Social Justice & International Policy committees’ discussion centers on the word ‘genocide’

By ENS Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2024

[Episcopal News Service – Louisville, Kentucky] The Social Justice & International Policy legislative committees June 22 heard testimony on five resolutions, with most of the debate centered on the word “genocide.”

The meeting at the Kentucky International Convention Center was the first time the bishops’ and deputies’ committees met in person since committee hearings began online in April. Bishops and deputies serve on distinct but parallel committees that typically meet together to deliberate and vote on resolutions. The House of Bishops is the house of initial action for all these two parallel committees’ resolutions. The committees last met June 6 online.

The 81st General Convention officially begins June 23, when the full House of Bishops and House of Deputies will convene their legislative sessions.

Resolution D056 calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, and “decries the ongoing genocide against the Palestinian people in Gaza.”

“I don’t think I need to explain to siblings in Christ why it’s important for Christians to be makers of peace; I don’t think I need to explain to you why what is happening in Gaza is abhorrent, it is painful to the heart of Christ,” said the Rev. Megan L. Castellan, who wrote and proposed the resolution.

Castellan and the others who testified all called on General Convention to be courageous and call what is happening in Gaza a genocide.

Los Angeles Bishop John Harvey Taylor and Dominican Republic Bishop Moisés Quezada Mota voted against the resolution, but the committees still voted to recommend it when it reaches a floor debate.

Taylor urged that the time is not right to use the word genocide. The Rev. Adam Shoemaker, a deputy from the Diocese of South Carolina, ask how many more tens of thousands of people would need to die before the world labels Israel’s deadly action against Palestinians in the pursuit of eliminating Hamas a genocide.

“The spirit is to call for a ceasefire … cry out for a ceasefire from the rooftops,” he said.

The Oct. 7 attack by Hamas on Israeli communities and the resulting Israel-Hamas war have resulted in the deaths of more than 34,000 Palestinians and at least 1,700 Israelis according to local authorities.

Resolution D058 called for “a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war.” The committees’ voted to take no further action, as almost all of its substance has been included in other resolutions.

Resolution D075 calls for the immediate release of Layan Nasir, a 23-year-old Palestinian Christian and member of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in the occupied West Bank city of Birzeit. Nasir continues to be held in administrative detention without charge by Israel since her arrest in early April. No timeline for charges, trial or release have been set in her case. D075 was sent to the floor for debate, mainly to bring additional attention to Nasir’s case and those of countless others being held worldwide in administrative detention.

Resolution D060, “Support For a Solution to the Crisis in Haiti,” passed with amendment and was sent to the consent calendar. The amendments included adding to line 12, Resolved, “That the Episcopal Church, through the Presiding Bishop’s office, work with the clergy of Haiti to bring a Bishop’s presence to Haiti…” The Diocese of Haiti is the largest numerically in The Episcopal Church and it is undergoing a leadership crisis.

The resolution’s amendment also calls on the church to increase its support for international humanitarian organizations, nongovernment organizations and nonprofits providing direct aid to Haitians.

It also calls on the Executive Council to provide a report to the 82nd General Convention on the actions proposed by the resolution. Those actions include supporting United Nations security missions.

Resolution D062 calls for the church to support and stand in solidarity with Armenia; it passed and was sent to the House of Bishops floor for further debate. The resolution was edited to remove the words, “and Preventing further genocide” from the title.

John Delano, a deputy from the Diocese of Pittsburgh, urged caution given committee members’ lack of historical context in the longstanding conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the latter’s more recent incursions into the former’s territory.