A Cry for Hope: Solidarity with Palestinian Partners

TO OUR NH FRIENDS AND CHURCHES:
 
In July 2021, General Synod delegates overwhelming passed a prophetic resolution, called a “Declaration for a Just Peace between Palestine and Israel.”  The declaration was written in a confessional format and was inspired by a plea from Palestinian Christians (“Cry for Hope: A Call for Decisive Action”).  It asked churches worldwide (especially within the UCC) to join in declaring “that support for the oppression of the Palestinian people, whether through silence, word or deed, is a sin.”
 
In addition, the resolution reaffirms our shared commitment to action and solidarity–including support for nonviolent boycotts, divestment and sanctions that organize energies for constructive change and justice.
 
On this page, the Peace and Justice Advocates of the New Hampshire Conference offer NH churches and pastors resources for engaging and responding.  We urge our siblings in Christ to hear General Synod’s call for peace and for action, and to take steps to implement this prophetic statement in each and every setting of the church!
WHAT HAPPENED AT GENERAL SYNOD:
 
At General Synod, the resolution was referred, as resolutions are, to a committee of delegates for review.  Early in the week, that committee recommended that delegates approve their amended version–one that softened the tone of the original presented by six churches (including NH’s own Meriden Congregational Church).  
 
But in debate and discernment, the entire body of delegates reversed two of three major changes suggested–before approving the resolution by a vote of 462 to 78, with 18 abstentions.
 
 
Early in the week, the committee had “struck language identifying the oppression of Palestinians as a sin, and struck language that identified Israel as an apartheid state,” according to committee chair Elliot Munn of Vermont.
 
Dave Grishaw-Jones of the New Hampshire Conference argued that labeling the current oppressive system of governance in Israel as apartheid was critical: “Apartheid is an internationally defined and recognized term, used in legal systems and international diplomacy to name situations like the current one in Palestine and Israel.  The word is profoundly important to our covenant partners in Palestine and Israel who struggle against the yoke of occupation and oppression every day.  It is our Palestinian partners, out of their own lived experiences of dispossession and apartheid, who called upon us to name what they have already experienced and continue to experience every day.”
 
After debate, the larger body of delegates voted boldly to return the language of “sin” and “apartheid” to the resolution, and to pass it largely in tact.
 
RESOURCES FOR UCC CHURCHES/PASTORS
 
A great ally in the work ahead is the United Church of Christ’s Palestine Israel Network (UCCPIN).  UCCPIN has already put together two outstanding webinars (with more to come) on key topics in the resolution itself: “sin” and “apartheid”–and why they matter.
 
 
 
 
      
 
UCCPIN has produced a powerful implementation guide which offers congregations and pastors a chance to dig deeper on the issues and implications of this prophetic statement.
 
 
 
 

                  
INTERSECTIONALITY:    
WHY IT ALL WORKS TOGETHER
 
Rabbi Brian Walt, an early endorser of last summer’s GS resolution, has joined with Reconstructionist colleagues to organize an upcoming series of learning opportunities led by Reconstructionist rabbis on Israel/Palestine.
 
 
In the UCC, many of us find that our advocacy for Palestinian freedom tests important and cherished relationships in the Jewish community,  It’s so important that we connect with friends like Rabbi Walt and others–who can help us understand the importance of what we do, its importance to Jewish friends, and inevitable critiques that arise.
 
 
     
CHANGING THE CONVERSATION:
 
It’s important to note that the debate on the viritual “floor” was profoundly influenced by several delegates of color–who made critical connections between the UCC’s antiracism work within the US and beyond it.  During debate around the matter of “sin” and again around the question of “apartheid,” several spoke powerfully of the intersectionality at stake.  A church fully committed to addressing and deconstructing racism in our own cities and streets, they insisted, must also speak out against racism that oppresses Palestinians in the Middle East.  It is indeed sin, and we as a church must take the oppressed seriously and act in support of their aspirations for freedom and peace.
 
Several delegates noted that these urgent voices–coming from delegates of color within the UCC communion–stirred within the whole a deeper commitment to antiracism ministry and peacemaking as a unified whole.
 
 
Later in the week, an “implementation conversation” took place–during which proponents of the resolution presented various steps that can be taken by individuals, congregations, associations and conferences, in additional to the national setting of the church.  You’ll see a link to these kind of resources below!  They include studying the resolution, recommitting to previous resolutions on the topic, supporting those in the secular world trying to speak out on the topic, and advocating for the cessation of US military aid to Israel.
WHAT YOU MIGHT DO:
 
PREACH IT: Pastors can take a part of this story and preach on it: (1) The story of a UCC resolution passed as a word to the church. (2) The story of intersectionality as it’s expressed in our diverse denomination. (3) The story of concrete resistance to injustice and sin.
 
STUDY: Using the implementation and study materials curated by UCCPIN, organize a study within your church or Social Justice Team.
 
 
ENDORSE: Each and every congregation is asked not only to study…but to prayerfully endorse the resolution as a witness to God’s passion for justice in our time.  See the list of those already doing so.
 
BOYCOTT: Join a boycott (Pillsbury or Hewlett Packard, for example) and use that organizing process to both educate and motivate your community to take part in implementing this resolution.
 
 
     
CONTACT: Contact the UCCPIN who are eager to connect with your church and to support your work in advancing this witness!
 

 
If you have questions about the resolution, or about implementing it or interpreting it in your community, be in touch with one of us among the Peace with Justice Advocates.  We’re here to help:
 
603-868-1230
 
 
PEACE WITH JUSTICE:
 
The Peace with Justice Advocates are a Mission Group of the New Hampshire Conference United Church of Christ is committed to growing into the peace of Christ by:
(1) Being inwardly contemplative so as to allow God to disarm our hearts and transform us into people of peace and nonviolence;
(2) Being outwardly active in publicly witnessing / evangelizing / teaching peace, love and nonviolence in our churches and in the greater society.
(3) Being community with and acting in solidarity with other individuals and groups rooted in peace and nonviolence.