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Presiding Bishop issues pastoral letter on Israeli-Palestinian peace

Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued a pastoral letter on Israeli-Palestinian peace. She says in the October 4 letter, “While optimism for meaningful and constructive negotiation between the two parties dimmed over the past year, the events of recent weeks – and the new opportunities they may present — invite us to reflect prayerfully on what each might do to bring new hope to those who live, move, and have their being within the daily reality of this conflict in the land called holy by all the children of Abraham.”

The presiding bishop notes that The Episcopal Church has long maintained that, “a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians can be achieved only by bilateral negotiations between the two parties themselves,” and that such negotiations should lead to a two-state solution.

With regard to the Palestinian request for recognition as a state by the United Nations, Jefferts Schori urges that, “The most responsible course for the United Nations would be for member states to think beyond the question of symbolic recognition of Palestinian statehood and instead offer a new, creative, and consequential proposal for a negotiations process that can produce durable and meaningful results.”

The central part of the presiding bishop’s letter addresses “What We Can Do,” and she says, “first I want to emphasize the particular responsibility we have as Christians to stand in solidarity with the Christian communities of the Holy Land who suffer the pains of the conflict and consistently act as agents of peacemaking.” She encourages support for the Diocese of Jerusalem through partners such as Episcopal Relief and Development and the American Friends of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

Jefferts Schori outlines several actions she believes will contribute to a movement toward peace in the area and says she is asking that the Church’s Office of Government Relations spearhead advocacy campaigns. She says, “These acts of advocacy should be carried forth not only by our Church’s representatives in Washington, but by each of us in the United States, and so I urge all  U.S. Episcopalians to join the Episcopal Public Policy Network which will, in the coming weeks, lead grassroots advocacy actions around these important issues.

Acknowledging the current frustration engendered by “the impasse of the present moment,” she says, “If we are serious about the Scriptural vision of Jerusalem as the possession of God, standing as a signal to the nations of God’s peace and justice, we must be the messengers who proclaim peace in the moments it seems most elusive.”

Bishop Thomas Ely has sent the presiding bishop’s letter to all clergy in the Diocese of Vermont and encouraged them to make it broadly available to people in the Diocese. He says, “As with the recent Pastoral Teaching on the Environment from the Bishops of our Church, this letter is well suited as part of an adult forum or other similar educational opportunity.”

The full text of Bishop Jefferts Schori’s pastoral letter is here.

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