THE COTTON FITE AWARD
The Rev. Dr. Cotton Fite, who died in 2017, was a founding member of EPF Palestine Israel Network and its first convener. He had a deep commitment to Palestine and the Palestinian people. An Episcopal priest and clinical psychologist, Fite was an outspoken advocate for justice and peace in Palestine. As part of his ministry, he helped establish the Seraj Library program which creates children’s libraries in refugee camps in Palestine.
At the 2018 General Convention, PIN presented the first Cotton Fite Award. The award recognizes an Episcopalian who is passionately working for a just resolution in Palestine/Israel. This year, PIN is pleased to announce that The Rev. Canon Richard "Dick" Toll will be the recipient of the Cotton Fite Award at this summer’s General Convention.
Dick has had a long and distinguished history of advocating for Palestine and Palestinian human rights. It all began when he met The Rev. Naim Ateek, a Palestinian Christian, at Church Divinity School where they were both students in the early 1960’s. In 1983 when he was Canon Pastor on the staff of St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle, Dick led his first group on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and continued returning to the place that had captured his heart and soul 34 times. Dick was one of the founders of EPF PIN and was active in its Education Work Group, contributing his rich knowledge and experience of the Palestinian narrative.
An honorary canon of the Diocese of Olympia, Dick received his DMin from Virginia Seminary in 1985 and received a DD from CDSP in 2002. Dick's passion for justice for Palestinians led him to educate and preach, and to organize national conferences through Friends of Sabeel North America (FOSNA). After his friend, Naim, founded Sabeel, the Palestinian Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem, FOSNA organizations throughout the world began to promote the mission of Sabeel. Dick brought Christian, Muslim, and Jewish presenters to different parts of this country where they helped educate those who attended FOSNA conferences on the Palestinian narrative, a story unfamiliar to many people, especially those in churches, including the Episcopal Church. In his 10 years as the volunteer director of FOSNA, he helped create 35 educational conferences. The first one where he helped local people organize a hugely successful conference was in Boston in 2002 where Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the keynote speaker. Bishop Tutu was a strong proponent of justice for Palestinians, even stating on many occasions that in its treatment of the Palestinian people, Israel had become an apartheid state. Bishop Tutu served on the Advisory Boards of both Sabeel and FOSNA.
Dick’s passion and deep abiding commitment to justice continues. His sense of humor and eternal optimism have allowed many to believe they can do more than they thought possible. His friendships with Palestinians have given them hope and encouragement. He tirelessly puts words into actions and his faith into God’s work, as he walks in the footsteps of Jesus.
We hope many will join us at the EPF PIN reception in Portland, Oregon on Sunday, December 4 at 4:00 pm at Grace Memorial Episcopal Church, 1535 NE 17th Avenue, to honor Dick as the well-deserved recipient of this honor!