How I would have moderated the Committee On Middle East Issues (had I not been asked to resign)

It might have been one of the shortest assignments in the history of the Presbyterian Church. On April 1, the Office of the General Assembly issued a press release announcing committee leadership for this summer’s assembly, including my nomination to serve as moderator of the Committee on Middle East Issues. Had I been smarter, I might have realized that I was setting off on a fool’s errand, given the date of the press release! Just six days later, Moderator Neal Presa phoned and asked me to resign my position. He said that my nomination had been met with strong opposition from persons in the Presbyterian Church who questioned my ability to moderate with impartiality since I had traveled to Israel on two interfaith trips. It didn’t really matter that those trips were intended to foster better relations between Christians and Jews. The problem, according to some people, was that the Jewish Community Federation of Richmond, Virginia, had organized those trips and underwritten the travel costs for the rabbi and me.

I agreed to resign to help preserve “the peace, unity and purity of the church,” a promise all church officers make when ordained. But my email resignation to the moderator also stated, “It is a sad day for the Presbyterian Church when there exists such distrust among brothers and sisters in Christ, especially among those who do not even know me or my commitments to reconciliation and peace.”

In the brief week I served as moderator, I began to wonder how to handle my leadership burden. And a real burden it would have been, since the Jewish-Palestinian struggle has been one of the most contentious and polarizing issues at recent General Assemblies. What could I say to the commissioners assigned to the committee, most of whom would come to Detroit filled with energy and hope, but were not as yet lobbied to death or poisoned by Presbyterian politicking? How could I earn their trust? How could I transform them from strangers brought together by random selection into true friends in Christ, who could listen to one another with the kind of loving respect that the Apostle Paul wrote about to the contentious Corinthians, a love that is “patient and kind, not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude, a love that does not insist on its own way”? I began to pray that the Holy Spirit would bless these commissioners with grace and wisdom so that they would stake out some common ground to help the church move forward.

But first things first, I said to myself. I would need to earn their trust. So I planned to tell them about myself, my 34 years as a pastor and the numerous times I’ve been asked to mediate controversial situations. I would have told them of my four trips to the Holy Land, the two recent interfaith trips when I got to experience the Middle East through Jewish eyes, as well as two earlier trips when I saw the Middle East through Palestinian eyes.

I would have told them about the day we met Father Elias Chacour, a true blessing, and how he told us the terrible story of the day in the late 1940s when an Israeli tank commander rolled into the little town of Biram in Galilee and said to Chacour’s father:

“We are here to protect the village. You have no business here anymore.”

“Protect our village?” said Chacour’s father. “You are here to destroy it.”

“This land is ours now,” said the soldier pointing his gun at them, “so get out.”

“No,” said the Palestinian, “This land is ours. My family has farmed this land for almost 500 years.” But the soldiers would not listen. They arrested Chacour’s father and dragged him away.

I would have told the commissioners about my trip to a Palestinian refugee camp in the Kingdom of Jordan where we met children as well as parents who claimed with pride their Palestinian heritage but who had never set foot in Palestine. Instead, they were born in Jordan and had lived there for two generations as refugees.

Unfortunately, those who Googled me and then raised questions about my ability to moderate fairly judged me hastily without knowing this part of my past.

Additionally, I would have told the commissioners about my two trips to Israel with Jewish groups and how those trips helped me better understand Israel’s claim of sovereign statehood and its desire to protect its borders and live in relative peace without the daily threat of suicide bombings on busses or in crowded marketplaces. I would have shared what I had learned – that Israel responds to terrorist force with force of its own, just as we do in the United States. I would have told them about our conversation with a Palestinian Muslim news reporter, a citizen of Israel, who chooses to live in Israel rather than Palestine because Israel, like America, grants him true freedom of the press, while everything he writes for Palestinian publications must pass through the censorship of Hamas. And I would have urged the commissioners to realize that any unilateral demonizing of Israel for human rights violations that ignores ongoing Palestinian terrorist activity, or any denial of Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign nation, seriously threatens long-standing relationships between Presbyterians and American Jews.

