The Episcopal Church’s Royally Anti-Israel 79th General Convention
The Episcopal Church under Presiding Bishop Michael Curry is in the midst of hosting a royally anti-Israel 79th General Convention in Austin, Texas.
Centered on the theme from Bishop Curry’s royal wedding sermon on the #WayOfLove, the General Convention attendees are educating themselves on Israel using resources from a predominately anti-Israel perspective. They are also voting on over a dozen resolutions with language targeting Israel and using an expedited process to do so.
Apparently, for the royal wedding bishop and the Episcopal Church, “love is the way” until it comes to loving Israel, the Jewish state.
The Episcopal News Service (ENS) described the shift occurring in the Episcopal Church in their June 5, 2018 article titled, “General Convention to Consider New Approach to Israel-Palestine Issues Promoting Open Debate.” ENS’ David Paulsen reported that Presiding Bishop Michael Curry and House of Deputies President Rev. Gay Clark Jennings had formed an “Israel and Palestine Working Group” and accepted three of the group’s recommendations.
The first recommendation encouraged “[a]ll members of the House of Bishops and House of Deputies … to review a resource list assembled by the working group.” Despite an official “diverse opinions and narratives” disclaimer, this list of resources provided a predominately anti-Israel perspective. While the resource list did include a few pro-Israel resources, including AIPAC and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the majority of resources listed — especially those first in the list — are well-known as adamantly anti-Israel. These included Friends of Sabeel North America, Kairos Palestine, Mitri Raheb, Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, and the Telos Group. Notably, the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) movement, Breaking the Silence, B’Tselem, IfNotNow, J Street, and Jewish Voice for Peace were also listed resources.
The second recommendation made Israeli-Palestinian issues a “special order of business,” to “allow hearings and discussions to take place early in [the] General Convention and ensure debate isn’t sidelined by procedural barriers.” The final recommendation designated the House of Deputies as the first legislative body to take “initial action for each resolution pertaining to Israel and Palestine [sic].”
Bishop Curry praised the “Israel and Palestine Working Group” by stating: “I am so grateful to the task force for their work. Their work will make it possible for the convention to have a thoughtful, prayerful discussion and consideration of the humanitarian concerns in Israel Palestine [sic]. In so doing may we pray and work for the peace of Jerusalem.”
Using peacemaking talk while targeting Israel is nothing new for Bishop Curry. After all, in 2016 he attended a conference officially titled “Pursuing Peace and Strengthening Presence: The Atlanta Summit of Churches in the USA and the Holy Land,” which was co-hosted by the Palestinian Authority and former President Jimmy Carter. On behalf of the Episcopal Church, Curry signed the anti-Israel blueprint known as the Atlanta Summit document.
Point-by-point, Bishop Curry is now leading the Episcopal Church in their implementation of the Atlanta Summit document’s agenda, which includes anti-Israel church resolutions and support for BDS. Friday’s joint hearing on the proposed anti-Israel resolutions demonstrated the depth of anti-Israel sentiment present at the General Convention. Speaking at the hearing, Katy Dickinson, a church deputy from California, described the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a family fight with “two sides.” The Episcopal News Service (ENS) quoted her: “‘It’s mostly Israel’s problem,’ she said, but Hamas also is firing missiles and needs to be part of the solution.”
Tarek Abuata also spoke at the hearing. Having previously worked for the Palestinian Authority’s Negotiations Support Unit, he is currently the executive director of Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA), an organization well-known for its anti-Israel animus. With typical FOSNA rhetoric, Abuata responded to Dickinson’s description of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as simply a family fight: “It is not a fight. It is not a family fight when my father has been abusing my mother and raping her for 70 years.”
David Paulsen of ENS reported that those testifying about “15 total resolutions on issues related to Middle East peace … spoke of Palestinians’ homes being bulldozed, of Palestinian children being ripped from their families and jailed, of the ‘racist extremism’ that had turned Palestinians into second-class citizens in their own homeland. Their testimony described the Palestinian territories, particularly Gaza, as a ‘nightmare,’ ‘concentration camp,’ ‘prison camp’; and the equivalent of the Jim Crow era of segregation in the United States or the former system of apartheid in South Africa.”
ENS also reported, “Several pro-Palestinian organizations mobilized individual representatives and groups of people to testify, helping to tilt the balance of views in favor of approving resolutions calling for a tougher stance against Israel and greater promotion of peace. A small but forceful minority spoke in defense of Israel or to assert that this decades-old conflict defies easy assignment of blame.”
While Bishop Curry has cited “[a] Jesus of Nazareth who said blessed are the peacemakers,” he has led the Episcopal Church to streamline the process for passing resolutions that are anything but peaceful.
Given Bishop Curry’s support for a statement that provided cover for Hamas and another that sought to implement a Palestinian Authority strategic agenda, the Episcopal Church he leads seems on track to pass resolutions that will do nothing to advance genuine peace in the Middle East or significantly improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians. These controversial resolutions under consideration instead threaten to fracture and further divide the Episcopal Church — alienating those genuinely seeking peace in the Middle East and the Way of Love.
Noah Summers is a specialist on Middle East affairs and American foreign policy.