I left the blog aside for a few days while I was engrossed in the ELCA Churchwide Assembly. Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jerusalem and the Holy Land spoke eloquently and was consulted during debate of an amendment to the action regarding the Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine.
The ELCA Washington Office issued a Middle East Network Newsletter that includes the wording of the action and links to Bishop Younan's speech: http://ga6.org:80/elca_advocacy/notice-description.tcl?newsletter_id=9552108
ELCA News put out this news release:
August 15, 2007
ELCA Assembly Calls for Recommitment to Israel, Palestine Strategy
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The 2007 Churchwide Assembly called on the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to recommit to the Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine, through awareness-building, accompaniment and advocacy activities. [http://www.elca.org/peacenotwalls/downloadable/strategyfull.pdf] The assembly also suggested some possible economic initiatives in its amended action on Aug. 11.
The strategy is part of the "Peace Not Walls: Stand for Justice in the Holy Land" campaign adopted by the 2005 Churchwide Assembly.
The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of the ELCA, met here Aug. 6-11 at Navy Pier's Festival Hall. About 2,000 people participated, including 1,069 ELCA voting members. The theme for the biennial assembly was "Living in God's Amazing Grace: Thanks be to God!"
The assembly action underscored the call for economic initiatives, in consultation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL), which could include "purchasing of products from Palestinian providers and exploration of the feasibility of refusing to buy products produced in Israeli settlements."
The Rev. Rebecca S. Larson, executive director, ELCA Church in Society, said, "This is consistent with the strategy that we have. The context of the strategy is very much within a commitment to a sustainable resolution of conflict throughout the Holy Land and a two-nation solution with a very secure Israel. Within that strategy, there is a section called 'stewarding economic resources.'"
Examination of investment activity by the ELCA was also requested by the assembly in the amended action, but it would "exclude the option of divesture." The Rev. H. Gerard Knoche, bishop, ELCA Delaware-Maryland Synod, Baltimore, proposed the amendment, saying the motion "calls for examination of our investment strategy, and I wanted to put some limits on the results of that examination."
The Rev. John H. K. Schreiber, bishop, ELCA Southeast Michigan Synod, Detroit, said, "I applaud the efforts of the ELCA to walk in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, to stand for peace and justice. We also need to match our rhetoric with using the vast resources that have been entrusted to us by God and this church."
Some voting members expressed concern that adopting the memorial would complicate relations in their immediate communities and abroad.
"I fear that the language we have right now confuses the Jewish community about our support for them, and it sounds like we're speaking out of two sides of our mouth," said the Rev. Bruce D. MacLaughlin, a voting member from the ELCA Northeastern Pennsylvania Synod.
Several speakers had traveled to the Holy Land or belonged to synods in "companion synod relationship" with the ELCJHL, and they described the experience as instrumental in their commitment to this action.
"I believe many people have said it is dangerous to travel in the Holy Land. I believe that there is far more danger to our spirit if we deny this very physical aspect of support and accompaniment," said the Rev. Margaret G. Payne, bishop, ELCA New England Synod, Worcester, Mass.
The importance of accompaniment was emphasized by the Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop of the ELCJHL, in a hearing conducted on Aug. 7. "The theology of accompaniment allows one to get to know the other, to see the needs. We invite you to come and see," he said. - - -
Information about the 2007 ELCA Churchwide Assembly is at http://www.ELCA.org/assembly/ on the Web.
The text of the 2007 ELCA assembly action is as follows:
To receive the memorials from the Pacifica Synod, Metropolitan New York Synod, Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod, New England Synod, Southeast Michigan Synod, and Metropolitan Chicago Synod and to thank them for their support of efforts by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to promote peace with justice in the Holy Land;
To note the participation of the ELCA in ecumenical and inter-religious forums where religious extremism is addressed;
To acknowledge the Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine, including its call for "increased engagement with conservative Christians and a clearer and more forceful expression of Lutheran theology in the public debate...";
To call upon the ELCA, in all of its expressions, to recommit itself to the Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine through awareness-building, accompaniment, and advocacy activities, including pilgrimage visits, sustained financial support, and other forms of economic stewardship; and
To call upon the ELCA to underscore the call for economic initiatives by this church and its members in the Peace Not Walls campaign.
Such initiatives, in consultation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, could include purchasing of products from Palestinian providers and exploration of the feasibility of refusing to buy products produced in Israeli settlements.
Also to be explored is the entire investment activity by this church. Examination of investment would exclude the option of divestiture.
To view Bishop Younan's speech on video: http://www.elca.org/assembly/video/070809.html
To view the assembly discussion on video: http://www.elca.org/assembly/video/070811.html