On this page:
• The Resolution
• Thank You letter from Kairos Palestine to the UCC
• UCC PIN Resources for background and further study
• Reporting by the UCC and other news outlets
• Condemnation from opponents
United Church of Christ General Synod 2021 adopts bold resolution naming Israeli oppression of Palestinians as “apartheid” and “sin.”
Successful effort led by UCC Palestine Israel Network (UCC PIN)
This action by the UCC set a new standard for the church movement for Palestinian rights. By speaking the truth of Israel’s actions without qualification and declaring without reservation the duty of the church to respond accordingly, the denomination has challenged not only its own members but churches in the United States and the world at large to do the same. In response to this groundbreaking document, defenders of Israel’s crimes could only sputter in protest, hauling out tired arguments because they have nothing more to say in the face of the churches inevitable, unstoppable stand for justice.
The UCC Declaration adopts the premises, theological principles, and action imperatives of the 2020 “Cry for Hope” of Kairos Palestine and Global Kairos for Justice. It removes, once and for all, any distance between the cry of an oppressed, dispossessed people and the commitment of a Christian denomination to respond to that cry. It directs members of the UCC and its congregations and its bodies at all levels to challenge the ways in which the Bible or tenets of the Christian faith are used to promote or justify oppression, dispossession or racial supremacy in study, liturgy or preaching.
DECLARATION FOR A JUST PEACE BETWEEN PALESTINE AND ISRAEL
The resolution calls on the General Synod to adopt a Declaration on the Requirements for a Just Peace Between Palestine and Israel articulating the principles that must be in place and honored in any future just and peaceful relationship between Israel and Palestine. The Declaration affirms that justice, understood both as adherence to the message of the Hebrew prophets and the life and teachings of Jesus, as well as to applicable international laws, is the fundamental and requisite principle which must guide a peaceful future for Israel and Palestine. It rejects a future imposed by military power, illegal occupation and dispossession, or unilateral annexation of land and the use of an imperialistic theology as justification. The Declaration pronounces Israel’s continued oppression of the Palestinian people a sin, incompatible with the Gospel. It further calls upon Local Churches, Conferences, and Associations to adopt this Declaration as their plumbline to guide their support for the aspirations of our partners in the region and their advocacy with the United States’ government for policies consistent with these principles.
Download the full resolution
Thank You letter from Christians in Palestine
The board and staff of Kairos Palestine are delighted and encouraged to learn of the United Church of Christ’s overwhelming passage of the resolution, “Declaration for a Just Peace Between Palestine and Israel,” at its Thirty-third General Synod.
It’s more than a sign of solidarity. We receive the Synod’s vote as a bold act of faith and conscience, precedent-setting among denominations in North America.
See the full letter
UCC PIN has developed a wonderful collection of resources to help individuals and congregations understand this church declaration and gain greater knowledge of the issues it addresses. Materials include an interactive presentation, Frequently Asked Questions, a Resolution Study & Reflection Guide, Implementation Guide, and more. See them at the UCC PIN website.
Synod delegates approve resolution decrying oppression of Palestinian people
July 19, 2021 – The United Church of Christ “Special Edition” General Synod on Sunday evening approved a resolution decrying oppression of Palestinian people as a matter of faith, but not before a debate over whether calling that oppression “apartheid” and naming it a “sin” was too inflammatory.
The committee that considered the resolution had recommended delegates approve an amended version that softened the tone of what had originally been presented by six churches. But delegates reversed two of three major changes the committee made before approving the resolution by a vote of 462 to 78, with 18 abstentions.
The commitee’s chair, the Rev. Elliot Munn of the Vermont Conference, said there was strong consensus in favor of the resolution, except around those particular words.
“Some folks wanted to maintain the initial language of the resolution, which offered
an unambiguous prophetic vision. Others were more cautious about how particular words would affect their interfaith friends and colleagues,” he said.
The committee had “struck language identifying the oppression of Palestinians as a sin, and struck language that identified Israel as an apartheid state,” he said. The committee also changed a call to eliminate all aid from the United States to Israel, instead calling to eliminate “military aid” only, a revision that stayed in the final version.
UCC officers speak to ‘Just Peace’ declaration affirmed by GS
by UCC Leadership
A message to the United Church of Christ and the wider community,
The United Church of Christ’s 33rd General Synod, held virtually this past week (July 11-18), considered and adopted a resolution (pending final ratification of General Synod minutes by the UCC Board) entitled, “Declaration for a Just Peace between Palestine and Israel.” The Declaration was adopted with overwhelming support (462 yeas-78 nays-18 abstentions). It established a new plumbline (a theological concept used by the prophet Amos) for the UCC’s engagement with the issue of Israel/Palestine – an issue dear to us for our connections of faith history, our two centuries of mission engagement, our current mission relationships with primarily Palestinian Christian partners, and our commitment to peace and justice.
The Declaration names guiding principles of human and civil rights, and international law and conventions, as well as an examination of theologies that have been used to discriminate and oppress. The Declaration is strong and clear in its force and effect. It responds to the cries of Palestinian Christian partners, acknowledging their voices, even as we know that it may cause tension in some of our interreligious relationships, especially in the American Jewish community.