In short, I would have suggested that my varied experiences in the Middle East help me to hear all sides of this complex conflict and then assist others to work for reconciliation and compromise.

Next, I would have turned to the committee members themselves, typically most of whom would be first-time commissioners to a General Assembly, and said this:

We Presbyterians believe that God speaks to the church through discussion and debate and ultimately through majority vote. So you have a sacred responsibility to listen to those on one extreme of this polarizing debate… but you do not need to agree with them. In the same way, you have a sacred responsibility to listen to those on the other extreme… but you do not need to agree with them either.

Then I would have told them about seminary professor Jack Rogers and his important book, “Claiming the Center.” More than likely, I would have had copies of the book available for the commissioners to read.

When researching his book, Rogers studied the history of American Presbyterian decision-making. He claims that in almost every major issue Presbyterians have ever considered some 10 percent of the people at one end of the spectrum and 15 percent at the other end monopolize the debate. But in almost every case, the large, mostly silent theological center of the church works for compromise and ultimately decides the issue.

To illustrate, I would have told my committee about the 1992 General Assembly in Milwaukee where I served as a commissioner. That year the hot button issue was abortion and problem pregnancy. We commissioners listened carefully to some speakers who said, “Abortion is always murder; there are no exceptions.” Others said, “Abortion is always a woman’s choice; there are no exceptions.” After listening to the voices from the far right and the far left, we created and approved a moderate policy, which deplored the huge number of abortions performed for the sake of convenience or gender selection but which maintained the woman’s right to choose, especially is cases of rape, incest or fetal deformity.   In other words, the Milwaukee Assembly embodied the truth of Jack Roger’s thesis—the large, mostly silent center of the church stood up, spoke its will and led the church into the future.

This is what I would have worked for with the Committee on Middle East Issues, had the commissioners been so inclined and had my appointment as Moderator not been challenged by those who are filled with fear rather than trust. To be sure, those on the extremes will oppose any moderate strategy, preferring an “I’m right and everyone else is wrong” approach. But that, in my judgment, is the antithesis of the ministry of reconciliation to which the Apostle Paul calls the church in 2 Corinthians and which is such a central theme in The Confession of 1967 from our Book of Confessions.

Al_Summer_2010Albert G. Butzer III is pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and is a commissioner to this summer’s General Assembly in Detroit.

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  1. Viola Larson says

    If the leadership of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) had wanted a moderate outcome in the committee on Middle East issues, here I am speaking of Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons and GA Moderator Neil Presa, they would have kept Rev. Albert Butzer. Clearly that is not what they want. Too many times they work only with those they agree with and too many times the people they agree with are wrong. In this case they were very wrong. Leadership does not assign someone to a position and so carelessly let them go. Didn’t they ask Butzer any questions before they asked him to resign?

    If they can change their mind and oust him, they can also change their mind and ask him once again to moderate the committee. It is only in that way that any trust to the system can be had.

    The record of broken promises and misdeeds is very long, I am surprised that the Jewish community keeps coming back, (and here I am not speaking of the minority that agrees with the IPMN, I am speaking of those who try so hard to work with the PCUSA in a balanced manner. So many reasons for distrust and we keep just laying them aside. There was the time right before the GA in San Jose when after writing a fine paper apologizing to the Jewish Community and getting praise the PCUSA changed the paper under the same title and said nothing to anyone. But the paper then harshly criticized the Jewish community. When found out no one admitted their wrong.

    There was the time, I believe it was the GA in Minneapolis when the IPMN put a recommend not to pass on an overture and within the recommend to not pass lied about the Jewish Community stating that they had sent a bomb to Louisville and burned down a Church. That as of last year is still there on Pres-BIZ.

    The record goes on and on and now this can be added to the reasons for distrust. I plead with the Stated Clerk & the GA Moderator, do not let this pass into our history. Once on a plane trip I found the lady I was sitting beside was also a Christian. When I told her I belonged to the PCUSA she asked me why the Presbyterian Church hated the Jews so much. Lets please change that perception.

