Brethren Leader Signs on to Letter Encouraging Peace in Israel and Palestine

Church of the Brethren Newsline
June 5, 2009

Church of the Brethren general secretary Stan Noffsinger has signed on to the following ecumenical letter to President Obama about peace in Israel and Palestine, at the invitation of Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP). The letter encourages the President’s vigorous leadership for peace on the occasion of his speech in Egypt on June 4. CMEP has worked with Ron Sider, a leader in the Evangelical community, and William Shaw, a leader from the historic African-American church tradition, in circulating the letter to a broad list of Christian traditions, according to a report from Warren Clark, executive director.

Following is the full text of the letter and the list of signers:

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House Washington, DC 20500

June 4, 2009

Dear Mr. President,

As American Christian leaders with a shared commitment to a just and lasting Israeli-Palestinian peace, we have come together at a time of great opportunity and urgency. After decades of tragic conflict, many Israelis and Palestinians despair of the possibility of peace, yet with your determined leadership we believe the promise of two viable, secure and independent states can be realized.

We commend your message to the people of the Middle East and your challenge to all of us to work for Holy Land peace as we seek to build a more positive future for the people of the region and the world. We are grateful that you have identified resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a top priority and made clear your Administration’s commitment to sustained, hands-on diplomacy. As you embark on peace efforts, we ask you to provide a clear framework for an end to the conflict, help Israelis and Palestinians make the difficult decisions necessary to achieve lasting peace, and hold both parties to account when they fail to honor their commitments.

Mr. President, you have assumed office at one of the most critical moments in the long history of this conflict. While the international community and majorities of the Israeli and Palestinian people are all committed to a two state solution as the best option for achieving peace and security, the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

Continued settlement growth and expansion are rapidly diminishing any possibility for the creation of a viable Palestinian state. The targeting of Israeli civilians through ongoing rocket fire and the insistent rejection by some of Israel’s right to exist reinforces the destructive status quo. These actions, along with the route of the separation barrier, movement restrictions, and continued home demolitions, serve to undermine Palestinians and Israelis alike who seek peace. As hope dims, the threat of violence grows and hardliners are strengthened.

We share a common commitment to all the people of the Holy Land—Jews, Christians and Muslims— and are particularly concerned with the plight of the Palestinian Christian community. In the birthplace of our faith, one of the world’s oldest Christian communities is dwindling rapidly, and with them the possibility of a day when three thriving faith communities live in shared peace in Jerusalem. Mr. President, it is apparent that unless there is an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement Christians in the Holy Land may cease to exist as a viable community.

Now is indeed the time for immediate and bold American leadership. Fruitful diplomacy will require U.S. engagement with a Palestinian unity government committed to peace with the state of Israel. We commend your important statements pressing both Israel and the Palestinians to live up to their obligations, and we urge your Administration to continue to bolster Palestinian capacity to halt violence and continue to demonstrate firm dedication to a viable Palestinian state by exhibiting no tolerance for Israeli settlement activity.

While working to end rocket attacks against the people of southern Israel, the U.S. should also seek immediate relief for the population of Gaza—living in rubble and without basic necessities—by ending restrictions on humanitarian goods and opening the borders to reconstruction material, commerce and transit in a secure manner.

We welcome your call for people on both sides to recognize the pain and aspirations of the other. Because of this conflict many have lost the ability to see the other as human beings worthy of dignity and respect. An entire generation of Israelis and Palestinians has grown up amidst violence and hatred. We pledge to join with you to work with and support those in both societies who seek peace, justice, and security, standing beside those who hope for a better future for themselves and for the generations that follow.

The current political stalemate and declining situation on the ground demonstrate that Israelis and Palestinians cannot reach a negotiated agreement without a strong, helping hand. We urge your Administration to present proposals that go beyond the mere principle of two states and lay out a just and equitable solution that provides dignity, security and sovereignty for both peoples. Moreover, we appreciate your strong support for a comprehensive peace and we look forward to diplomatic efforts to build upon the historic Arab Peace Initiative, with its offer of recognition and normalization of relations with Israel in exchange for an end to the occupation.

There is no greater work than the Psalmist’s call to “seek peace and pursue it” and no more critical time than now to finally end the conflict in the Holy Land (Ps. 34:14). We stand ready to support your bold action and are rallying Christians nationwide around robust U.S. peacemaking efforts to achieve Israeli-Palestinian peace. Our prayers and mutual commitment are with you in this difficult and most important task.


