From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Bishop Says Church Supports Key U.S. Mideast Policies

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date Thu, 27 Jun 2002 16:29:20 -0500


June 27, 2002


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- In response to June 24 remarks by U.S. President
George W. Bush, the presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America (ELCA), speaking on behalf of the ELCA, said the church
affirms several of the points the president raised regarding the
situation in the Middle East.  The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding
bishop, made the comments in a June 27 statement to the church.
     Hanson cited numerous examples in which the official church
legislative bodies, such as the ELCA Churchwide Assembly and ELCA Church
Council, have spoken for the church on topics related to the Middle
East.  The ELCA Conference of Bishops, a non-legislative body of the
ELCA's 65 synod bishops, presiding bishop and ELCA secretary, has also
spoken on Middle East topics, Hanson said.
     "For too long, Palestinians and Israelis have been engaged in a
destructive spiral of violence and war, with no end in sight," Hanson
said in his statement.  "It is clear that the governments representing
Israelis and Palestinians cannot achieve peace on their own.  The time
has come for determined international leadership on this issue."
     The ELCA welcomed the president's renewed call for an independent
Palestinian state and his affirmation of Israel's right to exist, Hanson
     The ELCA supports Bush's call on Israel "to remove military forces
from Palestinian-controlled areas, to stop building settlements in the
West Bank and Gaza, and to allow Palestinians freedom of movement," he
said.  For example, Hanson said the ELCA believes that all Israeli
forces must withdraw from Palestinian territories to the borders that
existed before the 1967 war, as stated in U.N. resolutions.  The church
also believes "there is a need for an international force to maintain
peace between Israelis and Palestinians," he said.
     Hanson did not comment on Bush's suggestion that the Palestinian
people elect new leadership.  During the recent wave of suicide attacks
on Israeli citizens, Bush has criticized Yasser Arafat, chairman of the
Palestinian Authority, suggesting that Arafat has not done enough to
stop the attacks.
     Commenting on the continuing violence in the region, Hanson said
the ELCA "vigorously" condemns all attacks on civilians and private
property "no matter the source."
     "The deliberate targeting of innocent children, women and men is
reprehensible and does not contribute to the goal of an independent
Palestinian state or to the security of Israel," he said.
"We express our condolences to all families who have lost loved ones."
     Human rights must be "preserved and protected" for the people
living in the occupied territories of the Middle East, Hanson said.
     "We agree with the President that it is essential for the
international community, especially the United States, to help the
Palestinians improve their political and economic systems," he said.
"We appeal to Congress to support the President in his efforts to
provide assistance to the Palestinian people."
     The ELCA presiding bishop pledged that a Prayer Vigil for Middle
East Peace, initiated by the ELCA in December 2000, will continue in
congregations until there is peace for all people in the Middle East.
     "Our prayers are focused on the people of the Middle East who
suffer in the midst of political, economic and social uncertainty and
destruction," Hanson's statement said. "We pray also that the leaders of
Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the United States may be bold,
courageous and wise in taking immediate, specific steps and finding
equitable solutions for all people in this deeply troubled region."
     Hanson sent the same comments to Bush in a personal letter, said
Myrna J. Sheie, executive assistant to the ELCA presiding bishop.  The
letter was a response to a White House request for comment on the
president's June 24 speech, she said.
-- -- --
     The full text of the presiding bishop's public statement can be
found at on the ELCA Web

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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