AUSTIN, Texas — On Saturday, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America became the ninth Christian denomination in the United States to vote for divestment from Israel.
The resolution, which the ECLA calls a “memorial,” requires the church to end its current investments in companies that support Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine and to rigorously screen all future investments as well.
— IJV Canada (@IndJewishVoices) August 13, 2016
The ELCA, which boasts about 4 million members in 10,000 congregations, joined the Quakers, Mennonite Central Committee, United Methodists, Presbyterians, United Church of Christ, Unitarian Universalists, Catholic Conference of Major Superiors of Men, and the Alliance of Baptists in dropping investments that support Israel’s apartheid policies toward the indigenous Palestinian population, according to an announcement from the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.
The U.S. Campaign reported that the vote passed overwhelmingly, with over 90 percent support from the church’s voting members, including Darla Thiele, also known by her Dakota name Shining Star Woman, who compared the treatment of Native Americans to the oppression of Palestinians in a brief statement before the vote. She said:
“I have seen my people lose our land, our lives, our culture — our songs, dances, spiritual ways. Like the Palestinians, we have no justice. Treaties have been broken … We talk about loving our neighbor. We talk about justice. But where is the justice? … Now is the time for the church to stop profiting from these injustices. Now is the time to bring healing, to bring peace, to bring justice.”
On Friday, a day before passing the divestment and investment screening vote, the ELCA also passed a resolution urging the U.S. to end military aid to Israel until Israel ceases construction on illegal settlements in Occupied Palestine Territories. Currently, the U.S. provides over $3.1 billion in aid to Israel annually, though that number is slated to rise dramatically under the terms of a pending deal.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) just voted OVERWHELMINGLY to end unconditional US aid to Israel pic.twitter.com/MTOJXVHpLu
— Palestinian Rights (@US_Campaign) August 12, 2016
The U.S. Campaign worked closely with Isaiah 58, a Lutheran organization that supports ending the Israeli occupation, to pass the resolutions. Dale Loepp, a member of Isaiah 58, told Palestine In America on Monday that the divestment vote turns the ELCA’s statement on the Israeli occupation, first adopted in 1989, into meaningful church policy.
“Up to this point we passed a lot of resolutions that expressed support but don’t really take any action. So, this particular resolution takes a specific action,” Loepp told Yasmeen Abdellatif.
Loepp suggested the successful votes also reflect the church’s changing demographics.
“The Church itself has worked very hard to bring more young people to the assembly and I think part of this shift is a generational divide,” he said. “I think young people are more aware of the situation in Israel Palestine generally. I think they’re less tied to cold war ideologies where we have to support Israel no matter what.”
In another recent North American victory, the Green Party of Canada, which holds a single seat in Canada’s House of Commons, voted last week to add support for the BDS movement to their official party platform.