Mainline church labels Israel an Apartheid state, and more churches are sure to follow
By Steve France
July 22, 2021 – So much bad news is hitting Israel’s leaders, so fast, these days, that they may have overlooked warnings by the American Jewish Committee (AJC), among others, that the United Church of Christ General Synod was considering becoming the first major U.S. denomination to label Israel an apartheid state. The Zionist shock and outrage didn’t have the intensity of the meltdown over the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream affair, which came at the same time, but the UCC’s condemnation of Israeli treatment of the Palestinians is sure to resonate with the other mainline American churches — and their millions of members.
The UCC “A-bomb” simply said, “We reject Israel’s apartheid system of laws and legal procedures,” but it passed late in the day July 18 with an overwhelming 83% vote and was part of a long and unsparing indictment.
Read more at Mondoweiss
AJC is panicked by United Church of Christ’s solidarity with Palestinians under settler-colonialism
by Mark Braverman
[Editor’s note: for background on this piece, see below two opposition pieces from the American Jewish Committee (AJC)]
August 24, 2021 – American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris is scared. Earlier this month he sounded the alarm about the “antisemitic leftwing tide that is sweeping up vulnerable Jews.” Harris’ over-the-top warnings (young Jews on campuses are being “picked off” by antisemites!) illustrates how panicked the Jewish establishment is about the erosion of support for Israel, not only among young Jews but with long-time, reliable allies in the mainline churches.
This explains the August 16th piece by Harris’ Director of Media Relations Kenneth Bandler, slamming the resolution on Israel recently adopted by the United Church of Christ:
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been a longstanding favorite in the biennial General Synod…Last month the group did not disappoint its adherents or others who believe Israel is singularly responsible for the current situation. It generated yet another resolution condemning Israel in many ways while never asking the Palestinians to also take responsibility and do something to resolve the conflict, to advance peace.
Here Bandler pulls the first straw man out of his box of talking points. It’s a straw man because his argument is not responsive to anything contained in the resolution itself — it’s there so he can change the subject. The UCC resolution does not concern itself with the question of responsibility for “the current situation.” Given the purpose of the resolution, that would be ridiculous, bordering on the obscene. Rather, it throws light on the huge power asymmetry between Israel and its colonial subjects.
Read more at Mondoweiss
UCC leads the Christian march to justice for Palestinians
August 4, 2021 – Human rights advocates have been using the word “apartheid” to describe Israel for years, but sometimes it makes folks uncomfortable. It’s not a word to use lightly. Is it legitimate?
In fact, as long ago as 1961, the prime minister of South Africa declared, “Israel, like South Africa, is an apartheid state” – and he should know.
In the 1980s and 1990s, a number of academics (some of them Israeli) also used the word. Especially after Israel implemented a checkpoint-and-permit policy (mid-90s) and built a wall around the West Bank (started early 2000s – read about it here), the word was used more frequently – except in the US.
In 2009, the Human Sciences Research Center of South Africa (HSRCSA) released the results of a 15-month-long study, grounded in international law, comparing South Africa to Israel. Its findings were conclusive: YES, it is apartheid – and colonialism (read a summary of the study, and the definition of apartheid, here).
Read more at Patheos
EPF-PIN Supports Landmark United Church of Christ Resolution on Israeli Apartheid
August 2, 2021 – The Episcopal Peace Fellowship-Palestine Israel Network (EPF-PIN) applauds the delegates to General Synod of the United Church of Christ (UCC) for being the first church body to name as apartheid the framework of Israeli laws and actions toward its Palestinian citizens and those living in the occupied Palestinian Territories of east Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip.
AJC Condemns United Church of Christ (UCC) Resolution Slamming Israel
July 18, 2021 – American Jewish Committee (AJC) condemns the United Church of Christ (UCC) General Synod resolution entitled, “Declaration for a Just Peace Between Palestine and Israel,” adopted today by a vote of 462 to 78. The measure demonizes Israel, fails to offer a credible
path to Israeli-Palestinian peace, and undermines advances in Christian-Jewish relations.
The United Church of Christ’s Obsession With Israel
This piece originally appeared in The Jerusalem Post.
August 16, 2021 – Before the United Church of Christ General Synod adopted a resolution panning Israel, the American denomination demanded that the United States end its “illegal occupation of the Hawaiian Islands.”
Reaffirming the group’s commitment “to stand alongside and in support of the efforts of Native Hawaiians to seek redress and restitution for the war crimes of the U.S. against the Hawaiian Kingdom,” the General Synod directed the UCC’s general counsel to communicate the church’s position on the 50th state to “local, national and international leaders and organizations.”
No democratic nation is perfect, and the U.S. has been atoning for a long time, and still is, for its maltreatment of some minorities. But the Hawaii resolution, like the one in support of the Palestinians, showed the UCC penchant for siding with select aggrieved populations. Of course, native Hawaiians do not seek an end to the U.S., as some Palestinians do of Israel.