Churches for Middle East Peace Public Letter Shares Vision for Peace, Condemns Annexation

The organization Churches for Middle East Peace sent a public letter to the president of the United States last week, with recommendations for U.S. policies they say “would help bring about a just and lasting end to the conflict in Israel-Palestine.” 

Steven Timmermans, executive director of the Christian Reformed Church, was one of the 22 signatories on the letter. Dated Sept. 17, 2019, the letter acknowledges a role for the United States in peacemaking in this area.

“Finding a just and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is an aspiration shared by church leaders in the United States, Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, and around the globe,” the letter reads. “As leaders of diverse church communions and religious organizations, we ardently support robust U.S. leadership in coordination and direct engagement with all the relevant parties to bring about an end to this conflict in a way that addresses the human rights concerns of Israelis and Palestinians—Jews, Christians and Muslims.”

The letter further asserts that talks excluding representatives from the Palestinian Authority would not be effective in securing a lasting peace.

“We ask that your administration abstains from taking any further unilateral actions that could compromise the ability of future negotiators to reach a solution and encourage the Israeli government to cease all settlement construction, demolition of Palestinian homes, and to refrain from annexations.”

Specifically the letter says, “A truly viable peace can only be achieved by lifting the Gaza blockade, by ending the Israeli occupation of territories captured in 1967, through the realization of Palestinian self-determination, the recognition of Jerusalem as a shared capital for Israelis and Palestinians and the recognition and fulfillment of the rights of Palestinian refugees. Such a peace can only be reached in consultation with leaders representing both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples.”

Churches for Middle East Peace, a coalition of 29 national church denominations and organizations, encourages U.S. policies that actively promote a comprehensive resolution to conflicts in the Middle East with a focus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The CRC is a member partner.

The full text of the Sept. 17 letter and its accompanying statement can be found here.

For background on how the Christian Reformed Church, through its Office of Social Justice, has responded to work on Middle East Peace see justice.crcna.org/middle-east-peace-church-speaks.

Synod 2019, the annual general assembly of the Christian Reformed Church, reviewed a request by one of its member congregations to deepen awareness in the denomination of the plight of the Palestinians (Agenda for Synod 2019, Overture 6 pp. 482-488). In its response, synod encouraged “the work of addressing peace in the Middle East already being done, acknowledging the awareness of injustice.” It commended with thanks the work being done and moved to “(with the Council of Delegates) recognize and encourage our staff and churches to continue to strive for increased partnership that seeks a third way between mainline and evangelical approaches and fosters increased reconciliation on all sides” (Acts of Synod 2019, p.817). See also Prayers for Reconciliation in the Middle East (June 20, 2019).

About the Author

Alissa Vernon is a news editor at The Banner.

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Comments

This is, at a minimum, highly disappointing.  The CRC has a church order for a reason.  CO Art 28 quite clearly prohibits the denomination from engaging in highly specific foreign policy advocacy, and yet the ED does just that here.

And this act of specific political activism comes not from Synod (although it shouldn't either), not from the Council of Delegates (although it shouldn't either), but from one person.  

This is not the covenant CRCers have made for how CRC churches act together.

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