the 221st General Assembly

Posts tagged ‘221st General Assembly’

Aside

A Modest Proposal


Now the PC(USA) 221st GA committee considering “Middle East Issues” is debating a boycott of HP products.

Here’s a thought – why not designate all the companies you wish to blacklist with a yellow, six-pointed star?  Think of how much time that would save the faithful …

 

UPDATE 1:  They did not recommend the boycott.

UPDATE 2:  Now they’re reconsidering Presbyterian support for a two-state solution.  This has always been tepid at best ….

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Committee Recommends Divestment


The PC(USA) General Assembly committee considering “Middle East Issues” voted to recommend divestment.

I understand the vote was 45 to 20.

Oooh they their parents must be so proud.

 

For clarity:  this is not the GA’s final word on the subject.  It must still pass the vote by the whole assembly later in the week.

 

How unfortunate for Presbyterians that stupidity has taken the place of ethical and moral witness.

 

How’s that Again, ACREC???


How’s that again, ACREC?  You’re supposed to be the PC(USA)’s Advocacy for what exactly?  Oh … “The Advocacy Committee for Racial and Ethnic Concerns”.  Hmmm.  Your “Advice and Counsel” on Overture 04-09 – “Resolution on Equal Rights for All Inhabitants of Israel and Palestine and on Conversations with Prophetic Voices” would be deliciously ironic if it weren’t so sad.

For the uninitiated:  Business items considered by a General Assembly are first taken up by committees of GA commissioners.  In theory, these are able to delve more deeply into specific topics and then return recommendations to the whole assembly.  In the majority of, but by no means all cases, the committee recommendations are followed by the plenary.

But before items ever get to these committees, they are vetted by permanent standing committees of the denomination.  These are not GA commissioners.  They are basically the ‘religious’ version of bureaucrats.  They give advice to the committees, and they often provide resource people to “help” the committees’ deliberations.  This practice ensures a certain degree of institutional control over the outcome – in spite of the fact that the GA itself – the commissioners – are in theory, the highest governing body of the PC(USA).

So … ACREC attached its recommendation to pass Overture 04-09.  Committee 4 – the actual commissioners considering “Middle East Issues” – dutifully approved it.  But in the middle of ACREC’s “advice” we find this gem quoted:

The ADL [Anti-Defamation League] goes after anti-Semitism with a fist, it goes after Israeli racism with a sigh. As a matter of fact, the ADL and the entire American Jewish establishment should suspend their campaigns against anti-Semitism indefinitely and take a look at what’s going on in Israel.

Now, the quote is taken from an article by Larry Derfner in the Jewish Daily Forward.  Obviously, therefore, it must be just fine for ACREC to quote it without context.  Just putting it out there.

Just what, exactly?  What function does it serve?

Is ACREC really suggesting that antisemitism isn’t a problem?  That “the American Jewish establishment” should ignore antisemitism?  Perhaps there is something uniquely hypocritical in Jewish concern over antisemitism … at least in ACREC’s fevered imagination.  Perhaps an ethnic minority should not be concerned by attacks on its members?

Or is the point more visceral?  Is it more intended to cultivate distaste for American Jews … who might, just might, oppose the institutional PC(USA)’s ultra-biased preferred narrative on Israelis and Palestinians?

Rather an interesting choice for a committee supposedly dedicated to racial ethnic concerns …

 

Will Spotts

Aside

Silence


It is probably not a good sign when repeat Dexter episodes are both more appealing and more uplifting than the PC(USA)’s 221st General Assembly.

I have been silent for the most part this time around.  This a partly a product of personal factors.  But it is mostly a function of my desire not to discourage those Presbyterians and others who are fighting for fairness and to avoid PC(USA) antisemitism – whatever I might think of their prospects.

The fact remains that the arguments being offered for divestment and other actions are basically either daft, facile, dishonest, or don’t follow logically.  The fact remains that commissioners are likely – as they have been in each GA from 2008 on – to give these arguments far more credence than they deserve.  Fairness has lost ground at each assembly – in part because commissioners tried to ‘split the difference’, in part because commissioners tried to oversimplify the situation (and the entire debate), in part because commissioners overestimated their own competence and importance, and in part because the process is immorally skewed by many officials and permanent committees within the PC(USA)’s corporate organization.

This year, it seems, the arguments boil down to … “Do justice …”, “Jewish feelings versus Palestinian suffering and oh so objective Presbyterian facts…”, “Desmond Tutu is for BDS so we should be too…”.  All of these have in common a reliance on official and unofficial PC(USA) false information about the situation on the ground, about the nature of divestment, about the global BDS movement, about the actions of Israelis, about the actions of Palestinians, about the placement of blame.  The basis is unbalanced.  It cannot yield an accurate, moral, or ethical result.  Period.

