PFMEP is a grassroots group of Presbyterian lay and clergy volunteers who want the PCUSA to be an effective peacemaker in the Middle East. We are one of many grassroots groups within the Presbyterian community. Our group came together after the 2004 General Assembly, and PFMEP was established prior to the 2008 Presbyterian General Assembly.
Why we serve
We seek to follow Jesus — in his respect for the dignity bestowed upon all human beings; in his challenge to all of us to love one another; in his call to share resources with each other; in his love for all people without discrimination or conditions; in his offer of new life through faith in him. We hear his call to servanthood, and to humility.
We serve alongside those committed to attaining a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. We believe in the dignity and freedom of all human beings, and the right of all to live in a world without violence and fear. We stand with all working for peace as a demonstration of God’s unconditional love for all people.
Our prayer is that our efforts will be used by God to heal and strengthen people’s relationships with Him and with one another. We are called to serve those trapped in conflict; to relieve their suffering and to promote the transformation of their wellbeing. We stand in solidarity with all those working to end conflict, and believe nothing is impossible if we seek God’s help. We seek to understand the situation of those in conflict, and work alongside them to end the violence and hatred they face. The need for transformation is common to all. Together we share a quest for peace, reconciliation, and healing.
Middle East peacemaking has been a major focus of Presbyterian General Assemblies, and there are multiple advocacy groups within the Church presenting viewpoints and actively seeking support and endorsement. Our goal is to help concerned Presbyterians respond thoughtfully to the variety of viewpoints and proposals put before the Church.
On this website, we hope to provide:
- The PCUSA’s historical position on issues in the Middle East
- A basic understanding of the facts on the ground and the challenges to be overcome in the pursuit of peace
- Updates on progress toward a fair and just “two-state solution”, with Israel the homeland of the Jewish people and Palestine the homeland of the Palestinian people
Presbyterians for Middle East Peace is led by a steering committee consisting of the following Presbyterians: Rev. Dr. Bill Harter, Rev. Dr. John Wimberly, Rev. Todd Stavrakos, rev. Mark Boyd, and Ruling Elder Mike Gizzi.
Rev. Dr. Bill Harter and Rev. Dr. John Wimberly serve as co-conveners of PFMEP.
A Presbyterian pastor since 1974, John Wimberly served Western Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C. for thirty years prior to his retirement in 2012. A life-long social justice advocate, John has helped start non-profits to work with rape victims, abused women, low income children, the homeless and healthcare in Ethiopia. He has been president of the Board of Directors of numerous organizations ranging from The Presbyterian Outlook to the ACLU in Washington, D.C. Throughout his career, he has been active in interfaith work, especially with the Jewish and Islamic communities. Starting in 2004, he focused some of his energy on the Israel-Palestine peace process.
Bill Harter and his late wife, Linda, married in 1964 and lived and studied in East and West Jerusalem in l965 and 1966. They served as a clergy couple in the Margaretville/New Kingston, NY parish (Catskill Mountains) from l967-77 and then for 28 years at the Presbyterian Church of Falling Spring in Chambersburg, PA. He retired in 2008 and is now Pastor Emeritus. He has led or co-directed over 40 pilgrimage and study tours to Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, and Italy.
In community ministry he has helped found and lead organizations dealing with remedial education for disadvantaged youth, transitional housing for the mentally challenged, shelter for the homeless, historical and cultural preservation and ecumenical and interfaith relations. He helped establish the annual Chambersburg Area Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and Holocaust Memorial Services, now in their 35th year. He is co-chair of the Franklin County Letterkenny Chapel Veterans and 9/11 Memorial in Chambersburg. He has been involved in Jewish, Muslim, and Christian dialogue and work for peace in the Middle East since 1968.
Dr. Michael Gizzi is a political scientist and professor of criminal justice who has conducted extensive research on shared society endeavors between Israeli Jews and Arabs, conducting 70 days of field research in Israel and in the West Bank. He is active in Academic Partners for Peace and has been a consultant and speaker for several Jewish Federations. He is co-editor (with Dr. Cary Nelson) of a new book, Peace and Faith: The Israel-Palestinian Conflict and the Churches (forthcoming in 2020) in which he contributed two chapters on Shared Society efforts and his work combating BDS efforts in the Presbyterian Church US General Assemblies in 2014 and 2016. Gizzi founded the interfaith group in the Presbytery of Great Rivers (Peoria, IL) and spearheaded a partnership with the Jewish Federation in Springfield to bring Dr. Amy Jill Levine to speak in Central Illinois. He has given talks at many churches and synagogues and in 2019 expanded his work to a more in depth study of the Holocaust, participating in the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago’s Christian Leadership trip to Poland,
Pastor Todd Stavrakos was called to Gladwyne Presbyterian Church in 2006. Before joining the staff at GPC, he served a redeveloping congregation in south NJ and has served in Cumnock, Scotland at the parish church. Before entering into ministry, he spent ten years working in the political world, serving on Congressional staff in Washington, DC. Todd has served on the Board of Heeding God’s Call, a national gun violence prevention organization, as well as serving as the Board Chair of Head Start Learning Tree. As an active member in the Presbytery of Philadelphia he serves on the Leadership Collegium and has been a commissioner at the Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly. Another area of interest for Todd is interfaith dialogue. He is a leader of the Interfaith Partners for Peace as well as the Rabbi-Pastor Dialogue group he created in partnership with the Jewish Community Relations Council in Philadelphia. He has participated in four interfaith trips to Israel, leading the last two. Todd serves on the Clergy Advisory Council of the Hand in Hand Schools in Israel and has been a consultant to the Givat Haviva International School. He also serves on the board o the Institute of Catholic and Jewish Relations at St. Joseph’s University. Todd has been a consultant with the Jewish Federations of North America regarding relationships between the Jewish community and the main line Christian churches.