Saturday, May 29, 2010


I am currently at the Presbyterian Multicultural Church Conference.  I am here for a reason.  Over the past two years my congregation (at least at worship) has become 50% African American or African.  I need help with this great joy I have.  I am also busy with this great joy I have.

So, and this is going to upset my friends, arguments about sexuality are no longer on the front burner, the back burner or anywhere in the kitchen.  Helping to form (and hoping to be guided by the Holy Spirit in doing so) one Christian community out of five different cultures (three of them are African) is my primary focus.  It has to be.  If God is calling me, and I believe God is, to do something until I retire or die it is to help these five cultures to take joy in the gifts of each other.  This I am discovering is a major task.

I will probably still talk about Israel and Palestine.  But I do not have time, (or frankly interest) to continue to debate about homosexuality. 

My sisters and brothers at Tully Memorial deserve as much of my time as I can give. 

I am sorry to disappoint my friends and, maybe, some who have disagreed with me.  But in worship as we come together I see the Kingdom of God forming before my eyes.  A gift from God I simply cannot reject. 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


It's way too late to send an overture to this year's General Assembly.  But there is still plenty of time (well just a bit over a month) for a presbytery to say that it agrees with an overture for another presbytery.  The process is just different.  If a presbytery sends an overture or concurs with an overture it had to be in to the Stated Clerk's office at least 60 days before the General Assembly meeting begins if it has financial implications.  Other overtures require different amounts of time before the General Assembly begins.  What are overtures?  The General Assembly provides a web page to describe it, how to go about writing and sending an overture, etc.

But it is still possible for a presbytery to tell another presbytery that it likes the other presbytery's overture.  This gives the presbytery that sent the overture bragging rights: "Not only do we think this overture was a good idea but this other presbytery (insert name of the other presbytery) agrees with us."

The so called "Peacemaking Committee" of Philadelphia Presbytery asked the Presbytery to tell San Francisco Presbytery that we agree with three overtures from them that were about Israel/Palestine.  To be frank they were all severely critical of Israel.  You can find them on the General Assembly's web site.  They are named: 14-02 On Divestment from Caterpillar, Inc., 14-04 On Recognition that Israel’s Laws, Policies, and Practices Constitute Apartheid Against the Palestinian People., and 14-05 On Commending “A Moment of Truth: A Word of Faith and Hope from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering” as an Advocacy Tool.  As one can tell by their titles they do not praise Israel or even take an even handed approach to the issues between Israel and Palestine.  Overture 14-02 (if passed) would tell the Presbyterian Foundation and Board of Pension to sell off any stock they have in Caterpillar, Inc.  Overture 14-04 says that Israel, after a long list of bad things the overture says Israel does, wants the General Assembly to call Israel "Apartheid."  The last overture, 14-05, recommends a document called the "Kairos Document" for study in governing bodies (synods, presbyteries and congregations) around the denomination.

Now you may have to join "PC biz" to get into the site and read the overtures.  For the time being you can find them on the Philadelphia Presbytery's website.  Just click on Click here to download the Docket and Reports.

Just to keep things interesting the Session of the Media Presbyterian Church proposed to the Presbytery that it vote no on those three overtures and vote yes on another one from San Joaquin Presbytery instead.  This overture takes a much more even handed approach to the questions of the issues in the Middle East.

Philadelphia Presbytery voted today to approve the overture from San Joaquin Presbytery by a substantial margin.  It also voted not to approve the three overtures from San Francisco Presbytery, two by substantial margins.  The third, the overture recommending that the Kairos Document be offered fro study by congregations in the denomination was voted down too, but in a curious way.  When counted, and checked five times, it was discovered that the votes for that overture was a tie vote.  I suspect that people thought there wasn't too much harm in sending a document out to be studied and besides it was written by fellow Christians in Palestine.  Nevertheless parliamentary procedure says that a tie vote means that the overture failed.  Thus Philadelphia Presbytery says it agrees with the San Joaquin overture and doesn't agree with any of the San Francisco overtures.

I love Israel but I am critical of it.  I mourn for most Palestinians, particularly my Christian brothers and sisters.  I don't like the security barrier but understand its necessity.  After the security barrier was built suicide bombings dropped off to none.  I remember that there was one suicide bomber who specifically chose a bus stop where children congregated to go to school.  He blew himself up with a group of school children.  But I wish Israel had built the barrier on the Green Line (the border before the 1967 war.  I would like to see Israel tear down all the settlements in the West Bank.  But I would also like to see the leaders of different groups in Palestine offer to recognize Israel and to make a real peace with no rockets or suicide bombers with Israel.  Neither Hamas or Fatah currently recognize Israel's right to exist.  Further, they want all those who left (or were chased out)and their descendants of what became Israel in 1948 be allowed to return to their former homes.  This sounds great until one realizes that Israel would then have a majority of Palestinians.  Israel would then no longer be a Jewish state.  In fact the Jewish citizens of Israel might be asked (forced) to leave.  

There is good and evil on both sides.  I think Philadelphia Presbytery did the right thing today.  I hope the General Assembly will do the same thing.  How could we possibly sit down with Jewish and Palestinian Americans or Israelis and Palestinians and ask about and encourage peace if we took sides?