On Prophetic and messages otherwise given to Executive Councl

A group of high powered, well known leaders in The Episcopal Church have signed on to a letter, from "Episcopal Voices of Conscience" titled, "A Prophetic Challenge to the Executive Council." It is a rowser.   Read it HERE.

The signatures include: 
Canon Bonnie Anderson, D.D., President of the Episcopal Church House of Deputies, 2006-2012
Owanah Anderson, citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
The Right Reverend Edmond L. Browning, former Presiding Bishop, 1986-1997, Current President of Sabeel, North America
Patti Browning , wife of Edmond Browning and long time activist for Palestinian justice
The Right Reverend Steven Charleston, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Alaska, retired
The Right Reverend Leo Frade, Bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Southeast Florida
The Reverend Canon Brian J. Grieves, former Peace and Justice Officer, The Episcopal Church 1988-2009
The Very Rev. Gary Hall, Dean, Washington National Cathedral
Diane B. Pollard, Senior Deputy to General Convention, Diocese of New York, 1979 – 2012
The Right Reverend Gene Robinson, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire, retired, current Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, Washington, DC
The Reverend Canon Edward Rodman, John Seeley Stone Professor of Pastoral Theology and Urban Ministry, Episcopal Divinity School
The Reverend Winnie Varghese, Rector, St. Mark’s in- the-Bowery, New York, Executive Council 2006-2012
Supported by Internationals endorsers:
Dr. Jenny Te Paa – Dean, Te Rau Kahikatea, St. Johns College, Auckland, New Zealand
The Most Reverend Desmond Tutu – Archbishop Emeritus, Cape Town, Patron of Sabeel, International

This cast of giants believe that the current Episcopal Church position, actions and engagement with the problem of justice in Palestine have fallen far short of both expectations and the challenge to act prophetically in support of justice denied for the people of Palestine. They want Executive Council to take what is fairly clear and long term Episcopal Church support for a two state solution in the Palestine / Israel and give it more teeth. They are stressing the need to engage the possibilities of boycott as a strategy and the demand for immediate accountability by Israel for the funding received from The United States.  The groups states the following "asking."

 "As elected leaders of The Episcopal Church, we ask Executive Council to:
  • Immediately send a message to Congress that the Episcopal Church supports our 15 ecumenical colleagues, who include the church leadership of the Lutheran, Presbyterian, Methodist, and United Church of Christ denominations, that wrote to Congress October 5, 2012, calling for accountability of Israel’s use of foreign aid from our government. The voice of The Episcopal Church is woefully missing in the request our colleagues made to Congress.
  • Immediately move forward with our Church’s corporate engagement policy so that our financial resources are not being used to support the infrastructure of this suffocating occupation.
  • We respectfully ask for a public accounting of the Executive Council’s work on these matters no later than the meeting of Council June 8-10, 2013.

 Prior to the publication of this document the Presiding Officers of Executive Council saw a draft of the document and through the Episcopal News Service made their voices known. The article is titled, "Draft letter on Israel-Palestine is problematic, presiding officers say."

At the core of their concern is this, as summed up by ENS:
"Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings have said that a draft letter pressing the Executive Council to intervene in the implementation of the Episcopal Church’s policies on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is extremely unhelpful and disregards due legislative processes."

The writer of the ENS article may rightly have led with this observation summing up the thinking of the two presiding officers, but in doing so have turned the "Prophetic Challenge" into a troublesome problem- something that "is extremely unhelpful and disregards due legislative process."

This is, as they say, amazingly, unfeeling. The feeling on the ground is pretty universal: Palestenians are being treated like shit. There continue to be new communities built in the occupied territories, the wall is an outrage. The list goes on.  So the Presiding Officers seem to be replying to a stirring to Justice by a complaint that their expressing is "unhelpful and disregards due legislative process."

The signers are among the most justice oriented members of this church.  I would be proud to number myself among them, but was not asked. Oh well.

But there they are. They have stated their concern, and well.  The objection from the Presiding Officers seems to be that these are borderline out of order.  General Convention only a few months ago did what it did, and The Episcopal Church leaders are following through with what was admittedly a mixed message.  The limits to new legislation in 2012 was the objection to the use of methods to limit US business investment in or shareholder support of any activity in Israel or Palestine that supports the continued policies that make justice impossible

Well that was then and now is now.

