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Every denomination needs one of these...

Thomas upset with portrayal of Middle-East resolution

Friday, June 29, 2007

Never one to accept praise gracefully, United Church of Christ President John Thomas is doing his best to destroy any chance for an interfaith relationship with the Jewish community. From UC News:
Expressing outrage at how some outside groups are distorting a recent action on the Middle East by the United Church of Christ General Synod, the Rev. John H. Thomas is calling on the Institute on Religion and Democracy and other groups to correct misleading statements about a proposal considered by the church's national gathering earlier this week.

The misleading statements, he said, have led some within and beyond the UCC to get the false impression that the General Synod has somehow changed its policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. "This is not accurate," said Thomas, the UCC's general minister and president.

"Press releases from the Institute on Religion and Democracy, Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East, the Anti-Defamation League and others reveal an ignorance of General Synod parliamentary process as well as a distorted understanding the long history of engagement by our church related to the conflict in the Middle East," Thomas told United Church News. "General Synod policy related to Israel and Palestine remains today what it was before our Synod convened."
Thomas and UC News's emphasis on the Institute on Religion and Democracy part in this is intended to make this a political rather than an interfaith issue. The Institute on Religion and Democracy had nothing to do with the proposed resolution which was submitted by a coalition of delegates that included lay people, clergy and a board member of the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries.

Despite Thomas's interpretation of the resolution, the reality is that it was a departure from the divestment and 'tear down the wall' resolution from the last General Synod. Thomas continues:
"While the proponents of the resolution clearly believe that current UCC understandings of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are too one-sided and need to be broadened," Thomas acknowledged, "the Executive Council, which made the recommendation to the plenary of the Synod, read the 'be it resolved' statements, which are the only binding parts of any Synod resolution, and deemed them to be consistent with existing General Synod policy."
The Executive Council probably screwed up. The new resolution was not consistent with existing General Synod policy as a study group was never been established to evaluate the conflict in detail. This new resolution establishes that study group and probably should have been set up all along.

You'll recall that at the last General Synod in Atlanta, a number of resolutions concerning divestment were submitted to the General Synod. The committee that was charged with studying these issues consolidated the divestment and investment resolutions and, after days of deliberations and study, proposed a single resolution that intentionally omitted any reference to divestment. That's when things got ugly.

The night before the vote on the new resolution, UCC President John Thomas (with Bennie Whiten, Jr., Peter Makari and Lydia Veliko) helped create a substitute resolution that inserted divestment language back into the resolution without consulting the committee that spent days studying the issue and without the advice of the Pensions Board of the UCC (who would be responsible for implementing any sort of divestment). The substitute resolution was presented to the plenary of the General Synod 30 minutes before the beginning of the session. With less than an hour of discussion, the General Synod approved the resolutions. The committee that was charged with studying the issue was outraged when the substitute resolution was presented.

The consequences of the national office (and particularly John Thomas) actions at General Synod 25 was enormous. As Mike Downs from UCC Pensions Board said in his letter to John Thomas, questions exist "with the precedent setting implications of voted actions, integrity of process and trust. What will the process be next week, next month or next Synod when an important matter with similar complexities must be considered for action?" Effectively, the deliberations of the committees at General Synod do not matter - if the national office doesn't agree with their findings, they will simply change the resolution. This is a violation of the spirit of General Synod and it's violation of the national office role in respecting the other covenanted bodies of the UCC. If the national office can exert this kind of influence arbitrarily, does General Synod really matter?

More history and reaction from the Jewish community on this will posted this afternoon.
posted by UCCtruths, Friday, June 29, 2007


As one of the writers of a press release COMMENDING the UCC, I find the machinations by John Thomas quite unbecoming. I have written a blog posting on the matter: http://jimberkley.blogspot.com/2007/06/how-dare-you-say-ucc-was-fair.html

Thank you for your vigilant work.


Jim Berkley
Director of Presbyterian Action
Institute on Religion and Democracy
commented by Blogger Jim, 11:32 PM  

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