Resolutely Reading: Politics

This is the fifth in a series of posts on the B, C, and D resolutions to be considered by the General Convention of the Episcopal Church this summer. It follows my series on the A resolutions of the “Blue” Book. The previous post in this series was about liturgy. Be sure to check out the index of all General Convention 2012 resolutions and the 7WD official position on them.

Christian PoliticsI wrote about political resolutions quite a bit already, since there are a bunch of them in the PANTONE 169 M book. You can read my stuff here, here, here, here, and here. The most important one of those posts features my principle on political resolutions. It’s not that I oppose lobbying inherently. Rather, I have questions about whether that is always the best strategy. And I believe that we as a church should get our own house in order first. Let’s get our own health plans sorted out before we dictate policy to others, etc.

I reiterate all this, because I don’t want someone to think I have an axe to grind against the Office of Government Relationss, who are known to do good work and are blessed by a wonderful staff. It’s just that I think it’s important to ask the question — and not to let ourselves off the easy way as a church. Sending a bunch of work to folks in Washington is easy for most of us. Actually changing our own reality to build the kingdom of God is harder, and I think we take the path of least resistance too often.

With that said, here are a bunch of B, C, and D resolutions on politics.

C026: Middle East Peace. Likely vote: NO.
I pray often for peace in the Middle East. Maybe not daily, but close to it. And yet I cannot support this resolution, which calls on various people to do various things. As I’ve written before, I agree with nearly everything this says. Israelis and Palestianians need to find a way to live peacefully with one another. That will involve two states. Etc., etc. But nowhere does this resolution say a single thing that will be done by the Episcopal Church, not even by OGR. It will do very little good to repeat what the Convention has often said. There are other Middle East peace resolutions I support, but not this one. Before you keep reading, take a moment, and pray for peace in the Middle East. Seriously. Stop. Pray. Now.

C038: Relief for the Homeless and Poor. Likely vote: YES.
This resolution almost doesn’t fit into what I’d broadly call political resolutions. The language is lovely, in fact, calling for parishes and dioceses to “form prayer- and study-groups to meet regularly for an extended period in order to discern what is the Church’s call to the homeless and the poor in this present era; to discover how our faith in the coming reign of God may be sustained and strengthened in these profoundly difficult days; to devise methods for challenging and changing systems that now severely limit our society’s potential for achieving a just distribution of the necessary means of life…” It goes on to call us to examine government policies and to devise appropriate responses. This is excellent: prayerful, rooted in God’s reign, and local in application while being global in view. Amen.

C060: Peace in Palestinian/Israeli Conflict. Likely vote: YES.
C061: Pursuing a Just Peace in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Likely vote: YES.
C062: Pursuit of Justice in the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict. Likely vote: YES.
C063: Pursuing a Just Peace in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Likely vote: YES.
C064: Pursuing a Just Peace in the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict. Likely vote: YES.
C065: Pursuing a Just Peace in the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict. Likely vote: YES.
C067: Pursuing a Just Peace in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. Likely vote: YES.
C092: Pursuing a Just Peace in the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict. Likely vote: YES.
C104: Pursuing a Just Peace in Palestinian/Israeli Conflict. Likely vote: YES.
These resolutions are almost identical with one another. There is some telling of others what to do, but mostly these resolutions are focused on what we as a church should do, including using our Washington office to speak out for us. I’m fine with that, because it’s part of a comprehensive strategy, including study and visits to the Middle East. My only wish would be that we’d also encourage listening to the Israeli Jewish side of things, not just the Palestinian Christian side. Mind you, I’m sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, but I think it’s important to listen to those with whom we disagree. Perhaps most especially to those with whom we disagree.

C077: Condemning the Practice of Wage Theft. Likely vote: YES.
From the title alone, long-term readers might have expected me to nix this one. However, it calls upon us as individuals and as a church to learn more about the pervasive problem of illegally underpaid and exploited workers. It also calls for one of my passions: learning more about the origin of the goods we purchase. When I’ve worked with youth (back in the days of yore when I was in parish ministry), I would sometimes challenge them to go to the mall and inquire about the workers who made shoes and clothes. Pretty interesting to have the follow-up conversations. “Wage theft” is a problem. We can learn more. We can do something to fix it. So, yes, I will support this one.

C079: Oppose Dangerous Fracking. Likely vote: NO.
As I said in my first mention of resolutions about fracking, we’re not talking about THAT fracking. While I agree that the real fracking is a problem, I cannot support a resolution which vaguely resolves, “That The Episcopal Church take leadership and oversight in a particular issue of environmental justice, namely [fracking].” If this said that we would stop buying natural gas that had been fracked (is that a word?), I would be more enthusiastic. But I just don’t see what good it does to say we don’t like something unless we’re willing to change our own behavior accordingly.

