Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Reflecting on PCUSA Divestment Vote

In view of the vote at the recent Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (PCUSA) gathering in favor of divestment from certain companies involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, the Working Group on the Middle East decided at its June 25 meeting to revisit questions related to divestment:

(a) can the posture of WGME be to simply "stand aside" from the question of divestment?

(b) should our posture be one of actively investigating the pros and cons of divestment?

(c) do we feel consensus around a pro-BDS position?

(d) what should our role be in providing education around issues relating to divestment?

We note, in particular, that two of the firms affected by the PCUSA vote are Illinois companies: Caterpillar and Motorola Solutions. (See "By slim margin, Assembly approves divestment from three companies doing business in Israel/Palestine" on the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) website.)

We have scheduled further study at upcoming meetings of the Working Group:

July Meeting (Wednesday, July 30, 2 p.m., 6850 W Addison): Lessons from the PCUSA divestment debate and decision.

August Meeting (Wednesday, August 27, 2 p.m., 6850 W Addison ): Presentation by Ed Thompson on "positive investment" and his recent trip developing a new group, Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy.

Interested people are encouraged to attend these presentations/discussions.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Metro Chicago Young Adult Holy Land Trip 2015

Join us for a young adult trip to Palestine and Israel and embark upon a pilgrimage of justice and peace in the Holy Land.

Janelle Neubauer and Ulysses Burley would like to invite Metro Chicago Synod Lutheran young adults (age 18-30) to apply for the Metro Chicago Synod Young Adult Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, May 29 - June 9, 2015. This is an opportunity to travel to Palestine and Israel on an experiential learning trip with other young adults for the purpose of building awareness around issues of justice and peace in the Holy Land.

Peace Not Walls is a campaign of the ELCA that was adopted in 2005 to urge members, congregations, synods and the churchwide organization to stand for justice in the Holy Land. The campaign focuses on accompaniment, awareness-building, and advocacy. This trip is the product of a partnership between Peace Not Walls and Young Adult Ministry which was developed to create a network of young adults who lead trips for their peers to the Holy land with the express purposes of:

1.Accompanying local Lutherans and Christians in Israel and Palestine;
2.Educating participants about the conflict in Israel and Palestine;
3.Sharing the religious, political and social history of the region;
4.Deepening faith and identity of travelers as they build relationships with global neighbors;
5.Connecting with the ELCA's efforts through the Peace Not Walls Campaign by practicing accompaniment, raising awareness and engaging in advocacy;
6.Building a base of individuals who not only travel but return home to engage their local contexts in issues of peace and justice.

The basics:

When: May 29- June 9, 2015 (travel days included)

What will we do in Palestine and Israel? We will visit key sites in and around Jerusalem and seek to build relationships with local Lutherans and other Christians engaged in the pursuit of peace in the Holy Land. We will connect with Palestinians and Israelis working for peace and justice.

Where will we stay? To be determined.

Cost: The cost of lodging, food, and travel in country will be approximately $1200. Airfare (into Tel Aviv, Israel) will be approximately $1000. Approximate Total cost: $2200 (Subject to change).

What will we do in the US? We will meet via conference call, video conference, and retreat before and after the trip to learn about the historical, religious, socio-political, and cultural context of the region, leadership development, advocacy, and community organizing.

What are my responsibilities? Everyone who joins the trip will be encouraged to facilitate local engagement with the Peace Not Walls campaign in partnership with the Metro Chicago Synod Working Group on the Middle East.

Please fill out the online application to be considered for this opportunity. We are looking forward to receiving your submission!

The deadline for applications is November 30, 2014.

Email Janelle Neubauer and Ulysses Burley with any questions ( and

Saturday, June 7, 2014

WGME and Metro Chicago Synod: "Into All the World . . . "

Members of the Working Group on the Middle East attended the annual assembly of the Metro Chicago Synod of the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) to tell people about the work of the group and invite enlarged participation.

The theme of this year's MCS synod assembly was "Into All the World."

WGME members answered questions at a display table that provided literature and displayed a poster about notable recent activities of the group, such as the Brant Rosen talk in February and participation in the 8th Day Good Friday Justice Walk in April.

WGME members Janelle Neubauer and Ulysses Burley held a workshop for assembly attendees to introduce them to the youth trip to the Holy Land, scheduled for June 2015.

The WGME members helped get the Friday morning plenary rolling with a "mission moment," featuring a video by Pastor Darryl Thompson Powell of the 8th Day Good Friday Justice Walk, with WGME members displaying hand-crafted posters of the separation wall art, and the following narration read by Joe Scarry:

One of the ministries of the Working Group this year involved joining with the 8th Day Center for Justice in their Good Friday prayer walk. Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Chicago to walk Stations of the Cross in the name of justice.

Our mission states: “Led by the Holy Spirit, [we] educate and urge the Metropolitan Chicago Synod to advocate actively for justice for Palestine and Israel.” We go “Into All the World”, even to downtown Chicago, to promote justice and peace in the Middle East.

The Working Group sponsored Station #5, the Weeping Women. More than 40 ELCA members from across the synod joined us as we led prayers and raised awareness about the concerns that make Palestinian women weep. Nine ELCA women-in-black symbolically wept beside 19 posters prepared by ELCA youth and seminary students. These posters, including the 2 on each side of the screens, represent what is found on Israel’s Separation Barrier. The art is a sign of protest, an invitation to peace, and a lament that the world has forgotten them.

Listen to the words of Abed whose community organization works within the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem.

[“And instead of complaining that everything is bad and always the fault of someone else and waiting for miracles to happen, we need to work to make miracles happen and provoke them to happen.”]

In other words, God’s work. Our hands.

We appreciate your ongoing support of the Working Group. Visit our exhibit. Attend the workshop led by Ulysses Burley and Janelle Neubauer. Ask about the trip they will lead to the Holy Land.

Thanks to all the WGME members for helping to spread the word about the activities of the working group! See you at our upcoming June meeting to plan for the future!