Middle East Study Committee Approves Final Report and Recommendations to General Assembly

PC(USA) press release The first of three parts of the report is available online

LOUISVILLE—After nearly two years of study, travel, and vigorous discussion, the Middle East Study Committee (MESC) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has approved its final report to the 219th General Assembly (2010). The MESC met the 120-day deadline of March 5, 2010, for submitting its work.

The report, “Breaking Down Walls,” is being released in three parts based on the amount of time needed to copy edit and format the approximately 150-page document for the assembly.

The first part of the report, which contains the introduction and a series of letters to multiple audiences, is now available at www.pcusa.org/middleeastpeace.

“We begin our report with these letters because we recognize that our ministry must be focused on relationships,” said the Reverend Ron Shive (Salem Presbytery), chairperson of the committee. “Our primary audience is the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). But we know that others are eager to read our report and will bring their own expectations. We want to speak directly to them so that they hear the rest of what we say in light of this conversation.”

A biblical/theological section will be released on Monday, March 8, and the remainder of the report, including policy recommendations, will be released on Wednesday, March 10.

The MESC was established by the 218th General Assembly (2008) to “prepare a comprehensive study, with recommendations, focused on Israel/Palestine within the complex context of the Middle East.” The Reverend Bruce Reyes-Chow, Moderator of the 218th General Assembly, appointed the nine-member committee in consultation with the two previous Moderators.

Part one of the report contains eight individual letters to the ecumenical and interfaith community, as well as to Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans.

“We have our points of agreement and disagreement with each of these audiences,” said Shive. “We don’t shy away from that. Instead, we want to move past misunderstandings and misinterpretations so that we can have substantive conversations on issues of world peace that matter to us all.”

One of the letters is addressed to “Our American Jewish Friends.” In it, the committee speaks of both their support for Israel as a state and their distress over the Israeli Occupation. “It’s the honest tension in which we live,” Shive said. “Our underlying principle here is rooted in Scripture and ‘speaking the truth in love.’ It’s not the easiest road; but it’s the faithful path. And there’s hope in that.”

The Middle East Study Committee report will be considered by the 219th General Assembly (2010), first in committee and then on the floor of the full assembly. If the General Assembly as a whole approves the report and recommendations, it will then become official PC(USA) policy.

The 219th General Assembly (2010) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (www.pcusa.org/ga219) will meet July 3-10, 2010, in Minneapolis, Minn.