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UM Policy on Holy Land Tours


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      Relations Testy-

"Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."

Elie Wiesel

Signers of the Letter to the Council of Bishops regarding compliance with the UM Resolution 292: Holy Land Tours

Janet Lahr Lewis, UM Liaison in Palestine and Israel
James L. Gulley
Larry D. Norman
Norma Kehrberg
Debra J. Vest
Susan Hellums
Gene Matthews
Carol Norman
Elizabeth J. Clarke
Gloria Wesloh
Margery L. Mayer
Mary Lou Moore
Mary H. Gates
Bonnie Albert
DarEll T. Weist
Joanne R. Perez
Joseph A. Perez
Merwyn Nelson
Barbara Nelson
Rosie Guadarrama
Gayle Lesure
Wilma J. Roberts
Esther Magill
Norman E. Thomas
Helen McCahill
Douglas E. Wingeier
Carol Wingeier
Noriko Y. Lao
J. Andrew Fowler
Aaron T. Duncan
Alexander J. Ellerburg
Rachael Barnett
Laddie Perez-Galang
David W. Butler
Carol P. Butler
Ronald Whitlatch
Monina C. Fowler
Barbara E. Campbell
Ruth A. Daugherty
Marion Bayless
Lois Sauer
Betty J. Letzig
Phyllis Truran
Nancy Van Antwerp
Earnestine A. Varnado
Staci O’Ferrell
Beth Kauffman
Kelly Buck
Claire Johnson
Richard L. Vreeland
Joyce Hill
Rachel Ford
Katie Cook
Alex Devoid
Kristie Newton
Rachel Golden
Mona Bomgaars
Linda A. Schramm
Catherine Whitlatch
Resolution 292: Holy Land Tours

From the Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church 2008, pp. 767-769.
Copyright © 2008, The United Methodist Publishing House, used by permission.
 For many years, some Palestinian Christians have expressed deep dismay that too many
United Methodists and other Christian groups traveling to Israel/Palestine, also called the Holy Land, have missed an extraordinary opportunity for ecumenical fellowship and sharing with other followers of the Prince of Peace. Our Christian sisters and brothers indigenous to the area continue to wonder why they are so often ignored by Christian pilgrims to the region. Why, they ask, do travelers tend to honor the inanimate stones that testify to Jesus‟ life and ministry while ignoring the “living stones,” the indigenous Christians who represent an unbroken line of discipleship to Jesus in the land that he called home?  
 Travelers to this land have the opportunity to be ambassadors of unity and concern to the
rapidly dwindling churches and Christians in a troubled land. They also have an opportunity to share in the vocation of peacemaking and to learn from the spiritual traditions of the churches indigenous to the Middle East. Further, they have a special opportunity to discover firsthand the realities of a region of deep meaning and vital importance to Christians, as well as to Jews and Muslims.  
 We recognize the tragic history that Christians share with Jews, and the complex relationships between particular nations and the state of Israel. We encourage dialogue between Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious leaders.
Therefore, The United Methodist Church: 

1. strongly affirms the resolution of the 1984 General Conference, offering “encouragement
of all leaders of and participants in „Holy Land tours‟ to contact indigenous Christian leaders in the Middle East, and to hear the concerns of both the Israelis and Palestinians who live there, as well as visit the biblical and historical sites” (“The Arab-Israeli Conflict,” The Book of
Resolutions, 1984; page 280); 

2. asks the bishops, clergy, members, agencies, and congregations of The United Methodist
Church, as they plan visits to the Holy Land, to devote significant program time to contact with indigenous Christian leaders and to hearing the concerns of Palestinians and Israelis on the current crisis of Palestinian self-determination; 

3. urges all United Methodists planning, organizing, and/or participating in a trip to the Holy
Land to apply the guidelines outlined in the General Conference resolution “Responsible
Tourism” to their trip – especially 1) to “ask travel agents/agencies whether local people [i.e.,
Palestinians] are involved in the development of the „tour packages‟, 2) “Practice „low impact‟ travel and tourism, which do minimal damage to local culture,” and 3) “Monitor ethical, responsible travel practices of conferences, boards and agencies of The United Methodist Church” regarding holy land trips; 

4. recommends that United Methodists planning individual or group tours to Israel/Palestine
consult with the United Methodist liaison in Jerusalem to seek opportunities to worship with
indigenous Christian congregations, to include at least one overnight stay in Bethlehem, and to visit United Methodist-supported mission sites;  
5. supports the purchase of local Palestinian-made fair trade products and crafts in keeping
with the guidelines in the General Conference resolution on “Responsible Tourism;” 

