Stephen Sizer Effectively Rescinds His Apology for Calling Zionist Israeli Messianic Jews an Abomination to God

In a recent telephone debate between Messianic Jewish scholar Michael Brown and anti-Zionist crusading vicar Stephen Sizer, hosted by Moody Radio asking if Christian Zionism is Christian, Brown at 50:20 minutes challenges Sizer about claiming Jewish and Arab Israeli followers of Jesus who support their state are an abomination. Initially Sizer flat-out denies he even said it. Brown provides the quote that we broke on RPP in 2011, Sizer accepts he said it, added that he was “comfortable” with it being a true quote. Really, really? Following our coverage of Sizer’s shocking statement that Zionist Israeli Messianic Jews were an abomination to God, Sizer apologized (on the advise of his Messianic Jewish friend), however it was really a non-apology – read here. Now the truth is fully out, Sizer is “comfortable” with his calling those in Israel who follow Jesus and support the State of Israel, an abomination to God. Michael Brown caught him completely off-guard with this as he framed it slightly differently. The facts as they stand are that Sizer called Israeli Messianic Jews and Israeli Arab Christians who support their government and country, an abomination, at a Palestinian Solidarity Campaign meeting, and now additionally charges them with racism, to add to the mix.

It seems as if Sizer’s attempts to schmooze Messianic Jews to try increase Messianic Jewish footfall at the next Christ at the Checkpoint conference, has rather back-fired. If you are a Messianic Jew or Israeli Arab Christian who support the government of Israel, which is inherently Zionist by its very history and nature, Sizer believes:

they’ve repudiated Jesus, they’ve repudiated the Bible, and they are an abomination.

Good luck trying to get a fair hearing anywhere that Sizer has any influence then!

Stephen Sizer Need Three Proofreaders to Guard Against Any Anti-Semitic Faux Pas

Rev Stephen Sizer is unhappy, and once again he has had to resort to an over-the-top lengthy and detailed defense of himself in the face of much concern that he was sailing too close to anti-Semitism. Methinks he protesteth too loudly. Anyway strip down all his bluster and irritation at the temerity of bloggers who report and analyse what he says, writes and does in the public arena, and, what is left is an admission he was wrong and the implementation of three proofreaders who will check that he does not let slip anything that might be anti-Semitic.

Sizer’s own tome reads like some Hamas victory statement written as if they hadn’t really lost at all! We have to wait until point 141 of the 190 point statement till he admits the real outcome of the conciliation talks between him and the British Board of Jewish Deputies, which is the proofreaders.

His final point (190) demonstrates his problem in perceiving why he got in trouble in the first place, because it is not his criticism of Israeli policies or Zionism that is the issue, rather some of the traditional anti-Semitic tropes that he was utilizing.

Our coverage of Stephen Sizer’s public statements, published works and public visits can been viewed here.

Christ at the Checkpoint 2014 Manifestly Biased Manifesto

catc14catc14aThe CaTC Manifesto for its Your Kingdom Come conference has obviously been shaped by the stinging criticisms that the previous two CaTC conferences evoked. However, try as they may, there are still serious concerns that we have about their assumptive starting points. Stephen Sizer, who undoubtedly calls the shots in planning CaTC, spins and ignores the Israeli side of this multi-sided conflict in this way:

  • What would Christ say and do if he were to stand in front of a checkpoint today?

  • What would his message be to the Palestinian crossing the checkpoint? And to the Israeli solder who is stopping him?

  • What is the Christian calling in the midst of this reality?