  2. jodicraiglow says

    Rev. Butzer,

    Thank you for your insight and perspective on what must be a mind-reeling experience for you. Thank you also for your continued peacemaking efforts concerning Middle East relations. I know that I speak for many when I tell you that my thoughts and prayers are with you as you continue to prepare for your task as a commissioner this summer in Detroit. Obviously, unless a change comes down the pipeline, it will be a different one than what you had originally expected — but it will be no less vital to the denomination. I (as well as many others) am blessed by your willingness to serve.

    If I might ask, and if you’re at liberty to divulge, might you shed some more light into the nature of the April 7 phone discussion? I’d be interested in hearing the specific reasons you were given for the change in leadership assignments.

    Grace and Peace,
    Jodi Craiglow

  3. Jody Harrington from Sugar Land, TX says

    It is disgraceful that the Stated Clerk and Moderator cave into pressure from an outside political advocacy group like BDS and fail to support their own excellent appointment of the highly regarded Rev. Butzer as Moderator of the Middle East Issues Committee. Instead they threw him under the bus to appease those who have no stake in the PCUSA and seek to use it to advance their own agenda. The graciousness and concern for the church that he displays in this article reflect the magnitude of this mistake. The integrity of the upcoming General Assembly is now seriously undermined. It appears that the PCUSA tent is not big enough even for a fair minded moderate and the suspicions of those who believe that the committees are deliberately rigged to insure specific outcomes are confirmed. An immediate public apology and reinstatement of Rev. Butzer should be immediately offered by Neal Presa and Gradye Parsons.

  4. Dwyn Mounger from Knoxville, TN says

    Leading up to a major question for Al: all of us know that neither the modern secular State of Israel nor the inhabitants of occupied Gaza and the West Bank are wholly in the right nor wholly wrong. Atrocities and injustices–and, yes, terrorist acts– have been committed on both sides. Moreover, consistently the PC(USA) GA has vocally called for preservation of Israel and its security as a nation, along with justice for the Palestinians and abandonment of the lands stolen from them by Israeli settlers.

    My question, however, for Al: were your “two trips to Israel with Jewish groups” paid for by the Israeli government–or even by affluent Israelis or American Jewish individuals, or groups such as B’nai B’rith? If so, can’t you understand why, to many faithful members of our denomination, this might open you up to a suspicion of being biased, whether you actually are or not? After all, even lawyers and judges frequently recuse themselves from court proceedings, to avoid the slightest suspicion of bias. It’s well known that, for years, the Israeli government has purposely–and I think, cynically– hosted fundamentalist, self-styled “evangelical,” American Christian leaders on tours to Israel, courting them because these Christians so uncritically identify all the “prophecies” of the Old Testament as divine endorsement of what amounts to an attempt by modern, secular Israel to restore practically the ancient Solomonic empire in all its glory and territory? Dwyn Mounger, Knoxville, TN

  5. Charles M Webster from Auburn, AL says

    I have no doubt that Al Butzer is a dedicated and sincere servant of Christ and his Church. However, it appears he crossed a boundary when he accepted trips to Israel/Palestine paid by Jewish-Americans. I commend to all readers “Clergy Ethics and Healthy Boundaries” produced by the Rev. Marie Fortune and the Faith Trust Institute that was required for all teaching elders when I was a member of the Presbytery of Southern New England. This excellent material shows the danger of accepting “free gifts” and remaining impartial.
    – Charles M. Webster, Auburn, AL

    • Viola Larson says

      Charles and Dwyn, Butzer’s actions were part of a community project that had nothing to do with the issues going on with Israel & Palestine. It had to do with the religious beliefs of the two communities. Butzer was also asked to resign because of his attendance at an interfaith Seder. He has already shown that he is moderate and fair. This isn’t about anything but the BDS people getting their way. The fact is the IPMN and some other groups helped a group of young Presbyterians visit Palestinians with the purpose of them coming to the General Assembly and testifying probably in the committee.that Butzer was going to moderate. No one in leadership will object to a Presbyterian organization doing this, they will in fact help them. And several of these people are pastors.

