Sunday, August 14, 2005

ELCA Direction and Focus

I was born and raised Lutheran. My family and I are still members of an ELCA congregation but that is mostly because we live in a small town and our options are limited. In recent years, several decisions made by the ELCA heirarchy have led me to feel that my church is rapidly abandoning me. More and more I find my church mandating or supporting thoughts and ideas that I am very uncomfortable with, or that I flat out disagree with. This weekend the ELCA churchwide assembly took one more step further away from me.

Yesterday (8/13) The ELCA churchwide Assembly voted to adopt the campaign - Peace Not Walls: Stand for Justice in the Holy Land

This camgaign is a three part process of the ELCA condemning Israel for their attempts to defend themselves from suicide Palistinian bombers.

The first part of the campaign in the ELCA's own words is:

designed to build awareness, and engage in accompaniment and advocacy activities for "peace with justice" between Israel and Palestine.

Sounds good huh? Peace with justice between Israel and Palestine. What a wonderful idea. However the ELCA seems to believe that the main obsticle to peace between Israel and Palestine is a fence being built by the Israelis. Apparently the ELCA doesn't think that Palestinians wrapping themselves and thier children with explosives and then blowing themselves up in order to kill Israeli citizens contributes to the violence.

Of course no one connected with this champaign would ever admit to anti-semitic thoughts. But it is telling that an amendment to eliminating the words "Peace Not Walls" and change the name of the campaign to just "Stand for Justice in the Holy Land" -- was handily defeated by the voting members. This tells me that at heart this is a campaign against the Israeli wall. Not a campaign for peace.

I haven't read the full details of this campaign that we are supposed to support yet. But some of the comments reported on the ELCA website are disturbing:

Speaking against the amendment Karen J. Zeile, voting member, ELCA Southeast Michigan Synod, told the assembly that "Israel has every right to protect itself from acts of terrorism," but the barrier "isolates and intimidates" the Palestinian people.

I wonder if Rev. Zeile thinks busloads of Iraeli children blowing up makes the Israeli's feel "isolated and intimidated".

Then the Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Jordan, Holy Land addressed the assembly live from Jerusalem via telephone:

"It is my fervent prayer that my children and grandchildren will live one day side by side with their Israeli sisters and brothers in a just peace.

Lutherans in the Holy Land believe in justice, peace and reconciliation and condemn every kind of brutality, spiral violence, suicide attacks and terrorism. The only way to move forward, is through peaceful and respectful negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis.

This sounds good also. But then he goes on to exhibit the one sided nature of this campaign once again.

"The current route of the wall will make freedom for Palestinians impossible by cutting deeply into Palestinian land, separating people from work, church, family and their own land," Younan told the assembly. "Our church believes in bridges, not walls; trust, not fear; dialogue for justice and peace, not more reason for division," he said. "If Israel feels it has a need to build a wall, we would understand it" in association with the "1967 borders. But, we cannot understand their decision to build it within Palestinian land."

So that's it then. The wall is OK as long as Israel goes back to the 1967 borders.

So is the wall damamging to the peace process or not?

If you follow this link to another ELCA site you will see that this campaign is all about the removal of the wall. Nothing else. This is a campaign dedicated to the weakening of Israel's defense against a terrorist enemy that my Church leadership is blatently siding with.

The second part of this campaign is a process where each synod of the ELCA will receive a set of communion ware that is made in Bethlehem. This set of communion ware will travel around the synod and be used by all the churchs in the synod.

Again this sounds like an innocent enough plan. But as experience has shown nothing the ELCA does ever does is as straight forward as it sounds.

The communion ware is being supplied by the International Center of Bethlehem (ICB). The ICB is a Lutheran institution serving the whole Palestinian community through developing human resources, cultivating artistic talents and facilitating intercultural encounters.

So we are going to promote peace between the Palistinians and the Israelis by using commmunion ware made by Palistinian artists. How is this supposed to help? Maybe if the artists are busy making communion ware for us they will be too busy to strap bombs to their kids and send them across the border to murder innocent civilians. Afterall if there is no wall to stop these terrorists we will need a different plan.

Finally the third part of the campaign is to communicate the actions and concerns of the assembly to the U.S. Secretary of State. This is an attempt to make the people of the United States aware of the 2005 ELCA Churchwide Assembly and its concern for both Palestinians and Israelis.

What a joke. With all that is facing the ELCA and the Lutheran church as a whole we are taking it upon ourselves to attempt to dictate policy to the Secretary of State.

I think the leadership of the ELCA should stick to what they do best - alienating their own membership not start trying to dictate US foreign policy. The ELCA can't even handle the 236 churchs of the Word Alone Network who have gotten together to cambat the historic episcopate. Now they want to dictate US foreign policy and solve the middle east crisis yet they can't even get their own membership to agree on the direction of the ELCA itself.

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