6. asks the General Board of Global Ministries and the General Board of Church and Society
to prepare specific recommendations regarding preparation, participation in, and follow-up
education and advocacy actions for United Methodists traveling in the Middle East and other
sensitive regions of the world; 

7. recommends that United Methodist-sponsored tours use the denomination‟s seminar
program in pre-departure seminars for the travelers; 

8. urges that travelers use, as advance study materials, positions adopted by General
Conference and by general church agencies relating to the Middle East as well as resources from the 2007-2008 Mission Study on Israel/Palestine; 

9. urges seminaries and United Methodist-related colleges to apply the guidelines in this
resolution to any school-sponsored trips, internships, and/or semesters of study in

10. extends sincere appreciation to those United Methodists who have facilitated the
implementation of the above recommendations in tours they have sponsored or participated in since the adoption of this resolution; 

11. expresses deep concern that many tours sponsored or arranged by United Methodist
bishops, pastors, and laity do not schedule opportunity for all participants to enter into
partnership with the indigenous Christians for the recommended program time and, therefore, fail to “Walk With the Living Stones” in their strides toward Palestinian self-determination, their rich spiritual heritage, and their faithful contemporary witness;

12. expresses deep concern that evidence continues to accumulate that Christianity is dying in the land of Jesus through economic, social, and political pressures which have greatly diminished the numbers and percentage of Christians in the Holy Land. United Methodist bishops and other organizers of Holy Land tours have a special responsibility to adhere to these recommendations to strengthen the witness of the remaining Palestinian disciples of the Living Lord;

13. affirms the presence of The United Methodist Church in Jerusalem through our liaison
office and through our ongoing partnership with Palestinian and Israeli organizations working for reconciliation and to establish equal rights for all under international law; 

14. encourages tour leaders to consult with the General Board of Global Ministries and the
United Methodist liaison office in Jerusalem in order to facilitate adherence to these

15. instructs annual conferences and general agencies to monitor and report to the General
Conference regarding the implementation of this resolution; 

16. urges close cooperation with the Middle East Council of Churches and other indigenous
Christian groups to facilitate informed, alternative travel opportunities to the region; and 

17. commends the General Board of Global Ministries for initiating visits to the Bible lands
that explore issues of justice and peace among all participants in the region, with special
emphasis upon the concerns of our Palestinian Christian colleagues.  
See Social Principles, ¶ 165A, B, and D.

October 17, 2010     
Bishop Neil L. Irons
Executive Secretary, Council of Bishops
100 Maryland Ave. NE Suite 320
Washington, DC 20002

To our esteemed Bishops and members of the United Methodist Church,
On the occasion  of the 100th anniversary of the Edinburgh Conference of 1910,  participants  met at Scarritt Bennett College to engage in discussions on the theme “Rethink Mission: Reflection and Action, Edinburgh 1910-2010.”   Participants in that setting spent time learning about past strategies that mission has taken, and discussed in some depth the new direction that mission is taking and the challenges of the future of mission.  In these discussions, participants  were saddened to learn of the continuation of travel tours to Israel/Palestine that do not fully comply with the spirit and understanding
of the General Conference Resolution 292, pp 767-8, particularly those led by Educational Opportunities as well as other tour groups often used by members of the Council of Bishops. Therefore, the following statement was written and signed:
“We, the undersigned, as people in mission, and as members of the United Methodist Church, respectfully request that all bishops, clergy, and laity who travel to the Holy Land as group leaders or individuals respect and apply the resolution on Holy Land Tours
1 by requesting that all tour agencies such as Educational Opportunities and others, comply with this resolution and “to consult with the General Board of Global Ministries and the United Methodist liaison office in Jerusalem in order to facilitate adherence to these recommendations.” (Article 14) By requesting that tour agencies act in consultation with the liaison office, itineraries can be adapted that will not only provide a spiritually enriching pilgrimage, but will be in compliance with our resolution as well as answering the call of the World Council of Churches “Kairos Palestine” document2 and the Christian Palestinians. Non-compliance with this document by bishops and clergy constitutes complicity, advertently or inadvertently, in the injustices being perpetrated against the Palestinian people in a military occupation that is considered to be “a sin against God and humanity”.3
 October 17, 2010, ReThink Mission Conference, Scarritt Bennett Center, Nashville

[See the list of signatories to this letter in the column on the right of this page]

1. Resolution 292: Holy Land Tours
2. www.kairospalestine.ps
3. Kairos Palestine Document