Sizer doesn’t ask what would Christ say to the institutionalized hatred of Jews in Palestinian culture, what would Christ say to the terrorist intent on murdering Jews because they are Jews, to such a radical extent the only thing that can stop them is a big ugly wall. What would Christ say to Arab Evangelicals who become apologists and explain away terrorism by claiming it is all down to “the occupation”, despite the fact that Israel does not occupy Gaza or the West Bank, there is Palestinian self-rule, so what is being occupied? Israel. The reality, it seems, for CaTC 2014 is that the main problem is the mere existence of Israel itself :

The CaTC14 conference manifesto seeks to achieve a number of things, notably to dismiss any charge of Antisemitism by claiming that no matter the nature of their anti-Israel rhetoric, it cannot be confused with Antisemitism. This is a wrong assumption, for whilst not all criticism of Israel is automatically anti-Semitic, it cannot be claimed, therefore, that no criticism of Israel can ever be anti-Semitic.

14. Any challenge of the injustices taking place in the Holy Land must be done in Christian love. Criticism of Israel and the occupation cannot be confused with anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of the State of Israel.

Other highlights of the Manifesto include statements jam-packed with lofty spiritual catch-phrases that seek to dress the bias against Israel as some form of prophetic Kingdom… crusade!

1. The Kingdom of God has come. Evangelicals must reclaim the prophetic role in bringing peace, justice and reconciliation in Palestine and Israel.

What is this ‘Racial ethnicity’ in point 3 of the Manifesto? How can a person’s ethnicity be anything other than racial, It can only be ethnicity. The addition of the word ‘racial’ highlights CaTC own radical position on Jewish ethnicity, seeming to want to raise the spectre of racism with Jewish ethnicity. It also misunderstanding of the various Covenants of the Tanach.

3. Racial ethnicity alone does not guarantee the benefits of the Abrahamic Covenant.

The conference scope is being limited and the debate rigged in point nine by preempting any discussion by setting the core issue as being the occupation. However Israel has not occupied Gaza or the Palestinian Authority Areas for many years now, so what occupation is being referred to, Tel Aviv, Jaffa, Haifa, Jerusalem?

9. For Palestinian Christians, the occupation is the core issue of the conflict.

Point eleven shows that CaTC leaders see the strategic value in getting Messianic ‘believers’ (rather than Messianic Jews!) involved. They are careful to claim disagreement is only secondary theology and seek to assume occupation of the moral high ground with their talk of the ethical teaching of Jesus ignoring that rationalizing Palestinian terror attacks by claiming it is all due to “the occupation” flies in the face of the ethical teaching of Jesus.

11. Respectful dialogue between Palestinian and Messianic believers must continue. Though we may disagree on secondary matters of theology, the Gospel of Jesus and his ethical teaching take precedence.

Point twelve is a bit of a mystery, particularly the second sentence which seems odd unless it is missing a comma! Are we not to stereotype faith forms that betray the command to love our enemies? Odd.

Why should the global context of the rise of extremist Islam make a difference to CatC? This is not explained.

12. Christians must understand the global context for the rise of extremist Islam. We challenge stereotyping of all faith forms that betray God’s commandment to love our neighbors and enemies.

It seems that CaTC 2014 will be more of the same we saw in the previous two CaTCs, only in more tempered language.

What would Jesus do, what would he say to a Palestinian Christian at the Checkpoint and the Israeli Soldier there? Well what did Jesus say when His people the Jews were under real Roman military occupation in the land of Israel and areas now Palestinian Authority Areas? In response to Roman legionnaire’s abuse of power Jesus said “Go the extra mile” (Matthew 5:41). Will CaTC be taking this advice of Christ at the Checkpoint or will they get angry at the inconvenience of security checks at the checkpoints established to stop terrorist activity?

Stephen Sizer: Heresy and Hypocrisy

Stephen_Sizer

Sizer on Iran’s propaganda channel – Press TV

Stephen Sizer paints with a very broad brush when it comes to the Arab-Israeli Conflict but when it comes to Christian Zionism, well, forget the brush, he just pours the tin of paint out and you can forget nuance and an accurate portrayal of things.