I see no reason why a concerned group, claiming prophetic powers, cannot ask Executive Council to consider moving beyond what General Convention could do. House of Deputies President Gay Jennings said, 

 “Just as we don’t proof-text Scripture, we don’t proof-text resolutions, and our polity does not provide Executive Council as an appellate process,” Jennings told ENS after seeing a copy of the draft letter. “Each triennium, however, faithful Episcopalians who disagree with a decision of General Convention work to craft new legislation for a new convention, and that process is open to all of us.” 

She is right. And, if the signers were in fact asking that Executive Council be part of "an appellate process," she would be right to object to this coming up.  However the signers, and the message signed, are not a claim to appeal. They are a claim to something else. 

They say: "We ask the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church to look carefully at the full body of our Church’s policy on Israel and Palestine, and to implement those policies whenever the opportunity arises."

As any good prophetic band should do they are not pushing for new visions of justice alone. This is not appeal. They are pushing for implementation of what we already know justice requires. This is not appeal. This is confrontation.

Executive Council needs to confront the core of the message the group issuing this "Prophetic Challenge" is putting forth.  We have a justice call already in place regarding Israel and Palestine. At the very least we need to push for the things we have agreed on - namely accountability by Israel for its use of funds and the application of our already existing pledges concerning corporate responsibility through our investments in any activities in the world where struggle and war are so much the norm.

My sense is that the writers have respectfully and properly asked Executive Council to look at matters properly within EC venue.  If Executive Council believes exploring these two matters involves a violation of restrictions growing from legislation in 2012, fine. Let them after discussion say so. If they get it - that the Prophetic Call arises from the reality felt on the ground - that Palestinian peoples are at every turn being beaten into the ground, ground for which they have rights unheard and aspirations unrecognized. 

But they are not "unhelpful" nor do they disregard "due legislative process."  



  1. Just for the record. Many episcopalians look onto this exchange and conclude it is a travesty on both sides. 'Giants' of justice tilting against 'Giants' of justice who are one inch shorter. Is this the Episcopal Church leadership? Perhaps Title IV could be wheeled in and people could file complaints against each other and have them sent to a conciliator for arbitration.

    Lord have mercy.


  2. Just out of curiosity. Is your point that the PB is overreaching and that this is also true of other exercises of her office? How do you draw the line, is my question? Why is it OK for the PB to claim special authority to have legal standing in the State of SC; or to send amicus Bishops to conciliation events, but not to speak as she has here? Isn't it fairly clear that once she is given leeway to exercise quasi metropolitical authority here, she'll be inclined to do the same there? That is, the office will have begun to be something other than 'presiding' and the incumbent will get used to it.

    Why is that a surprise?


  3. Dear Mark,

    I just saw this post for the first time now.

    Thank you for it. I did my best in the Advocacy & Networking Committee and in plenary to get a wider range of possible responses considered. I regret that I failed, but am proud nonetheless to have done what I could.

    "Due regard for the legislative process" should include due consideration of feedback from others -- especially others with the wisdom and experience of the "Prophetic Challenge." But while hours of presentations on the subject were scheduled during our very limited committee time, there was very little time allotted for discussion.

    Less than half an hour -- an 8:00 a.m. session held in the plenary room on the last day of the meeting, which started late and had to conclude before Morning Prayer started in the same room at 8:30 -- was allowed for offering and considering any amendments to the resolution our A&N chair gave us the previous afternoon. It wasn't enough time to give full consideration to a single amendment, let alone any substitute resolutions.

    I left the meeting set upon honing my skills with Robert's Rules and in "cutting to the chase" -- and also deeply disappointed in our process surrounding our consideration of the Israel/Palestine resolution. I'm sure every individual involved was doing her/his best, but our process forced A&N and Council as a whole to made a decision regarding a lengthy and potentially complicated resolution that we were told (and I agree) was very important in a very, very great hurry (I was repeatedly told that it was urgent to act specifically because the "Voices of Conscience" letter had been issued) AND as a simple binary choice.

    I don't think that faithful Episcopalians expressing opinions about how Council could better accomplish our canonically mandated work poses any harm to our democratic polity. I think feedback like that enhances our polity. I hope in the future, we on Council can be more welcoming of voices across the church.




OK... Comments, gripes, etc welcomed, but with some cautions and one rule:
Cautions: Calling people fools, idiots, etc, will be reason to bounce your comment. Keeping in mind that in the struggles it is difficult enough to try to respect opponents, we should at least try.