      • Albert G Butzer from Virginia Beach, VA says

        Dwyn and Charles: You both raise important points, which I will try to address. First, I have traveled to Israel-Palestine-Jordan four times. Each of those trips was subsidized by somebody. My first trip was organized by Columbia Seminary and had a decidedly pro-Palestinian emphasis. We met Elias Chacour and heard his horrific story about displacement and also about his work of reconciliation, leading a school for Jewish, Muslim and Christian students in equal number. When I returned from that trip and the subsequent trip to Jordan where we spent time in a Palestinian refugee camp, I was (and remain) deeply moved by the plight of Palestinians and preached several sermons that in hindsight could only be called pro-Palestinian. Indeed, several members of the congregation I was serving at the time complained about the sermons and their bias.

        The two recent trips have helped me better understand the Jewish side of this struggle. Am I now biased toward Israel? I prefer to think “open-minded,” which sadly those to the far-left and far-right of this struggle are not. People on both extremes remind me a cartoon I saw some time ago. It pictured the signboard out front of a church, and the name on it was: “The Church of We’re Right and Everybody Else is Wrong.” I am sad to say that there are Presbyterians who are members of that church.

        Secondly, I did not go on the interfaith trips to study the conflict between Jews and Palestinians, but to help Jews and Christians learn where we share common beliefs where we disagree because of Jesus. On the first of these two trips we met with a Scottish Presbyterian minister at the Church of Saint Andrew, a long time resident of Jerusalem, who spoke about the “indigenous people of the land.” One of the Jews raised her hand and said, “I don’t know who you are talking about,” which clearly said to me that Jews have one narrative of the history of Israel; Palestinians have another.

        Thirdly, to the best of my ability to discern, the travel costs for the rabbi and me were paid from a modest line item in the Jewish Federation budget set aside some years before for improving interfaith relations. The money was collecting dust until someone proposed the idea of the first of to the two interfaith trips. The money in that account is now depleted.

        Fourthly, you need to know that I did not travel to Israel thinking that someday I might be nominated to serve as Moderator of a Committee of GA. And if someone were to have asked whether I thought I’d be nominated to serve on the Middle East Committee, I would have said, “Don’t be silly. There are many more people in the denomination smarter and better informed than I.” The truth is, as one general presbyter put it to me recently, “Al, you don’t have a dog in this fight, nor would you have allowed the dogs to fight if you were moderator.” I have not attended a meeting of the General Assembly since 1999 in Fort Worth when I was a commissioner. I am not a GA groupie, and frankly, during that brief week in early April when I was the committee moderator, I grew more and more frightened about all I needed to learn in a brief period of time to be up to speed by the time of the Assembly. Prior to my nomination, I had only a passing knowledge of the Presbyterians for Middle East Peace, the Israel-Palestine Mission Network and the others ideologues in this dog fight.

  6. Albert G Butzer from Virginia Beach, VA says

    One more thing…The extensive application to be considered as a Committee Moderator or Vice Moderator does not ask any questions about gifts or travel. Maybe it should. Nor was there any mention on the application about the Commissioner Resolution from the Last Assembly which addresses this issue. Clearly, had these questions been asked, I would have answered them plainly. And if I would have had any idea that the expenses of my trips to Israel would be problematic, I would have mentioned that too. I guess I am a bit too naive or too uninformed about the toxic lack of trust that exists in our denomination between the far right and the far left on this issue.

    • Charles M Webster from Auburn, AL says

      Al – thank you for your “openness.” These are difficult times when trust is low in both church and society…as you can readily observe in the Israel/Palestine discussions. As a life-long Presbyterian may I disclose that I am grateful that many in PC(USA) have had the courage to question the illegal and immoral abuses of Palestinians by the Israeli government while continuing our affirmation of Israel’s right to peaceful existence. The world sees the injustices to the Palestinian people while our U.S. government helps pay for the Occupation. Lord, have mercy.

