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The US Episcopal Church has taken a significant pro-Israel turn at its triennial General Convention, joining the Presbyterians in abandoning pro-Palestinian rhetoric and adopting a resolution repudiating anti-Jewish interpretations of the New Testament.
While the bulk of the 75th General Convention held here June 12 to 21 was dedicated to the contentious issue of homosexuality and to the election of the church's first female leader, bishops and deputies also addressed the church's stance toward Israel and Judaism.
A resolution directing the church's liturgical commission to prepare materials to "assist members of the church to address anti-Jewish prejudice expressed in and stirred by portions of Christian scriptures and liturgical texts" was adopted by both the bishops and deputies after strong debate.
Opponents objected saying that it implied the text of the New Testament was "inherently anti-Semitic". However, supporters of the proposal argued the resolution only spoke against anti-Jewish interpretations of the biblical texts.
The new materials would seek to "root out" the teaching that Jews were "Christ killers" and reawaken the knowledge and affirm an appreciation of the church's Jewish origins, supporters argued.
Bishop Edward Little of northern Indiana also asked church to apologize to the Jewish people for its "consistently unbalanced approach to the conflict in the Middle East." "Virtually all General Convention resolutions concerning the Middle East, and all public policy pronouncements by Episcopal agencies, have relentlessly criticized the state of Israel, portraying the Jewish state as an oppressor nation and the Palestinian people as victims of Israeli oppression," he argued.
Opponents of the resolution argued the church should apologize instead to the Palestinians for the US government's support for Israel.
However, Rev. Bruce Chilton, professor of religion at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York stated, "Terrorism is a war crime. If we fail to say that, how can we claim any moral ground whatsoever?"
The church's international peace with justice committee amalgamated Little's call for an apology with three resolutions asking the church to condemn the "wall," calling for dismantling settlements on the West Bank and supporting Palestinian human rights.
The committee rejected the term "wall" to describe the separation barrier, and modified its blanket condemnation to call for the removal of the "barrier where it violates Palestinian territory."
It also urged the US government to pursue a two-state solution and support the human rights of both Palestinians and Israelis, denounced terrorism, called for an eradication of anti-Semitism, supported a withdrawal from the territories to the 1967 borders, asked both sides to recognize the "elected leadership" of the other, supported positive financial investments in the region and advocated the " elimination of corruption within the Palestinian Authority and appropriate financial transparency to better serve human and economic rights of Palestinians."
The debate over homosexuality and the church's relations to the 85 million member Anglican Communion, prevented the church's deputies from addressing the three Israel resolutions, which were passed only by the bishops.
While the failure of the deputies to review the resolutions prevents them from becoming official church policy, the policy change puts the American branch of the Anglican Communion at odds with the Church of England, which in February endorsed divestment from companies whose products are used by the Israeli government in the territories.