America

Patti Browning , wife of Edmond Browning and long time activist for Palestinian justice

The Right Reverend Steven Charleston, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alaska, retired

The Right Reverend Leo Frade, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida

The Reverend Canon Brian J. Grieves, former Peace and Justice Officer, The Episcopal Church 1988-2009

The Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean, Washington National Cathedral

Diane B. Pollard, Senior Deputy to General Convention, Diocese of New York, 1979 – 2012

The Right Reverend Gene Robinson, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, retired, current Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, Washington, DC

The Reverend Canon Edward Rodman, John Seeley Stone Professor of Pastoral Theology and Urban Ministry, Episcopal Divinity School

The Reverend Winnie Varghese, Rector, St. Mark’s in- the-Bowery, New York, Executive Council 2006-2012

Supported by Internationals endorsers:

Dr. Jenny Te Paa – Dean, Te Rau Kahikatea, St. Johns College, Auckland, New Zealand

The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu – Archbishop Emeritus, Cape Town, Patron of Sabeel, International


  1. The Rev. Carol L Huntington says:

    Thank you for the letter to Executive Council.

    In the past 14 months I have been privileged to be sent on a Witness Visit with Sabeel and have spent almost four weeks in Occupied Palestine.

    In the past several months I have personally and face to face expressed my dismay, disappointment and sadness to both our PB and The Bishop of Jerusalem. He told me “we do not want your interference”. His clergy do not agree with his position. His priests and people have invited us and welcomed us to “come and see” and then to witness to what we saw. We are doing just that.

    Five Companions of The Society of Companions of the Holy Cross went in November. We have spoken as a group to date to over 140 people in New England.

    We saw and listened to scores of people and were fed meals in Palestinian homes, caves and tents including people whose homes were under demolition orders by the Israeli government. Several places were being protected by Rabbis for Human Rights and Internationals as well as some direct action nonviolent peacemaking Israeli Jews. An IDF Helicopter flew low over head at a Bedouin tent in the South Hebron Hills at Susya.

    Settlements are illegal by all understandings of international law.

    Rabbi Brant Rosen, Vice President Rabbis for Human rights stated recently:

    “I have personally come to the very painful realization that Jewish nation-statism comes at a very real cost to our Jewish soul – compromising sacred values that teach us that all human beings are created in the image of God, that one law must be extended to all who live on the land, that we must love our neighbors as ourselves.”

    We met in Jerusalem with American-born Rabbi Arik Ascherman, past president of Rabbis for Human Rights, who has stood in front of bulldozers coming to demolish Palestinian homes, was beaten and imprisoned; He declared that the Israeli government today is “the world’s worst human rights violator.”

    We visited refugee camps where 18,000 Palestinians were sheltered, but were without drinking water and electricity where Palestinians have lived since 1948 or 1967 with raw sewerage where children played in the dirt rutted streets.

    There is so much more to tell you…

    TEC Executive Council should “accept the invitation of Sabeel “to come and see” before denying Palestinian rights for justice and peace.

  2. Bob Griffith says:

    By earning a Ph.D! If you earn a Ph.D, you are a “doctor” of your subject. A medical “Doctor” is a “doctor” of medicine.

  3. It is difficult to see how present day Israelis can justify their sole occupation of the Palestinian Homelands – without making way for the Palestinian people who have made their home in that place for many generations. Apart from the fact that both Jews and Muslims have a common ancestry in descent from Abraham; there is a matter of common human rights for an established community.

  4. Ronald D. Morrison says:

    Perhaps the Signers of the attached letter and other Denominations who have taken action similar to what is proposed in this letter should:
    • Be more concerned with the souls of those living in United States and the Middle East than with political intrigues.
    • Be more concerned with where individuals of the United States and the Middle East will spend Eternity than with political intrigues.
    • Be more concerned with End-Times Prophecies being played out in front of their eyes than political intrigues.
    • Be more concerned with the Prophecies of Scripture such as the 70th Week of Daniel; the Rapture; the Day of Jacob’s Trouble; the Great Tribulation; and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ than with political intrigues.

    It should not be difficult for these learned men and women to find great works of literature to direct them towards what they should concern their time with rather than political intrigues. They might want to start with the revealed Word of God as contained in the Holy Scriptures. As a guide to their study they might want to read “Jesus Is Coming” by W. W. Blackstone.

    Perhaps the Signers of the attached letter who in essence are advocating for the destruction of Israel should consider the statement of Gamaliel in Acts 5:38-39: “…let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.”
    Ronald D. Morrison
    Virginia Beach, Virginia

  5. It is difficult for me to to understand how those professing to be followers of Christ could be so blinded to the true nature of Israel’s existence as a nation today. Have you no understanding of prophesy or do you merely discount it as irrelevant?
    Do you not know that Jesus was a Jew? Have you forgotten that the apostles were Jews and the the first Church was made up of primarily Jews?
    Have you never read Genesis 17: 7-8 “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.”? Everlasting covenant and everlasting possession are very clear promises made by God.
    Satin has been actively trying to destroy God’s Chosen people since God made His promise to Abraham. You are in, effect, joining the ranks of those that throughout history have been Satin’s tools of destruction to the Jewish people.
    How will you justify your actions to Jesus when you stand before Him? It’s quite possible that if you could quote scripture instead of Martin Luther King, you might change your viewpoint.
    This would be my challenge to you. If you can re-write this article using scripture to back up your position, then you can walk away vindicated. If you can’t, and you can’t, then repent and ask forgiveness. It is not too late.

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