I have attended several legislative sessions at the last General Convention in Indianapolis, but this was the first time I ever stood to speak. The hearing was before the Committee on Social Justice and International policy, which was hearing testimony on resolutions A052 and C012. It was standing room only.
A052 is a call for seeking Ubantu dialog around the issues in the ongoing conflict between the Palestinian people and Israel. The second, and the one on which I was testifying, C012, called for divestment from specific corporations (HP, Catepillar, and others) who profit from products sold that directly support the occupation and oppression.
I was struck by the honest and faithful witness of people on both sides, many who had travelled there, and even Jews and a Palestinian who have lived there. The majority of voices, the Jewish and Palestinian included, were in support of the measure. But, after hearing others who were concerned that any action we take might have a negative impact on our relationships with Israel, or that it might not be as impactful as more "positive" measures (investing in programs, etc.), or that it was unfair to compare it to Apartheid, I felt the Spirit calling me.
I know that this can be a difficult issue on all sides, and I do not purport to represent the views of all of the deputation, or of the diocese. In fact, that is why we are deputies, not delegates. We are called in this role to act in the way that we feel called by the Spirit. So, with that in mind, my testimony is below, such as it is. Mostly, it felt great to have an opportunity to be heard. As no one may react to testimony (either positively or negatively), I was unsure if my words were of any value. But, when I walked out of the room, a deputy from another diocese stopped me to thank me for my testimony, saying "it was really good." For this first timer, that meant a great deal to me.
Here is the text of my testimony, though I spoke without notes, so it is mostly from memory:
Diana Wilcox, Diocese of Newark, and I speak in support of divestment. I had not planned to testify, but having listened to some of the testimony earlier, I felt compelled to. Before this call to the priesthood, I had another call, working in corporations for 25 years. Having worked in medium to large scale international companies, I know full well the business model. I know the importance of managing investments wisely, and caring for our employees. But I also know the Christian model - the one where I commit to seeking Christ in all others, to strive for justice and peace, and to respect the dignity of every human being. With that model in mind, it does not matter if positive or negative action is better. It does not matter if this injustice compares to others. It does not matter if we currently have investments, direct or indirect, in any of the companies named. It does not matter if our actions from this General Convention do nothing to bring down the walls of oppression. What does matter is that we, our church, will be making a prophetic statement that we will never profit off the backs of our oppressed brothers and sisters around the world. Not now. Not ever. Thank you.