Thursday, May 1, 2008

Mark Hanson called for `Renewed resolve' at the 2008 CMEP conference

Following up on the report from Churches for Middle East Peace, I want to highlight a couple of ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson’s comments. He called for “Renewed resolve.” To see and hear Bishop Hanson's entire message, go to

These are the points that really hit home for me.

1. Hanson expressed “deep disappointment” in the three presidential candidates' from both parties “seeming unwillingness to make anything but the most calculated major statements on Israeli Palestinian conflict for fear they’re going to offend blocks of voters.”

2. He said, “I’m convicted that my discouragement over the lack of progress is nothing compared to the daily struggles of those who live in the midst of the turbulence, and I’m convinced that our voices (…) are critical to the contribution of a lasting just two state solution.”

3. Regarding “A Common Word,” a plea from Muslims leaders and scholars to engage the world out of the affirmations of our sacred texts:
Hanson’s word of admonition: “I think it’s awful that we as Christian leaders in the world have not managed to give a shared response. … What does it say that we have been unable to bring a shared response as global Christian leaders? Their invitation was for us to affirm in our sacred texts that we believe in a God that calls us to love one another.”

4. Final status negotiations must include and engage Hamas. Here’s the context: Every life has value; life is bestowed equally by God. “If we really believe that Jesus meant it when he said, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, doesn’t that mean that we should be advocating for and encouraging dialogue, face-to-face, between people and groups who deem the other to be their enemy … doesn’t that mean that at the same time that we admonish Hamas (…) we must also publicly affirm that any final status negotiations must include and engage Hamas, since all Palestinians must be represented at the table for there to be a reconciled, lasting peace.

5. Regarding the visit to Washington, D.C., of the newly-formed Council of Members of Religious Institutions, Hanson said, “I was absolutely appalled, but not surprised, at two things: the US press gave us no time, and - this is really the shock - President Bush wouldn’t meet with them. (…) We give them no mind, we pay them no attention. They have affirmed the importance of Jerusalem to the three faiths they represent.”

6. Public admonition. First members of our own churches. Next, leaders in our church, "I’m talking about the pastors in our church (...) The ELCA says in our constitution. `Consistent with the faith and practice of the (ELCA) every ordained minister shall speak publicly to the world in solidarity with the poor and oppressed, calling for justice and proclaiming God’s love.’ Then in our Standards, `This church expects its ordained ministers to be witnesses to and instruments of God’s peace and reconciliation for the world.’ I don’t know any bishop who’s brought up a pastor on charges of failing to uphold the standards of the church about that.”

7. Christian Zionism: “Let us as Christians admonish, challenge, publicly and face-to-face, those fellow Christians who espouse the ideology known as Christian Zionism.” Hanson pointed to Robert Smith’s paper, presented to the Conference of ELCA Bishops: -

8. Finally, Hanson said he gets tired of hearing the same great commission text cited all the time when the Bible gives us so many others, II Corinthians 5 in particular: “God in Christ has reconciled the whole creation to Godself, not counting their trespasses against them, and giving us the ministry of reconciliation.”We must publicly name and confront the barriers that exist that cause us to continue to stand in need of reconciliation.

To see and hear Bishop Hanson's entire message, go to

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