  7. Dwyn Mounger from Knoxville, TN says

    But, Viola, am sure you’ll agree that a trip to Israel/occupied Palestine/West Bank/Jordan, etc., sponsored by American Presbyterians and funded, partially or wholly, by them, whether the participants be youth or adult, is wholly different from one that might be sponsored by affluent Jews (American, Israeli, or international) or (mostly impecunious) Palestinians.. Any balanced such Middle East adventure should certainly include a visit to Yad Vashem (excellent, powerful Holocaust Memorial museum in West Jerusalem); to one or more kibbutzim where the group also would get the heroic narrative of the brave, Zionist founders of the modern secular State of Israel; to the Western Wall, holiest spot in the world for Jews today. But it should also encompass frank discussions with Palestinian Christians, such as the many English-speaking members of the congregation of St. George’s Cathedral (e.g. the Very Rev. Canon Naim Ateek), a few nights in a hotel in EAST Jerusalem where the group might encounter Palestinian hospitality at its very best (instead of the rather impersonal, Miami-Beach ambiance of many Israeli hotels); some meditative time amid the mystical spirituality of the Dome of the Rock (3rd holiest shrine to Muslims); appalling encounters with the racism that has erected high walls and insufferable “border guards” who harass Palestinians attempting to cross for work or for worship in El Kutz/Yerushaiayim; and especially a brief verbal summary of the horror of the medieval “crusades” and its atrocities (that, incidentally, should have made the State Dept. of the administration of G.W. Bush censor his deplorable use of “crusade” to describe, beforehand, the eventually futile Anglo/American invasion and occupation of Iraq, 2003!)! (I’ll never forget the enthusiastic applause of both Protestant and Muslim Palestinians, when I pointed out the Horns of Hattin, where Saladin finally defeated brutal “Christian” Crusaders in C.E. 1187!) Such a venture should, of course, also include visiting communities where Muslims and their half-sibling Arab Palestinians are engaged in dialogue, actively working for peace, and resisting the practically fascist policies of the present government of Israel. A pre-trip orientation by representatives of Jewish Voice for Peace, as well as by those of B’nai B’rith, would be good for the group, too. Dwyn Mounger, Knoxville, TN

  8. Viola Larson says

    Sadly Dwyn, You have given your self away by referring to the present Israel government as Fascist. Yes, the government is doing some things I believe they should not do, but Fascist, no. Both sides have committed horrible deeds against the other. But Israel as a sovereign nation has the right to defend itself for the sake of its citizens. If it was somebody like you who took visitors to the holocaust museum you would take them there and tell them that Israel was now doing to the Palestinians what the Germans had done to the Jews. That is not at all helpful. Yes, people should see both sides but with guides who are fair. Your words are not.

    As for the Rev. Canon Naim Ateek I consider him an anti-Semite since he has stated that the Jewish people who came as refugees from Europe are not true Jews. He speaks, in Zionism Unsettled, of “the erroneous claim that all Jews are racial descendants of the Israelites of biblical times,” and he refers to their history as “mythical racial history.” He is no different than David Duke.

    While I believe we should care about, value the peoples of Islam, as we should other faiths. As a Christian, who loves Jesus I have no desire to sit meditatively in the presence of the Dome of the Rock. Although I would gladly see it as a historical place important to another faith.

    Excuse me, you have gotten me off of the subject which I believe is the wrong done to Al Butzer as well as the 221st GA by the Stated Clerk and the Moderator of GA.

