From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Council Calls on Bush to Reconsider Middle East Matters

Date Mon, 19 Apr 2004 16:08:07 -0500


April 19, 2004

ELCA Council Calls on Bush to Reconsider Middle East Matters

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Church Council of the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) expressed "grave concern
regarding recent unilateral initiatives" being considered by the
State of Israel, and called on U.S. President George W. Bush to
reconsider his recent support of Israel's planned actions.
     The council "strongly affirmed" the principle of a
negotiated Middle East peace settlement "within the context of
international support" as outlined in the Road Map for Peace.
The Road Map was developed in 2003 by the United States, European
Union, United Nations and Russia.
     The Church Council is the ELCA's board of directors and
serves as the legislative authority of the church between
churchwide assemblies.	The council met here April 17-18.
Assemblies are held every other year; the next is Aug. 8-14,
2005, in Orlando, Fla.
     Last week, Bush announced changes in U.S. policy on the
Middle East.  While Bush said he supported Israeli Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon's plan to withdraw from the Gaza Strip, Bush also
said he supported Israel's desire to keep some Israeli
settlements in the West Bank and implied support for Israel's
construction of a security or separation wall in the West Bank.
     Palestinians criticized Bush's statements as an unwelcome
change in longstanding U.S. Middle East policy.  U.N. Secretary-
General Kofi Annan and the European Union were also critical of
Bush's statements.
     In its action, the council noted that Bush's support for
Sharon's unilateral actions "has potentially compromised the
leadership role of the United States in the process of
negotiation and reconciliation between the Israelis and
Palestinians within the framework of the Road Map for Peace."
     The council also noted that in June 2003 Bush "pledged the
active, determined leadership of the United States in support of
the Road Map."	That plan "provides a framework for an end to all
acts of violence as essential to building peace," the council
     In a separate but related action, the council affirmed a
statement of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), "Break Down the
Walls," which called for an end to both the construction of the
West Bank wall and the creation and support of settlements in the
Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.  The LWF action
criticized the wall as an obstacle to Middle East peace.
     Among other things, the council's resolution urged ELCA
members to learn more about the situation in Israel and
Palestine; encouraged ELCA units to continue their collaboration
with Jewish organizations "that work in solidarity with the
Palestinian people"; and reaffirmed previous ELCA churchwide
assembly actions which called for an end to violence, an end to
the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and recognition
of the "sovereignty and territorial integrity of every state in
the area."
     The council requested that the ELCA Division for Church in
Society communicate the resolution to Bush, the U.S. Secretary of
State, the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
It also asked DCS to encourage ELCA members to communicate the
resolution to their elected representatives in the U.S. House of
Representatives and U.S. Senate.
     In a brief discussion, the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA
presiding bishop, told the council that an interfaith group of
U.S. religious leaders is waiting for confirmation of a date to
meet directly with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to
discuss Middle East peace concerns.  At a news conference in
Washington, D.C., last December, the interfaith leaders announced
a 12-step plan for Middle East peace.  They also said they would
mobilize broad public support for active U.S. leadership to
pursue Middle East peace for all.
     The Rev. John C. Richter, council member, Wyomissing, Pa.,
said he had visited the West Bank.  Richter called the wall
"reprehensible," but he told Hanson that his concern is that
council resolutions on the Middle East may compromise the
church's ability to be a "peacemaker."
     In response, Hanson said he believes the church's role in
the Middle East is to address injustices.  "I don't think being a
peacemaker is never to hold a position," Hanson said.
     Council member Ghassan "Gus" Khoury, Mt. Prospect, Ill.,
said the wall is not a good idea because it divides the
Palestinian people and portions of the West Bank, isolating
     "We desperately need resolutions like this," he said.  "I
thank Bishop Hanson for his leadership in this area."
     The full text of "Break Down the Walls" is available at on the

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