The Rev. Dr. Jimmy R. Allen, Coordinator, New Baptist Covenant

The Most Rev. Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)

David Black, President, Eastern University

Bishop Wayne Burkette, Moravian Church in America, Southern Province

Tony Campolo, Speaker, Eastern University, St. Davids, PA

Sr. J. Lora Dambroski, OSF President, Leadership Conference of Women Religious

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America Primate Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Marie Dennis, Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns

Dr. Joy Fenner, Former President, Baptist General Convention of Texas

Leighton Ford, President, Leighton Ford Ministries

Israel L. Gaither, Commissioner, National Commander, The Salvation Army

Rev. Dr. David Emmanuel Goatley, Executive Secretary-Treasurer, Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Convention

Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, General Secretary, Reformed Church in America

Ken Hackett, President, Catholic Relief Services

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and President, Lutheran World Federation

Dennis Hollinger, President, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Most Rev. Howard J. Hubbard, Bishop of Albany and Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Dr. Joel C. Hunter, Senior Pastor, Northland Church and Member, Executive Committee of the

National Association of Evangelicals

Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church

Lynne Hybels, Advocate for Global Engagement, Willow Creek Community Church

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop, The Episcopal Church

Reverend A. Wayne Johnson, General Secretary, National Missionary Baptist Convention of America

Mor Cyril Aphrem Karim, Archbishop, Archdiocese of the Syrian Orthodox Church of Antioch for the Eastern USA

Margaret Mary Kimmins, OSF, President, Franciscan Action Network

Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary, National Council of Churches

Rev. Michael E. Livingston, Executive Director, International Council of Community Churches and Immediate Past President, National Council of Churches

Reverend Willie Maynard, Treasurer, National Baptist Convention, Inc. and Pastor, St. Paul Baptist Church, LA

His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick Catholic Archbishop Emeritus of Washington

Rev. John L. McCullough, Executive Director and CEO, Church World Service

Mary Ellen McNish, General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee

Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches

Richard J. Mouw, President, Fuller Theological Seminary

David Neff, Editor in Chief, Christianity Today

Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary, Church of the Brethren

Bishop Gregory Vaughn Palmer, President, Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church

Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church, (USA)

Very Rev. Thomas Picton, CssR, President, Conference of Major Superiors of Men

Reverend Tyrone Pitts, General Secretary, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.

Most Rev. John H. Ricard, SSJ, Catholic Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee

Bob Roberts, Jr., Pastor, NorthWood Church, Keller, TX

Metropolitan PHILIP (Saliba), Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America

Rolando Santiago, Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

Dr. Chris Seiple, President, Institute for Global Engagement

Robert Seiple, Former Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom

Reverend William J. Shaw, President, National Baptist Convention, Inc. and Pastor of White Rock Baptist Church, PA

Ron Sider, President, Evangelicals for Social Action

Reverend T. DeWitt Smith, President, Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc.

Richard Stearns, President, World Vision

Rev. John H. Thomas, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ

Jim Wallis, President, Sojourners

Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

Most Rev. Thomas G. Wenski Catholic Bishop of Orlando

The Right Rev. John F. White, Ecumenical and Urban Affairs Officer, African Methodist Episcopal Church

Joe Volk, Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation

Bishop Gabino Zavala, President, Pax Christi USA and National Catholic Peace Movement

The Church of the Brethren Newsline is produced by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, director of news services for the Church of the Brethren. Newsline stories may be reprinted if Newsline is cited as the source. Contact to receive Newsline by e-mail or to submit news to the editor at For more Church of the Brethren news and features, subscribe to “Messenger” magazine; call 800-323-8039 ext. 247.

Brethren in the News

“Free clothing give-away,” The Suburbanite, Akron, Ohio (June 3, 2009). On June 13, there will be a free clothing give-away at Hartville (Ohio) Church of the Brethren, responding to the economic downturn that has affected many people in the community.

Obituary: Robert R. Pryor, Zanesville (Ohio) Times (June 3, 2009). Robert R. Pryor, 76, died on June 1 at his home surrounded by his loving family. He attended White Cottage (Ohio) Church of the Brethren. He worked as a electrician for Armco Steel, and retired after 33 years of service; and was a former part-time employee at Imlay Florist and a former volunteer fireman. Surviving is his wife, Marlene A. (Worstall) Pryor, whom he married in 1953.

“Volunteers Help Rebuild an Erwin Church,”, Johnson City, Tenn. (June 2, 2009). A report with video clip and photos of the start of the rebuilding of Erwin (Tenn.) Church of the Brethren, which was destroyed by fire one year ago. A team of volunteer builders called Carpenters for Christ kicked off the construction project.