  9. Dwyn Mounger from Knoxville, TN says

    Viola, please don’t second-guess me. In my two visits to Yad Vashem, and my one visit with a group of Americans and Dutch Christians to Auschwitz, Poland, where we said the Shema Yisrael in Hebrew, English, and German (not knowing the Polish), and attempted Bible readings and prayers, in commemoration of the approximately 1.5 million Jews who died there at Auschwite/Birkenau , I never compared the present State of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians to the Nazis’ attempt at European Jewish genocide. Nor would I do so now. What is appalling–and should be to every Presbyterian who takes seriously the Bible, John Calvin, and our Book of Confessions’ realistic view of the sinfulness of human nature–is the way that Hitler’s eventual, diabolical entloesung (final solution) began with just cruel jokes about Jews. (Similar to jokes I’ve heard from the mouths of Israelis in Israel, that they were making about Palestinians.) When few decent Christians in Europe, the U.K., or the Americas stood up to the obscene Nazi jokes, then persecution of German Jews grew worse and worse thorough Kristallnacht, the Aryan Laws, and eventually deportation, and the Polish death factories. That’s why I hope that the PC(USA) GA in Detroit will bravely protest Israel’s persecution of the Palestinians now, lest it evolve into much worse! BDS worked in South Africa; may it work in Israel! (Boycott even worked in the former, slave-labor Immalokee tomato fields of Central FL, even as some Presbyterians, as now, were complaining, “we’ll lose members if we don’t stop ‘being political!'” And “That’s not the gospel of Jesus Christ! I’m going to take my toys and exit into the EPC, PCA, ECO, . . “or whatever their favorite alphabet organization may be or become.)

    Incidentally, the Dome of the Rock is holy to Jews and Christians as well. For not only do Muslims believe Mohammad ascended into heaven from that spot, but to many Jews it’s Mount Moriah itself, where Abraham was commanded to sacrifice Isaac. Or as the Petersons, early directors of Villa International, near the Center for Disease Control and Emory U., Atlanta, said: “You don’t appreciate your own religion, until you’ve been gripped by the power of another.” A Christian can affirm the full, high Christology of the NIcene Creed, as I do, and still be gripped by the holiness of the Dome of the Rock, Al Aqsa, and virtually any other mosque or synagogue in the world.

    Canon Ateek is not only a deeply sincere Palestinian Christian, but weekly leads an ecumenical Eucharist, open to all the baptized, of all nations, in East Jerusalem. Dwyn Mounger, Knoxville, TN

  10. Viola Larson says


    I still stand by everything I said in my reply to you but I don’t wish to change the subject of the thread. Calling the leadership of the Israel government Fascist is simply unacceptable.

  11. Wilson Gregory from Lambertville, NJ says

    I think the passions and intensity of the topic brings out the best and worst in people and organizations. Terms such as “fascist” as applied to the current nation-state of Israel is but an example of the current discussion, disgusting. If that is the level of discussion and discourse the “Outlook” will tolerate might as well call yourselves the “Layman” for liberals and be done with it and drop your pretense to be fair and balanced.

    The foundation of all professional ethics and canons of behaviors is of course “do no harm” . And in this senses GA 2014 will inflict much harm, much violence, much hurt and pain upon the body. Israel divesture is only the warm up. Redefinitions of marriage, gay and lesbian ceremonial matters, and of course money are on the main course. By the time June rolls around I assume all GA junkies, and operatives will be at fever-pitch. And the comments of “Outlook” will have blood in the water. The GA, PCUSA will indeed be heading off a cliff in some shape or form. Just do not be surprised just how few will be in car by the time it leaves the road or who cares .

    Note to Brother Dwyn. next time you tell people not to “second guess you” or in essence tell those who disagree with you shut up and be quiet, remember you represent your church so well, arrogant, egotistical and consumed with your own sense of self-righteousness. Next time make liberal use of your capital letters and quote some dead Scottish poets in your responses.

  12. Dwyn Mounger from Knoxville, TN says

    My Sister-in-Christ Viola and Brother-in-Christ Wilson (Peter?), please, tempting as it may be to you, let’s not get personal in our discussions of how to further shalom/salaam, justice, and freedom in Israel and occupied Palestine! Uncharitable insults to one another, such as “egotistical” and “self-righteous”–surely you’ll agree!–are inappropriate for Christian colleagues to hurl at one another, as is questioning motives, such as suggesting that a colleague would deliberately lead two different groups of American Christians to the powerful Holocaust museum Yad Vashem, in West Jerusalem, with the purpose of alleging, ridiculously, that Israel intended in any way a similar fate for the Palestinians! Let’s therefore, in our deliberations, respectfully not only “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122) but also for the new moderator of the Detroit 221st GA’s Committee on Middle Eastern Issues that she/he may discourage such in its meetings, and for the moderator of the GA himself/herself, that getting personal may be swiftly dealt with. Surely Al, had he continued as committee moderator, on the basis of his convincing notes above, would have striven to do this!

