(Mennonite Church USA) – A resolution on Israel-Palestine was brought to delegates at the Mennonite Church USA assembly in Kansas City in 2015. Delegates tabled that resolution asking that it be revised. After six months of intense work, a draft of the revised resolution, titled “Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine,” is being shared with members and leaders of Mennonite Church USA for review and comment.
The three-person writing team consisting of Rod Stafford (pastor of Portland Mennonite Church), Lisa Schirch (peacebuilding research professor at Eastern Mennonite University) and André Gingerich Stoner (director of Interchurch Relations for Mennonite Church USA) worked on multiple drafts of the resolution. A ten-person reference committee provided counsel and suggestions in the process. This group included pastors, conference leaders, scholars and activists with long-standing relationships with Jewish and Palestinian partners and a wide range of experiences related to Israel-Palestine. The writing team also consulted directly with Palestinian Christians and Muslims, Israelis and Jewish Americans.
“It was challenging to hear such a wide range of voices,” Stafford reflected. “It forced me to think carefully about Israel and Palestine and about our calling to be peacemakers. I also found it hopeful — we could talk passionately, listen respectfully and deepen our understanding.”
The process began with a review of the delegate comments from the Kansas City assembly. While there were many positive comments, concerns were raised that the initial resolution was framed too narrowly and that it should take a more humble tone.
In response, the writing team broadened the framework to address Israel’s military occupation and the legacy of anti-Semitism. “The sufferings of these two groups [Palestinian and Jewish people] have too often been set against each other,” the revised resolution notes. “We recognize, rather, that the legacy of Jewish suffering is intertwined with the suffering of Palestinians.”
The revised resolution draws on the practices of restorative justice. Daryl Byler, executive director of Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and a member of the reference committee, explained: “By using a restorative justice lens to view the complex Israel-Palestine issue, this resolution seeks to begin by acknowledging our own contributions to the harms done to both Jews and Palestinians and, accordingly, to take steps that will promote healing justice.”
The resolution embraces what Schirch has described as a “two-handed” approach, speaking clearly against injustice and violence and also extending a hand of understanding and relationship to all parties.
Steve Kriss, staff for Franconia Mennonite Conference and a member of the reference committee, said, “This resolution represents broad listening, hard prayerful work and takes into account our relatedness as well as the prophetic and repentant work that’s ahead of us. I’m grateful for the writers and to have worked along with other respondents to attempt to construct a document that is honest, hopeful and leans toward the invitation to extend Christ’s peace.”
In early November the Constituency Leaders Council approved the latest draft for sharing with the broader church. The revised resolution is available for feedback on the Mennonite Church USA website. Responses should be submitted by Dec. 20, to give the writing team time to review them before a final version of the resolution is submitted to the Resolution Committee by Jan. 30.
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̶ Mennonite Church USA staff