Sunday, June 14, 2015

More Church Politics - and a Victory!

So, as you have may have heard, on Friday (June 12), the Oregon/Idaho Conference of the United Methodist Church passed a resolution to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett Packard with 57% of the vote.  Needless to say, we who worked on this resolution are all “over the moon,” a favourite British expression that expresses perfectly how I feel right now!

Saturday, we followed up this victory by getting three more resolutions passed – two of which will send the issue of divestment to the church’s General Conference (the Methodist quadrennial convention that will be held in Portland next May).  And, as e-mails fly back and forth, I hear from other United Methodist conferences who are passing resolutions relating to justice in Palestine – and hope surges.

Harvesting olives in Wadi Fuquin - before the IDF incursion
Then we learned that Wadi Fuquin, a Palestinian village with which the Methodist church has a partnership relationship, had land bulldozed and crops destroyed earlier this week ( ).  Ironically – or maybe not! – the bulldozers were made by Caterpillar, one of the very companies that we have just voted to divest from!  Is it cynical to “thank” the IDF for actions that spurred conversation (and possibly even victory!) on the floors of church conferences across the country?

For even as we in Oregon are voting for justice over profits so, too, are Methodist conferences in places as diverse as Pennsylvania and Georgia.  And so, too is the UCC church, whose bodies in Minnesota and Massachusetts were also passing divestment resolutions in anticipation of their church’s national conference later this month. 

In each setting, the situation was slightly different – different rules, different personalities, different legislation and different people listening and responding to the arguments “for” and “against.” 

In our particular conference, one “against” speaker cited Palestinian terrorism and “thousands of years of instability which will probably require military intervention to resolve.”  Another, pastor of a church in Boise where Hewlett Packard has a plant, cried that HP was a “good partner” to their outreach efforts and he didn’t want to close them down.  While I don’t think many were swayed by either speaker, it does point out that education on this issue is badly needed. 

A replica of the Wall was on display at Annual Conference
On the “for” side, a pastor recently returned from a Holy Land Study Trip (conducted jointly by Methodists in Oregon and Nebraska), spoke eloquently about what she’d seen in Wadi Fukin just a few months ago, and how she felt when she’d read about the IDS incursion the morning of the vote.  Another woman cited the Vatican’s refusal to act when they were aware of the Holocaust as an example as to why we needed to act now.

Three JVP members were in the audience when we were discussing and voting.  They had earlier made a presentation to a laity session and had also been a presence – wearing their distinctive t-shirts and buttonholing folks for impromptu conversations – and we give them a lot of credit for the victory, along with members of the Holy Land Task Force (which I have had the honor of chairing for the past two years), the Methodist Federation for Social Action and United Methodist Kairos Response.  Oh yes, let’s not forget the IDF, whose timely bulldozing in Wadi Fukin provided some excellent talking points!  

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