Kairos USA: a movement emerges as a response to Kairos Palestine – Pauline Coffman

May 20th, 2013

Guest Editor’s Note: This week on Ecclesio we will read five articles reporting on the North American response to Kairos Palestine, a confession of faith written by Palestinian Christians in 2009, calling for solidarity in their hour of need. The document is translated from its original Arabic into twenty languages, and is called A Moment of Truth: A word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering. With all the heads of churches in the Holy Land signing this confession of faith, it is a unique call to action to the Christian community around the world.

This week’s articles on Ecclesio will report on some of the actions taken by U.S. denominations in response to this call. On Friday, we will read a report on the Canadian response.

As a Presbyterian Elder living in New York City, I was glad and proud to see our General Assembly receive Kairos Palestine for study in 2010, even though some tried to say its call for non-violent economic action should be considered violent because of the long, violent Christian history against Jews. I hope Christians of conscience will take the time to read, reflect, and act on this call from the fast-dwindling Christians of the Holy Land. The Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA) has provided a good introduction online and the full document too. The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), on whose board I serve, has produced a small and well-used study guide for groups, which also includes the full document. It is available through the denomination’s online store.

Pauline Coffman
Kairos USA: a movement emerges as a response to Kairos Palestine

Mark Braverman
Kairos Time: A U.S. Call to Action

Susanne Hoder
An Awakening: American Churches embrace targeted economic actions in response to Kairos Palestine

Katherine Cunningham
Response to Kairos Palestine: “The Letter of 15” and the use of U.S. military aid by Israel in Palestine

Robert Assaly
The Canadian response to Kairos Palestine

Noushin Framke
Guest Director
May 20, 2013

Kairos USA: a movement emerges as a response to Kairos Palestine
By Dr. Pauline M. Coffman

Responding to the growing need among Christians for an ecumenical and action-oriented response to the Kairos Palestine confession, issued in 2009 by Palestinian Christians in Bethlehem, a group of fourteen clergy, theologians and laypersons met in June 2011 at Elmhurst College in Illinois to inaugurate the movement.  The opening of Kairos Palestine* cries out:  “A moment of truth!  Here is a word of faith, hope and love from the heart of Palestinian suffering…  Why now?  Because we have reached a dead end in the tragedy of the Palestinian people.”  The urgency of the statement demanded a response.

.The organizing group stemmed from a meeting between Mark Braverman, a Jewish writer and retired psychologist, and Cotton Fite, an Episcopalian priest and psychotherapist. Their meeting occurred at a Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) meeting in Washington, D.C. in May 2011.  After consulting with Don Wagner, Presbyterian (PCUSA) clergy and longtime Chicago advocate for a just peace for Israel and Palestine, they issued invitations for the inaugural meeting in Illinois.

Mark Braverman, coming from a Zionist background, was transformed on his views on Israel/Palestine during a visit in 2006 as he witnessed Israel’s military occupation and met peace activists and civil society leaders from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian communities.  A clinical and community psychologist, Mark returned to the U.S. and wrote the story of his transformation and awakening in Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews, and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land, published in 2010.

Mark was present in Bethlehem in 2009 when Kairos Palestine was launched and was keenly aware of the urgency of the call from Palestinian Christians to Christians around the world asking for solidarity. Accordingly, he opened the 2011 Illinois meeting by emphasizing the need for a grassroots movement in the U.S. to help bring about the end to Israeli apartheid.  He cited the role of U.S. churches in the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. and the movement to end South African apartheid.  He stressed the role of the U.S. church in allowing the urgent human rights tragedy to unfold and noted the recent emergence of Kairos movements in South Africa, Europe and Asia in response to the Kairos Palestine call.  The group gathered in Illinois believed it was time we as Americans confessed our complicity and issued a call to action in the U.S.

Several of those attending the June meeting in Illinois, including myself, were among the 10 representing Kairos USA movement at the Kairos for Global Justice conference in Bethlehem, Palestine, in December 2011. The experience of being with delegates from all around the globe impressed upon us the need for and importance of a response from the U.S., and the vision for Kairos USA began to take shape. In addition to participating in the conference, our group planned the next gathering at which work on the Kairos USA confessing statement would begin.

Less than three months later, over 40 people from across the country and the Christian spectrum gathered at the Stony Point Conference Center in New York in February 2012. The plan was to study, worship and pray together as we reflected and constructed the framework of the Kairos USA statement, “Call to Action: U.S. Response to the Kairos Palestine Document.” It is important to note that delegates came from mainline churches as well as evangelical and Pentecostal ones. There was a good diversity of backgrounds as well as theological opinions present, which made the gathering all the more potent and moving. The convergence of the diverse perspectives was striking, as everyone offered points to include in the statement that emerged as the Kairos USA response to Kairos Palestine.

Kairos USA launched its statement in June 2012, in time to reach those attending the Presbyterian Church (USA)’s General Assembly and the Episcopal Church’s General Conference. A study guide was developed to help American Christians understand what Palestinian Christians are calling on us to do. This includes exploring and understanding nonviolence from a variety of perspectives, both practical and theological. The free study guide can be downloaded from the site.

Since the launch in 2012, hundreds of Christian leaders and lay people representing many different perspectives of Christianity have signed on in support of the movement and call to action; their names can be seen on the Kairos USA website:  www.kairosusa.org.  The movement is growing and new supporters can sign on at the website. Join us!

Tomorrow, Dr. Mark Braverman will present and interpret the theology of the Kairos USA confession of faith and its promise for a just peace here on Ecclesio.

* This document is the Christian Palestinians’ word to the world about what is happening in Palestine. It is written at this time when they wanted to see the Glory of the grace of God in their land and in the sufferings of its people. In this spirit the document requests the international community to stand by the Palestinian people who have faced oppression, displacement, suffering and clear apartheid for more than six decades.  Read more here.

Pauline Coffman is a professor and director (retired) of the School of Adult Learning, North Park University, Chicago, IL.  She is a member of the Israel Palestine Mission Network of the PC(USA), the Middle East Task Force of Chicago Presbytery, and the Chicago Faith Coalition on Middle East Policy.  Pauline attends First United Church of Oak Park, IL (union PCUSA and UCC), and is co-leading a seminar to Israel/Palestine in June 2013. Pauline serves on the Board of Directors of Kairos USA.

thanks to: Pauline Coffman

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