If you want to have this discussion, you need to actually present the facts … all the facts, and you need to actually listen to the many perspectives – not hold a Presbyterian Passion Play every two years with good Jewish villains and innocent victims.

Be that as it may, the fact is, I have expected this GA to do something shameful – to continue the trend since 2008 – perhaps divest, perhaps do something equal offensive. And since that expectation is discouraging to those who are trying to help, I have remained rather quiet.

Will Spotts

 

 

Balance, Bias, and other Four Letter Words


In defending his trademark diet from criticisms that it was unbalanced, Dr. Atkins argued that the proper corrective for an existing imbalance was imbalance.

He may have been right … or not, but the premise has some merit.

One of my chief concerns with Presbyterian activism and advocacy about Israelis and Palestinians – for as long as I have observed it – has been that it is one-sided; that it is not balanced.  A few months ago I watched a live stream of the Evangelicals for Social Action’s Impact Holy Land Conference.  One of the speakers asserted that, when talking about the Holy Land, balance should be a four letter word.

I was kind of taken aback by this claim.  I was familiar with it, of course, because the same assertion has been made in various PC(USA) contexts.  Usually this was a bromide offered as a rebuttal to charges of a lack of balance in PC(USA) materials on Palestinian and Israeli issues.  Most luminaries did not attempt to deny that there was an imbalance – because such a denial would rightly be met with laughter.  But the general thinking was that imbalance was justified.

So is it?  Should balance be a four letter word to Presbyterians? (more…)

The PC(USA)’s elephant


Underlying most of the unresolved questions I raised about the PC(USA)’s decisions on Israelis and Palestinians, there is a larger question.

It is the single largest source of contention – and it is one Presbyterians commissioners to the 221st General Assembly should have to conclusively answer yes or no if their views are to be taken seriously.

Should there be a Jewish state?

I don’t mean a state perhaps called Israel.

I’m not even asking about the two state solution – which is up for debate at this year’s GA.

The fact is, some people within the PC(USA) argued for a two state solution that meant one Jew-free state of Palestine, and one multi-ethnic, multi-religious state with a Jewish minority. (That is the NET EFFECT of the disparate demands made on Israel by various PC(USA) GA’s and interest groups.)

It occurs to me that this question is the PC(USA)’s elephant in the room when it comes to Middle East policy.

The Same Old Song and Dance, my Friend


When it comes to Presbyterian Middle East policy decisions, not much changes.

Sure, faces and names change: since the 2004 divestment decision, the PC(USA) has a different stated clerk, a different moderator of the General Assembly, a different executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency – in fact, in 2004, the PMA was called the General Assembly Council (GAC) – then it was the General Assembly Mission Council (GAMC), a different coordinator for the Advisory Council for Social Witness Policy (ACSWP), different members for these committees or boards.

Sure, specific emphases change to reflect both facts on the ground in the Middle East and advocacy trends and fashions.

But the central issues remain the same. Indeed the concerns, problems, emphases, and thrusts of PC(USA) policy – especially on Israel and Palestine – has not changed one bit in all the time I’ve observed it. No General Assembly has altered this. (Arguably, the 216th General Assembly in Birmingham in 2006 intended to do so; but if that was its intent – as I believe can be clearly demonstrated – it failed to give its actions enough force make a difference. Among other things, there were no consequences for committees, agencies, networks, employees of the PC(USA) failures to comply with GA instructions.)

The takeaway here: when it comes to PC(USA) Middle East policy decisions, we are in essentially the same place at the beginning of the 2004 General Assembly. Ten years of polity wrangling, of excessive spin, of cosmetic adjustments, of argument – in some rare cases, reasoned argument, have still left the same basic problems and questions unanswered in any meaningful or satisfactory way. (more…)

It’s That Time Again


In even numbered years in spring, I find myself getting sucked in to all the drama which is the PC(USA)’s General Assembly. This year, it is slated to take place in Detroit from June 14 through June 21.

To get an idea of both the ‘official’ tasks and scheduled activites, check out the docket and schedule. As in past years, specific business items can be found on the pc-biz site. PC-Biz is the best place to follow the items commissioners will consider.

In anticipation of a busy GA season, I am in the process of reorganizing this blog. The menu items that appear at the top of this page provide links to 2014 issues, to commentary on past general assemblies in 2012 and 2010, to a few older posts from between 2005 and 2009, to the Bearing Witness website (run by Jon Haber), and to my (new) other blog. (Surprisingly enough, it is a blog about other topics.) (more…)

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