Scottish Council of Jewish Communites
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities
 
Scottish Council of Jewish Communities

SCoJeC Rebukes Church of Scotland
over General Assembly Report

 

3 May 2013

Click here to read the joint statement issued by
Church of Scotland and Jewish Community leaders following a meeting on 9th May

here to read a statement issued by SCoJeC and the Board of Deputies
in response to the Church of Scotland's revised report, issued on 17 May

here to read SCoJeC's statement following the General Assembly debate

and here to read a briefing on Jewish community concerns about the report

SCoJeC has issued a strongly worded rebuke to the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland after they published a report entitled The inheritance of Abraham? A report on the ‘promised land’ for adoption at the General Assembly at the end of May. This is described as "a theological reflection that explores the idea that biblical authority can be used to give a people, any people, the divine right to a land". Amongst other recommendations, it calls for the Church to “refute claims that scripture offers any peoples a privileged claim for possession of a particular territory”, and it goes on call for the report itself to be publicised and discussed in churches and presbyteries throughout the Church.

SCoJeC's statement reads:

The document from the Church and Society Council on The Inheritance of Abraham? is an outrage to everything that interfaith dialogue stands for. It reads like an Inquisition-era polemic against Jews and Judaism. It is biased, weak on sources, and contradictory. The picture it paints of both Judaism and Israel is barely even a caricature. The arrogance of telling the Jewish people how to interpret Jewish texts and Jewish theology is breathtaking. It is hardly surprising that the Church has this year departed from its long-standing practice of engaging in dialogue with the Jewish Community, because it claims to know Judaism better than we do. Meanwhile it recently sponsored a conference organised by someone whose website promotes Holocaust denial and the antisemitic forgery The Protocols of the Elders of Zion - but it claims to want to act as a peacemaker in the Middle East! Sadly, this document makes that impossible, and closes the door on meaningful dialogue. On behalf of the Jewish Community of Scotland, we call upon the Church to withdraw it from the forthcoming General Assembly. If the Church cannot build bridges, can it at least refrain from burning them?

The punctuation in the title of the document is sufficient to indicate where this is coming from: at merely 10 pages, this is not a reasoned academic discussion of either theology or politics, but a tendentious and biased polemic. It is full of selective quotation and biased narrative, fundamental misrepresentations of both Judaism and Zionism, supersessionist “replacement theology”, and offensive mis-characterisation of mainstream Jewish belief.  It is also remarkable for what it does not even mention, including 2000 years of Jewish prayerful longing for return to the land of Israel, terrorism against Jewish – not Israeli – targets throughout the world, the persecution and consequent flight of Jews from almost all middle-eastern countries, the near disappearance of Christians from the Palestinian Territories, and the classical antisemitic language employed by Hamas.  It is hardly surprising that almost all online support for the document has been from the extreme left and the extreme right, including Aryan supremacists in the USA.

The Board of Deputies has also criticised the report:


The document from the Church of Scotland is deeply troubling on many levels. It appears to have been produced with no consultation with the Scottish or national Jewish community. It is littered with misrepresentations of Jewish history, values, and beliefs, as well as basic factual errors. It is an ignorant and tendentious document masquerading as a theological statement. The Church of Scotland has done a deep disservice to itself by producing a document without any regard to the trust, respect, and dialogue on which interfaith relations should be based. We are at a loss for words that the Church of Scotland should have delivered such a slap in the face to the Jewish community.

Rev David Gifford, Chief Executive of the Council of Christians and Jews, described the paper as ill-considered, regressive, and insensitive to Jewish anxieties, and criticised its "unfortunate words and phrases, as well as thinly veiled overtones of supersessionism and replacement theology, [which] smack of Christian superiority over Judaism".  He added, "Whilst few would disagree that serious issues need to be addressed by the State of Israel, instead of offering fresh opportunities and an openness to engage with the Jewish community in a joint response to the worrying trends in the Israel/Palestine conflict, this report runs the risk of further alienating our own Jewish community and increasing its fear and anxiety.

And Rabbi David Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee, commented that “It is rather pathetic when a Church feels constrained to deny its sacred Biblical text in order to pander to "political correctness"

We do not expect to agree with the Church on every matter, either theological or political – after all, we do not agree amongst ourselves.  But we expect disagreement to be conducted in a respectful, rational, and truthful manner – the manner, indeed, characterised by the Kirk’s own 2003 report on the same subject, Theology of Land and Covenant:

6.3.1 As Christians we must be sensitive and accept that we have no right to dictate to Jews how they ought to respond to their traditions; whether, for example, they should be Zionists or non-Zionists, religious or secular. Such issues are rightly part of a lively inner Jewish debate. Judaism has its own integrity, distinctive practices and theological traditions. Central to many of these are convictions about the land of Israel, which must be recognised and respected in accordance with the Bible.

The same 2003 document continues:

6.3.2 … we must do everything in our power to oppose anti-semitism in any form. This is all the more important today since there is evidence of a new emerging and growing anti-semitism, not least in Europe - and this at a time when there is an increasing tendency to demonise people of other faiths and cultures. The horror of the holocaust should remind us where xenophobia and anti-semitism can lead.

Under these circumstances, one might have thought that the Church of Scotland would also be concerned about the beam closer to its own eye. Yet it is also silent on the experience of Jewish people in Scotland. In SCoJeC’s Government-funded Being Jewish in Scotland project last year, no fewer that four out of five respondents spontaneously raised the topic of Israel or Zionism, and the vast majority reported that the undisputed increase of anti-zionist activity in Scotland affected their lives as Jews in Scotland. Typical comments were that the “growing intolerance regarding Israel in Scotland … is in danger of becoming antisemitism”, and that “I sometimes feel afraid of stating openly my background and beliefs. I see increasing hostility in my surroundings”. We have drawn this more than once to the attention of the Church and Society Council, and are saddened that they have not seen fit to meet us to discuss how the Kirk could contribute to better relations between our communities in Scotland and instead are contributing to that climate.

Click here to read the joint statement issued by
Church of Scotland and Jewish Community leaders following a meeting on 9th May

here to read a statement issued by SCoJeC and the Board of Deputies
in response to the Church of Scotland's revised report, issued on 17 May

here to read SCoJeC's statement following the General Assembly debate

and here to read a briefing on Jewish community concerns about the report

 

   
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