Bishops, deputies pass compromise resolution backing Palestinian state; no mention of ‘apartheid’

By Logan Crews
Posted Jun 28, 2024

[Episcopal News Service – Louisville, Kentucky] Resolution D013, “Affirm the Imperative of a Palestinian State,” has become an act of General Convention. Both houses passed the resolution June 28, finishing the slate of resolutions related to the Holy Land.

The resolution affirms the need for an independent Palestinian state to exist alongside the state of Israel.

Since the start of convention, the resolution’s wording was a source of contention. Bishops originally struck the line that accused the current Israeli government of pursuing an “apartheid policy” against Palestinians.

However, the deputies’ Social Justice & International Policy Committee reinserted the mention of apartheid, and the House of Deputies passed it, sending the resolution back to the bishops.

A conference committee that included bishops and deputies met and produced a compromise resolution that reflected much of the discussions across the two houses. Conference committees are created when there is a language dispute between the two houses.

Resolution D013 no longer contains the word “apartheid.” Instead, it states that the Israeli government “continues to commit acts and pass laws that result in fragmentation, segregation, and dispossession against the Palestinian people and the Occupied Territories.”

“We found a way as a church to address this difficult issue in terms of verbiage, terminology and the situation that has weighed heavy on our hearts,” said Pennsylvania Bishop Daniel Gutiérrez, who chaired the bishops’ Social Justice & International Policy Committee.

Gutiérrez emphasized the inclusion of a paragraph naming the difficulty of finding language that unites the church and a final resolve that expresses solidarity with the Diocese of Jerusalem. The last paragraph also calls upon Episcopalians to engage in philanthropy, study and advocacy; to invest in Palestinian enterprises; and to divest from all firms doing business in or with Israel’s West Bank settlements.

Before the House of Deputies debated and voted on the resolution, Janet Day-Strehlow of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, chair of the deputies’ Social Justice & International Policy Committee, told deputies that this is a vote of conscience.

Deputies who spoke in support of the resolution said they did so reluctantly. Eva Warren from the Diocese of Ohio rose in opposition, saying other resolutions passed have already called the church to action, and this resolution is a chance to make a bold statement.

“I know that we as a house need not settle for language that refuses to confront the very real historic and contemporary harms being done to Palestinians,” Warren said. “I know that we need not fear that refusing to concur leaves us silent on this issue; see D007 and D012. It is not enough to say this resolution is naming apartheid through adjectives. We cannot be afraid to use the words that matter.”

Convention’s actions on Holy Land resolutions have drawn considerable attention.

Two demonstrations and a Compline for Palestine prayer service were held during convention. Episcopalians representing Palestinian Anglicans and Clergy Allies, the Episcopal Peace Fellowship’s Palestine Israel Network and other Episcopalians concerned about The Episcopal Church’s response to the violence in the Holy Land participated. Demonstrators called on the houses to “Listen to Palestinian Christians” and name the Israeli government’s policies and violence against the Palestinian people as apartheid and ongoing genocide.

Resolution D056 – which calls for a ceasefire – originally used the term “ongoing genocide” but both houses passed a version that instead calls for prayers that the “conflict not end in genocide.”

Prior to House of Deputies’ discussion of D013, President Julia Ayala Harris addressed criticism she received regarding the “Episco Disco” which bookended the house’s special order on Israel and Palestine resolutions June 26. She said the singing and dancing following the difficult house discussion didn’t work for everyone.

“In my capacity I had to put aside my needs and try to figure out what your needs were,” Ayala Harris said. “And I don’t think I did that well.”

When the House of Deputies turned to D013 for the final vote, the chaplain offered a prayer.

Southeast Florida Bishop Peter Eaton opposed D013 as originally presented, saying he would not vote for any resolution that uses the word “apartheid.” He served on the bishops’ conference committee and spoke following the vote on the compromise resolution, saying the work on Israel-Palestine resolutions has made this the most challenging convention he has ever experienced.

“This is the real work of peace-building,” Eaton said. “It’s work that can be accomplished and that can unite us. But it is hard work, and it will demand a new kind of commitment from this house and this church if we want to be serious companions with our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land on the pathway of peace.”

–Logan Crews, a former Episcopal Church Ecojustice Fellow, is a seminarian at Berkeley Divinity School at Yale who serves on the student leadership team of the World Student Christian Federation-United States.