Israel, Palestinians & Mid-East
- Created: September 24, 2012
- Written by Right Rev. Gary Paterson
From the United Church of Canada website
I know that there are some people in our congregations who are upset about the 41st General Council’s decisions about Israel and Palestine, and I suspect that discussion and conversation have been difficult. The media coverage has created a real stir, and deep hurt and anger have been expressed by many in the Jewish community.
I want to make sure you know there is a two-page summary of the actions taken at General Council on this website, accompanied by a Frequently Asked Questions [PDF: 3 pp/121 KB] document. Do let the members of your congregation know how they can access this information. It’s important to have a readily available and succinct document that can help people understand what our church actually said about the situation in Israel and Palestine, as opposed to what they might have heard via the media. Too often, the church’s effort to find balance and nuance in a complex and difficult situation gets lost in a headline or 60-second news report.
It’s always a challenge when our church makes what many interpret to be “political statements,” but our denomination has a long history of trying to discern how our faith leads to involvement in the public policy issues of the times. Note how the General Council made statements about the environment, mining in the Philippines, and poverty in Canada. I think this is a good thing for us to be doing—and important! Caring for what happens to sisters and brothers in Canada and around the world, and challenging one another with a deep concern for justice and peace and the well-being of creation, is all part of what it means to be a Christian.
And yes, speaking up will frequently lead to controversy, as it did for Jesus. It can also lead to faithful disagreement. There is always room in the United Church for disagreement, but then it’s even more important to keep studying the issues and talking about responses and actions. The national church never dictates to its members what they must do, particularly in complex situations—but there is always the challenge to, as the theme of GC41 declared, “Seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.”
One of the issues raised in the FAQs concerns our ongoing relationship with Jewish brothers and sisters, and you may find this material helpful in conversations with your neighbours.
It is so important to continue in this interfaith dialogue, and where there is hurt, we must listen and seek understanding and, carefully and humbly, share our understanding of what happened at General Council, of what our church is trying to say and do. Hopefully the documents on this website can be of some assistance in that journey.
Yours in Christ,
The Right Rev. Gary Paterson