C086: Poverty. Likely vote: YES.
Tough call on this one. This resolution calls on us to do something about poverty, and the “something” is a bit vague for my taste. What has (barely) won me over is the beginning of the second resolve, “That The Episcopal Church, as it has in the cases of racism, sexism, and other areas of injustice, take concrete steps to achieve justice for the poor.” I feel that we’re pretty solid on our understand of the need to work on most of the -isms. But I don’t see much effort to make substantive change, for example, to welcome the poor into parish ministry. How many poor people do you see on vestries or altar guilds or, closer to home, at General Convention? We’re not exactly building the kingdom when it comes to our inclusion of the poor in the life of the church. Time to at least talk about that.

D003: Gun Free Zones. Likely vote: YES, as long as it does’t get amended to read Gunn Free Zones.
Short and to the point: “That the 77th General Convention calls for every parish and every diocesan place of work to declare their establishments as Gun Free Zones.” Yes. It asks us to do something, and that something is clear. It will witness to the world. Yes, there will be problems (the ministry which requires police protection, for example), but I love the idea of this happening.

D005: Rule of Law for Terrorists. Likely vote: NO.
This one tells POTUS to catch bad guys. And it reiterates several times that terrorists are bad. As if that was in question. I don’t see much impact from this, and it falls into the “puppies and chocolate” category of resolutions, albeit from the opposite point of view.

D011: Reform Unequal Immigration Law. Likely vote: YES, but only if amended.
The first resolve tells governments what to do. The second one asks parishes and dioceses “to pray for, support, and advocate for the immigrants, refugees, and strangers in their communities, including lesbian and gay families facing unwanted moves, deportation or being split apart due to unequal treatment of same-gender couples under federal immigration law.” No doubt, the treatment of immigrants and strangers among us is one of the great biblical mandates, too often ignored by people who claim to pattern their lives after the Word of God. It’s hard to argue with our need to do all the things this resolution calls for. One current problem in US law is that a gay or lesbian couple is treated differently from a male-female couple when it comes to deportation. This is a violation of basic principles of human dignity, even if one didn’t support same-sex relationships. My problems with this resolution are that it assumes we only care about the US, and it tells governments what to do. So if we fix this to be international in scope, and if we focus on our own response, I will gladly support this.

3 Comments so far

  1. Don Collins Reed on June 27th, 2012

    The “Just Peace in the Palestinian/Israeli Conflict” resolutions (C060 etc.) appear to be designed to do two things: provide official TEC commendation of the documents they mention (“Kairos Palestine” and “Steadfast Hope”) and take a first step toward BDS (boycott, divestment, & sanctions).

    “Kairos Palestine” and “Steadfast Hope” are anti-Israeli. They tell one side of the story. But there is fault on both sides, as well as good intentions and hopes for peace among many on each side. Commending these documents would have the effect of providing TEC endorsement of a problematically biased perspective on the conflict.

    BDS is not the most effective way toward peace. The Palestinians have suffered and have experienced oppression. Israelis have suffered as well. Neither is pure. But the way to build peace is to invest in the Palestinian economy, perhaps especially in small and medium enterprises — not to seek retribution against one side. The more the Palestinians are able to enjoy the fruits of their own labors, the better their lives will be. BDS, on the other hand, may only make things worse by giving Palestinians incentive to continue the struggle and by giving Israelis reason to feel more isolated in the international community and more defensive at home.

    Let’s support investment, not retribution.

  2. George Clifford on June 27th, 2012

    Resolution D005, which I strongly encourage you and others to support, expresses support for relying on a law enforcement strategy and tactics to end international terrorism rather than a military strategy and warfighting tactics. The latter have proven ineffective in Iraq and Afghanistan. The former proved effective in stopping terrorists that include both Osama bin Laden and Carlos the Jackal while protecting the lives and rights of the innocent.

  3. Paul Theerman on July 4th, 2012

    Re: D003. On Sunday we welcome to our early worship a member of the parish, a policeman, in uniform, on his way to work, complete with his requisite firearm. I don’t think we can ask him to check his weapon at the door, for if he is in uniform he must be completely in uniform. Yet I think we ought not to put this barrier in his way. This resolution seems reflexive: only designed to push a hot-button issue (is there currently a problem with guns in church that must be addressed?) It will likely be offensive, or at least off-putting, to many law enforcement and military personnel, and sportsmen, and to what end? It will have little practical effect, I suspect.(And for what it’s worth, I support strong gun control laws, and I don’t use firearms.)