“Area car club activities,” Altoona (Pa.) Mirror (May 29, 2009). Woodbury (Pa.) Church of the Brethren held a Motorcycle Cruise-in and Pig Roast on May 30. “Riders can cruise in on their motorcycles huge hogs, choppers, 3-wheelers, or scooters are all welcome or just come to see the variety of cycles and enjoy the fun,” said the newspaper announcement.

“Husband-and-wife team pastor Carlisle church,” Carlisle (Pa.) Sentinel (May 28, 2009). Jim and Marla Abe are newly installed as co-pastors at Carlisle (Pa.) Church of the Brethren. The newspaper reviews their life and ministry together.

“Judge acquits gun protesters,” Philadelphia (Pa.) Daily News (May 27, 2009). The 12 people who were arrested for civil disobedience at a notorious gun store in Philadelphia during the “Heeding God’s Call” peace church gathering in January have been acquitted. The trial took place on May 26. Among those arrested were two members of the Church of the Brethren: Phil Jones and Mimi Copp.

Also see:

“Monica Yant Kinney: Appeal to conscience carries the day,” Philadelphia (Pa.) Inquirer (May 27, 2009).

“Heeding God’s call leads to trial,” News of Delaware County, Pa. (May 27, 2009).;!

“Local gun protest trial set,” Philadelphia (Pa.) Tribune (May 26, 2009).

Obituary: Andrew W. Simmons, Staunton (Va.) News Leader (May 27, 2009). Andrew Wesley Simmons, 16, passed away on May 25 at his residence. He was a member of Sangerville Church of the Brethren in Bridgewater, Va. He was a 10th grade student at Fort Defiance High School and was a son of the late Mark Wesley Simmons and Penni LuAnn Michael, who survives him.

See also: “Family and Friends Remember Accidental Shooting Victim,” WHSV Channel 3, Harrisonburg, Va. (May 26, 2009).

Obituary: Phoebe B. Garber, Staunton (Va.) News Leader (May 26, 2009). Phoebe Grace (Botkin) Garber, 88, passed away on May 25 at her home. A memorial service was held at Timberville (Va.) Church of the Brethren. She was marriage in 1943 to Virgil Lamar Garber, who preceded her in death in 2006. Her nursing career began at Waynesboro Hospital, and she also worked as a nurse in Presque Isle, Maine; and as a night care nurse in the Rockingham County area until 1963.

Obituary: Nannie Mae N. Michael, Staunton (Va.) News Leader (May 25, 2009). Nannie Mae (Nancy) Michael, 92, passed away on May 23 while in the company of family members at Oak Grove Manor, in Waynesboro, Va. She attended Summit Church of the Brethren. She had worked as an inspector at Metro Pants in Bridgewater and Harrisonburg. Her husband Charles Weldon Michael preceded her in death in 1977.

“God’s people are never forgotten,” Abilene (Kan.) Reflector-Chronicle (May 23, 2009). Pastor Stan Norman of the New Trail Fellowship writes about how his family has connected with the life and ministry of Church of the Brethren leader Christian Holt, a Danish pastor who lived and worked in Kansas before his death in 1899.

“Schaeffer a Student Who Loves a Challenge,” Daily News Record, Harrisonburg, Va. (May 21, 2009). Layton Schaeffer, a member of Mountain View Fellowship Church of the Brethren in McGaheysville, Va., is interviewed as one of four finalists for the 2009 Daily News-Record Leadership Awards. She is a senior at Spotswood High School and plans to attend Virginia Tech in the fall to major in engineering.

“SHSC Names 2009 Prom King And Queen,” Fulton County News, McConnellsburg, Pa. (May 21, 2009). Elaina Truax of Pleasant Ridge Church of the Brethren in Needmore, Pa., and Joshua Hall were crowned queen and king at the Southern Fulton prom. Truax is the daughter of Larry and Sue Truax of Needmore. She is a member of the basketball team and track, is the National Honor Society president, president of the senior class, member of the SF Ensemble, part of the scholastic scrimmage team, and has participated in various SF musicals. She will be attending Elizabethtown College majoring in pre-med to become a pediatrician.

“People invited to see church turned home,” Tri-County Times, Iowa (May 7, 2009). This past winter was a sweat-filled one for Kirby and Carol Leland of Maxwell, who, in the weeks following Thanksgiving and leading up to Easter, worked tirelessly to ready their new home – the former Maxwell Church of the Brethren. An April 26 gathering included the last of the remaining church members when the church closed. During the visit, former pastor Harold Smith presented the Lelands with a special picture of the Maxwell Church of the Brethren with a passage on it from Romans 16:5: “Greetings to the church that meets in your house.”

[gt-link lang="en" label="English" widget_look="flags_name"]