Staying engaged in Palestine

Executive Council urges church to reflect on its historic connections to slavery
November 1, 2005

The Executive Council in October directed its Social Responsibility in Investments Committee to use the church’s investments to encourage positive change in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

“Our recommendation is not divestment, which I think some people were anticipating,” said the Rev. Canon Kathleen Cullinane, associate dean of Christ Church Cathedral, Indianapolis, and SRI committee chair. Divesting would mean walking away, she said. “We’re going to stay involved.” Corporate engagement is a much more radical approach than divestment, and a more difficult one, she told the council meeting in Las Vegas. “When you divest, you can stop talking. You just walk away. We are talking about a dialogue with corporations.”

She said the committee would focus on corporations doing business in the Palestinian settlements, not in Israel. “We support the existence of Israel,” she said. The council’s resolution fits into the church’s longstanding policy of supporting a two-state solution to the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, said committee member Kim Byham of Newark diocese.

Reflecting on slavery role

The council will ask the 75th General Convention to deal with the church’s historic connections to slavery. It approved a resolution declaring slavery a sin “and a fundamental betrayal of the humanity of all persons who were involved.”

The resolution would have the church express its “most profound regret” that it “lent the institution of slavery its support and justification based on Scripture ... and [that] after slavery was formally abolished, the Episcopal Church continued for at least a century to support de jure and de facto discrimination ...” It directs Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold to call for a “Day of Repentance and Reconciliation.”

A companion resolution calls for General Convention to authorize a study of the church’s complicity in the institution of slavery, and “the economic benefits that the church derived from the slavery” and how the church can, “as a matter of justice, share those benefits with African-American Episcopalians.” The last part of the study would involve “what would essentially be reparations, although some do not want to use that word,” said the Rev. Kwasi Thornell of the council’s national concerns committee.

While the resolution could be changed at next summer’s convention, Griswold said one outcome already was clear. “It does push us in a direction that will be costly in terms of our psyches and maybe in terms of our immediate resources.”

Following the meeting, Griswold said a high point had been hearing a report from three members of the Episcopal Church’s deputation to the Anglican Consultative Council. The report of their experience at the ACC’s meeting in June in England “showed incredible sensitivity to the fact that we are part of a communion that is incredibly diverse,” he said. It also showed the opportunity for Anglicans to have the Anglican Communion reflect the fullness of Christ, he said.

Bishop Michael Ingham of the Diocese of New Westminster, who is the Anglican Church of Canada’s partner on Executive Council, said he was troubled at the ACC meeting by claims that the events in New Hampshire and New Westminster [the consecration of an openly gay bishop and the blessing of same-sex unions, respectively] have caused violence and death in other parts of the communion. He urged that those claims be taken “with a good deal of caution,” adding that the cause of such violence is homophobia and bigotry.

Divisions in the communion are “really an opportunity to struggle with the meaning of communion,” Ingham said. And, he said, that struggle must involve asking questions about what sort of theology of communion is being articulated in the communion’s actions and statements.

Among its actions, council:

Authorized the archives strategy committee to begin implementing a project to relocate the national church archives and raise funds to construct an archival repository;

Urged General Convention to continue a study of employment policies and practices of church workers and propose a just-workplace resolution to 2009 General Convention; asked the Office of Ministry Development to study whether pension benefits for lay employees should be made compulsory and be administered by a single provider; and commended the statement on Workplace Values and The Church Pension Group’s Guide to Human Resources Practices for Lay Employees;

Admitted the Diocese of Venezuela to the Episcopal Church and recognized it as a diocese in union with General Convention;

Requested that $200,000 for the Centennial Endowment Fund of the Episcopal Church in the Philippines be included in the next triennium’s draft budget;

Expressed alarm at a proposed change in federal policy that would lower the threshold that permits the president to authorize the use of nuclear weapons in response to a threat of imminent attack.

For a complete report of council’s actions visit: www.episcopalchurch.org/ens

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