One of the things I was dreading about GA221 is another round of the fight we’ve been having about divestment for the past decade, a debate that has dominated much of my GA experience. I knew it would get ugly, and it has. Friends are treating each other like enemies. I confess my own complicity in that.
The committee that considered divestment this week voted by a 2:1 margin to recommend that the assembly pass it when it comes before us in plenary. It remains to be seen what will come of that vote. But whether we divest or not, I’m wondering what comes next for us in our pursuit of peace for the people of the Middle East.
One thing that must happen is that we need to leave this assembly reconciled with each other as Presbyterians. Our differences on this issue are real, but our capacity to contribute to peacemaking is significantly diminished when our house is divided. We must find ways to leverage our various passions and relationships in our common hopes for a peaceful and just resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
I also hope, whether we divest or not, that we will commit ourselves to balanced relationship building across the parties involved in this conflict as a way for us to most effectively be peacemakers and agents of reconciliation. This is why I have offered “the Chicago Paper” for GA221 to consider endorsing and recommending as a model of how to best engage this conflict moving forward.
I strongly believe that the ministry of reconciliation is our calling in Christ. In order to be agents of reconciliation, we must be in relationships with all parties so we can speak the truth in love, raise the critiques we need to raise, and advocate for the human rights of all those involved.
In the aftermath of the initial divestment recommendation in 2004, I have seen this happen in Chicago and have participated in some of this work myself. Our presbytery’s Ecumenical and Interreligious Work Group has done incredible work building bridges and maintaining meaningful relationships and I would love for their approach to this conflict to be replicated around the PC(USA).
So regardless of our diverse perspectives on divestment as a peacemaking strategy, and regardless of how we vote later this week, I would love for GA221 to rally around this third way approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If you are a GA221 commissioner, please read 04-14 and vote to approve it on Friday.