Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Presbyterian/Jewish Relations

On February 22nd, the Jewish human rights group and anti-antisemitism watchdog Simon Wiesenthal Center ran the following headline:

Presbyterian Church USA Ready to Declare War Against Israel

The attached article referenced a leaked draft of a press release describing a yet-to-be finished statement regarding the Middle East that will be before the PC(USA) General Assembly this summer. According to the Wiesenthal Center, the finished document will contain extensive language threatening to the security of the state of Israel.

Nobody outside of the committee that is writing the statement seems to know what it will actually say, and the Wiesenthal Center has not posted a copy of the press release it claims to have received, so denominational leaders are struggling to understand where this complaint came from.

In response Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) issued a statement reaffirming the PC(USA)'s historic and ongoing support of the state of Israel within secure borders, while also expressing the church's ongoing concern for the violence and human rights abuses by both parties in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Here is my take, and what I would say to anyone who asked by opinion of this mater:
1. The PC(USA) has been one of the longest and staunchest defenders of the State of Israel and has long been a leader in Jewish/Christian relations. Statement after statement by the church has affirmed the right of Israel to exist. Presbyterian theologians, Bible scholars and preachers have been among the leaders in promoting a Christianity that combats, rather than supports, antisemitism.

2. The PC(USA) has very old, historic and close relationships with its sister churches in the Middle East including the Arab Christian communities in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank. PC(USA) peacemakers and missionaries are working in those churches and in Arab communities helping them prosper and promote peace within the context of the Israeli occupation. The PC(USA) desperately wants a secular, Palestinian state that co-exists with Israel because current policies by both Israel and Hamas are killing the Arab Christian church.

We are called as a church to stand with our sisters and brothers in Christ and to use whatever political power we have, and whatever power of presence our peacemakers and missionaries can provide, to ensure that they have the right to worship, the ability to pursue an education, build an economy, farm their land, raise their children in the faith.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has long affirmed that support of the state of Israel and support of Arab Christians are not mutually exclusive. Others disagree. I do not.

Your thoughts? Leave a comment.

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