ELCA NEWS SERVICE
November 11, 2011
ELCA bishop visits White House to discuss Israeli-Palestinian conflict
CHICAGO (ELCA) - The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), attended a Nov. 8 meeting at the White House as part of a group of ecumenical faith leaders. They asked that the United States take a stronger stance in its opposition to the rapid expansion of Israeli settlement construction in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The construction threatens the viability of a future Palestinian state, thus precluding a two-state solution and support for a shared Jerusalem.
Hanson and the other faith leaders met with Dennis Ross, special assistant to President Barack Obama, and Catherine Powell, director for human rights, Office of Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights in the National Security Council. The meeting took place before Ross announced his resignation Nov. 10.
The faith leaders discussed U.S. policies towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and problems facing Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land. They expressed hope for a high-level U.S. administration visit to the Middle East, especially in Bethlehem, which would include meetings with Christian leaders.
According to Hanson, continued meetings with the Obama administration are "a priority because of our commitment to our companions in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. It is also carried out in the commitment we have made in the ELCA's Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine.
"As we began our conversation with Mr. Ross, I expressed disappointment. We hear our Christian partners in the region question the United States' commitment. They wonder why the U.S. has not been more vocal about the increased settlement construction. I told Mr. Ross that we repeatedly hear Palestinian churches say they see this as a moment of abdication by the U.S. administration."
Reflecting on the meeting, Hanson said, "More progress must be made toward the goal of a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine. Since our meeting a year ago, the prospects for peace seem to have diminished with the expansion of settlements and the absence of face-to-face negotiations."
According to a Nov. 10 news release from Churches for Middle East Peace, the church leaders who attended the Nov. 8 meeting said they are disappointed with developments since their 2010 meeting at the White House.
"The position of the Palestinian Christian community is precarious," stated the release. "There are constant problems of obtaining visas for clergy who must travel outside Jerusalem and the West Bank. Restriction on movement between Bethlehem and Jerusalem is a problem that undermines Christian life. Church leaders are humiliated at check points."
Ecumenical leaders at this year's White House meeting included Hanson; Katharine Jefferts Shori, presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church; Denis James Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore and chairman-elect of the Committee for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops; Neil Irons, executive secretary of the Methodist Council of Bishops; and Sara Lisherness, director of compassion, peace and justice for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A).
The meeting was arranged by Churches for Middle East Peace, a coalition of 24 national church denominations and organizations working to encourage U.S. government policies that promote a just and lasting resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
For information about the ELCA's strategy for engagement in Israel and Palestine click here, and for the ELCA's Peace Not Walls campaign click here.
About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with 4.2 million members in 10,000 congregations across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer, Martin Luther.
For information contact:
Melissa Ramirez Cooper
773-380-2956 or Melissa.RamirezCooper@elca.org
Living Lutheran: http://www.livinglutheran.com