PCUSA Leaders Response to the Stated Clerks January 17th Remarks on Israel/Palestine

PCUSA Leaders Response to the Stated Clerks January 17th Remarks on Israel/Palestine

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Response to Stated Clerk’s January 17 Statement on Israel/Palestine by concerned PCUSA clergy and lay leaders.

We write as clergy and lay leaders in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A (PCUSA). to express our deep concern about the January 17 statement of the Rev. Dr. J. Herbert Nelson, Stated Clerk of the PCUSA, on the topic of Israeli-Palestinian relations.  His statement has caused great pain for our Jewish sisters and brothers and has done great damage to the interfaith witness of our denomination. 

The Stated Clerk’s statement, released on the birthday of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrongly equated the Israeli Occupation with slavery.  The Israeli-Palestinian relationship is complex, and we share the longings of the Palestinian people for recognition and statehood, reaffirm the PCUSA’s historical support for Israel’s right to exist, even as we call on the Israeli government to change its policies toward Palestine in numerous areas.  

 However, the timing of the Stated Clerk’s January 17 statement, on the heels of the terrorist attack at Congregation Beth Israel in Texas, has created anger and anguish for many of us, as well as among Jewish colleagues and friends and across the Jewish communal world. The statement plays into antisemitic tropes about the concentrated power of Jews that can lead to violence.  It does nothing to advance the cause many of us share to see a just future for both Palestinians and Israelis. 

The Stated Clerk’s response to criticism, doubling-down on his original statement, has only exacerbated tensions.          

As leaders of local congregations, judicatories, and other entities, we know firsthand the power of multi-faith relationships, with Jewish congregations, as well as those of other faith traditions.  We work closely with neighboring congregations on issues ranging from racial justice to LGBTQ rights to the environment. Working together, we have the power to create change we do not possess individually. Yet we believe strongly that change can only happen through relationship and trust.  The Stated Clerk's statements disregard and dismiss these local relationships, including engagement around Israel/Palestine, and compromise our ability to work through multifaith relationships  going forward. 

In his rebuttal to criticism, the Stated Clerk cited PCUSA policy statements opposing antisemitism. However, this misses the point. Just as men don’t get to define what constitutes misogyny, and white people don’t get to define racism, non-Jews don’t get to define the nature and experience of antisemitism. All of us need to learn from Jewish leaders to understand better when we are making statements that either are antisemitic or feed antisemitism.

We respectfully, but urgently, ask the Stated Clerk and other PCUSA denominational leaders to change their approach and seize this moment to rebuild trust between our denomination and the American Jewish community.  Especially now, we  need more from national church leaders (and from all of us)  more curiosity and learning and less certainty; more invitation and less condemnation; more humility, less self-righteousness; more grace, less rigidity; more wisdom to perceive the openings where God may be trying to do a new thing with us. 

We humbly ask our Jewish colleagues and friends to continue to work with PCUSA congregations, for we believe the majority of Presbyterians would not align themselves with the Stated Clerk’s statements.   We have and continue to find great meaning in working with you at the local and national levels on pressing issues before us: urgent pastoral work related to the COVID pandemic; the rise of white Christian nationalism, authoritarianism and supremacy, the persistence of Islamophobia and anti-semitism;  the encroaching erosion of democracy; economic inequality and the degradation of the creation herself. And yes, let us keep facing into the challenging conversations and work together around Israel/Palestine. 

May God’s healing, prophetic Spirit, be at work among all of us.  

*The content in this petition is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company or individual. The views and opinions expressed by any signatory are those solely of the signatory and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the business or organization who may employ them. 

FEB 2 UPDATE
So far the list of signatures include the following names:

Susan Andrews
Charles Henderson
Simmons Gardner
Derrick McQueen
Cynthia Jarvis
Rev. Shannon Johnson Kershner
Dieter Heinzl
John Miller
Nathan Gardner-Andrews
Nancy Muth
Jim Henderson
Douglas King
John Wimberly
Katharine Henderson
Joseph Morrow
Mark Ramsey
Sue and John Buchanan
Claudia Howard
Roy Howard
RUSSELL SULLIVAN
David Gray
Vicky Wood
Rev. Katherine Stanford
Mark Boyd
LARRY R. HAYWARD
Clint Tolbert
Jan Edmiston
Ian Leyda
Margaret Obrecht
Jim Roberts
Edwin Hurley
Rev. Dr. William P. Crawford
Jill Schaeffer
Gary Green
James McDonald
Debbie Cenko
Douglas Duckett
Lisa Allgood
Ben Black
Kathu Neubert
Byron Shafer
Marcella Glass
Holly Turley Greathouse
Kati Coulter
Paul Watermulder
Rev. Joseph Marting
David Renwick
Sue Westfall
Aliza Palomares
Joanna Adams
George Wirth
Ashleigh Montanino
Joseph Small
Barbara G Wheeler
Bryan Varnum
Richard Mouw
Bernice Alvarez
Mary Babb
Charles oObrecht
Rev. Joseph J. Clifford
Andrew Connors
Cindy Morales
Giovannina Tristaino
Hayden Ethier
Lucio
Jane Tretout
Cynthia Campbell
David Crawford
Amy Starr Redwine
Charles B Hardwick
Rev. Marilyn Gamm
Robert Bohl
Shannan Vance-Ocampo, Presbytery of Southern New England
Becky Clausen
Todd Stavrakos
Doug Adamson
Nancy Holmes
Patrice Hatley
Mohammed Sohail
Kaylee Miller
Rev. Scott Black Johnston
John Erthein
Laura Mariko Cheifetz
Hardy Kim
Baron Mullis
Caitriona McGrath Nagle
Arlette Cantu
Erin Counihan
Christine Chakoian
Edward Walrod
Jessica MacMillan
William Berger
Christine Anderson
Mike Cole
Rev Jeffrey C Francis PhD
Barrett Abernethy
Richard Hong
Larissa Kwong Abazia
Christopher Leighton
Rev. Alan Dyer
Albert Butzer
Susan Young Thornton
Billy Johnson
Larken McCord McCord
Hardy Kim
Baron Mullis
Caitriona McGrath Nagle
Arlette Cantu
Erin Counihan
Christine Chakoian
Edward Walrod
Jessica MacMillan
William Berger
Christine Anderson
Mike Cole
Rev Jeffrey C Francis PhD
Barrett Abernethy
Richard Hong
Larissa Kwong Abazia
Christopher Leighton
Rev. Alan Dyer
Albert Butzer
Susan Young Thornton
Billy Johnson
Larken McCord McCord
Richard Beecher
Rev. Patricia Raube
Lawrence Farris
Mieke Vandersall
John Hinkle, Jr.
Allen Menkin
Curtis Field
Giles Caver
Scott Bowerman
Isaac Cohen
Rev. Joshua Kerr
Jamie Milton
Zy'Keyah Harris-Farmer
John ODonnell
Joey Lee
Amaury Tañón-Santos
Michelle Bombet Minch
Oliviah Ban
Rev. Erin Schubmehl Jacobson
Randy Harris
Larry Alderink
Johanna W van Wijk-Bos
Maggie Goodwin
Kenneth Krause
Carol Frenkel
Andy Moye
Thia Reggio
Carol Clow Pye
David Gray
Maria Arteaga
Zamaria Pickett
Hannah D
Eric Weinhold
John Weinhold
Zoe Young
CD Graphix
Clancy Cherry
Elizabeth Kochheiser
Kent Kochheiser
Steven Bruening
Rachel Vione
Greg Svanas

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