    In our previous notes, no one has ever called the present government of Israel “Fascist.” The phrase employed was this:
    “the practically fascist policies of the government of Israel.” Though I could cite many such quotes, a single one from strong-man Netanyahu will suffice: “Jerusalem is Israel’s capital, will never be divided, and will remain the capital of the State of Israel, the capital of the Jewish people, for ever and ever.” She/he who has ears to hear can easily discern disturbing echoes of 1930s bombasts from the shrill voices of such Uebermenschen as Mussolini and Franco!

    Such an inflexible, boastful attitude by Netanyahu flies directly in the face of all the efforts of our highly respected Secretary of State John Kerry, himself a decorated veteran of the U.S. Navy and former senator, who has wisely suggested that the Old City itself be declared an international place of religious pilgrimage, with administration by Jordanians (moderate, pro-western, pro-peace Arabs, with their equally enlightened, half-British King Abdullah II), who would protect and guarantee access to ALL the holy places there of our three, great monotheistic religions. What a boon this would be not only to tourism in Israel (which could maintain its capital in WEST Jerusalem) but to the newly-born State of Palestine (yes, I do disagree with ZIONISM UNSETTLED’s argument for a single, combined Jewish-Paletinian state), and for their economies! We could all rejoice in the birth of proud Palestine as much as the Zionists, and largely the whole West, rejoiced in the 1948 birth of Israel, as land of refuge for the survivors of the Holocaust! And the capital of the new-born State of Palestine could be EAST Jerusalem (outside the Old City Walls). Netanyahu, if he really wants peace could turn over the West Bank and Gaza, Jewish serttlements, stolen from the Palestinians, to the Palestinians themselves, as a gesture of goodwill. And the whole world could help israel monetarily, if it needs it, to build NEW Jewish settlements, perhaps in an irrigated, green-nurtured Negeb!

    Perhaps an approach to true shalom/salaam for the region could begin, after BDS (not only by our beloved denomination and sister branches of Christ’s Church who follow our example) but, increasingly now, by the whole free world) has had its effect, with the small communities of both moderate Israelis and Palestinians who, even now, in mutual appreciation of their half-sibbling bond as Yitschak/ishmael, descended former common patriarch Ibrahim/Abraham, are meeting and praying with one another–even lying down in the path of those Caterpillar machines of destruction– and also with Jewish Voice for Peace, whose adherents stand within the finest tradition of the Hebrew prophets.

    If one should object that the pervasiveness of the lex talionis among both Israeli Jews and Palestinian Muslims is a major obstacle, there are the (admittedly, an increasing minority of) Palestinian Christians, such as Canon Ateek, who so beautifully, in ZIONISM UNSETTLED, quotes Rabbi Jesus’ revolutionary commands to love ones enemies and to return good for evil. Can Canon Ateek be the one whom God is choosing, as the Lord did his Anglican colleague Archbishop Desmond Tutu, of South Africa, to conduct in the emerged two states of Israel and Palestine, marvelous “Truth and Recomnciliation” meetings to further heal the ancient, blood-gushing wounds? What a wonderful thing to pray for! Please join me in this, Sister Viola and Brother Wilson (Peter?) And a blessed, continuing Eastertide to you and your congregations! Dwyn Mounger, Knoxville, TN

    • Albert G Butzer from Virginia Beach, VA says

      Dwyn: Thank you for your kind words about your sense of my ability to moderator fairly. One slight correction to my comments above, where I stated that the last Assembly I attended was in 1999 when I was a commissioner. The other day, I recalled that I did attend part of the Assembly in 2003, when a friend of mine from my presbytery was a candidate for Moderator of the General Assembly. When she won the election, I was part of a delegation from our presbytery that stood on the stage to celebrate her election and witness her installation.


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