As moderator of the 221st General Assembly of the PC(USA), I am having the remarkable privilege of traveling the country and meeting with many people, both from within and outside of our denomination. I have also just returned from a trip to the Middle East, including time spent in Israel and Palestine. The prevailing “issue” that so many have discussed has been the decisions of the assembly which have brought divisions with our Jewish sisters and brothers.
Bill Tammeus’ article “Covenant of Conversation” in the Oct.13 issue of THE PRESBYTERIAN OUTLOOK was right on target! I am talking with and hearing from many ministers and laypersons across the country who, for the first time, are actually engaged in significant conversations with their Jewish neighbors. There are congregations that are conducting joint study sessions concerning the issues in Israel and Palestine. There are youth groups that are meeting together and sharing their understandings of what is happening and why. There are Presbyterian minister groups who are meeting with Rabbi neighbors to explore ways to strengthen our bonds.
My Jewish friends (as well as many Presbyterians) have shared with me that one reason they are so upset is that we, as Presbyterians, have so frequently been the strongest partners with the Jewish communities in addressing issues of humanitarian concern and justice. They have seen us as their strongest allies and friends in so many matters. But they feel we do not fully understand the threats on Israel and the implications of our decisions. And there are Presbyterians as well as Jewish leaders who have told me that they believe the settlements and overt actions of war against the Palestinians are not the way these matters should be handled. The issue is complex, and we owe it to ourselves and others to learn and try to understand all sides of this painful situation.
Our General Assembly commissioners voted on a number of issues related to the concerns in Israel and Palestine. Many were strong statements of affirmation of Israel’s ongoing right to exist and to protect themselves. But the divestment decision was one which was decided on an extremely close vote and needs to be explored and understood by Presbyterians and Jews alike.
Thank you, Bill, for showing us a model of what can be done. I urge our entire Church to become engaged similarly.
Heath K. Rada
Moderator, 221st General Assembly of the PC(USA)