Sizer’s toxic mix of crusader theology and politics is an unhelpful return to Medieval “theological Jew-baiting”. However it is Jew-baiting-by-proxy now because everything Sizer really wants to say about “the Jews” and can’t, because he will get into more trouble, he can and will say about Christian Zionists, the mythical Zionist Lobby and Zionist Israeli Messianic Jews whom Sizer called abominations to God.

As Israel has become ‘the Jew among the Nations’, so too have Christian Zionists become ‘the Jew’ in the Christian World, in fact Sizer effortlessly labels them heretics in his article in the Hamas-linked website MEMO.

Heresy is the deviation from original orthodox belief. From a more Christian perspective heresy is related to what are considered unorthodox beliefs about the character and ‘constituent components’ of God (for want of a better phrase) rather than who is believed to be the objects of God’s covenant love. The charge of heresy was always a tool to suppress unwanted ideas, which is why it carried the death penalty both in Catholicism and early Protestantism. Sizer raises the spectre of heresy for the same purpose, to stigmatize and demonize all those who support Israel.

Sizer was quite happy to admit he subscribed to the Bible’s presentation of the Jewish people as the Chosen People in his debate with Dr Calvin Smith on Revelation TV yet in this article for MEMO continues with his willful doublespeak as he says one thing to one audience and another thing to another audience.

Sizer recently added RPP to his list of Zionist Lobby bad guys, we are obviously Zionist heretics in his book, and he yearns for the good ‘ol days when clerics like him could give dissident voices like ours the death penalty.

We can expect everything Sizer touches to be stained by his agenda to re-categorize vast swathes of Evangelicalism into heretics and therefore be able to discount them. Watch Christ at the Checkpoint 2014 and you will be sure to see this agenda very obviously at work.

 

UK Methodist Report will Demonise Support of Israel

This weeks Jewish Chronicle reports:

“The Board of Deputies has expressed its concern after the Methodist Church’s annual conference voted to investigate the “arguments for and against” a boycott of Israel.”

UK Methodist faced criticism three years ago when its anti-Israel report first surfaced, causing concern that it would also “begin a theological process that would demonise supporters of Zionism in both the Jewish and Christian communities.”

Read Cheif Rabbi Sack’s comments here

Why Theology Matters: Church of Scotland Report will not Help Churches in Israel or Palestinian Authority Areas

This is a relevant section from a very thoughtful blog post from The Kippah and the Collar:

The 2013 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and ‘The Inheritance of Abraham’: Why Theology Matters

For the record, I do not believe that criticising the policies of the government of Israel is necessarily anti-Semitic, and I am definitely not writing this post to defend that government’s policies. I also am not going to argue that the Church of Scotland has no right to criticise the government of Israel, because the C of S actually has pastoral care responsibilities there: the Church has two congregations within Israeli territory, and runs a school, a guesthouse, and a hotel. The year Alana and I lived in Jerusalem, I worshipped regularly with one of those congregations, and learned much from the minister. For the Church of Scotland to exercise pastoral care towards its people in Israel/Palestine, it must be able to raise critical issues there as well as in Scotland.

Unfortunately, I don’t think “The Inheritance of Abraham?” will be much help theologically for the churches there. The problem is not critiquing government policy, but rather the grounds on which the report seeks to make its claim. It does not help anyone to link justice pronouncements to the denigration of another faith, to seek justice in one area while perpetuating a different injustice; worse still is teaching that injustice to yet another generation. Let us take a closer look and see what I mean.

To begin with, the report lacks clarity concerning its intended targets. Is it trying to refute what is called Christian Zionism, a belief that a strong Jewish state in the Middle East is a sign that the end is near, by showing that the interpretation underlying such a theology is not the only or the best interpretation of sacred texts? Is it mainly in support of Palestinian liberation theology? Is it meant to try to convince people that the Christian understanding of the situation is the most just? The report itself, and the summary still available on the web site (starting from page 34 of the Church and Society Council’s overall report), simply calls itself ‘our latest reflection on the “questions that need to be faced”, as the political and humanitarian situation in the Holy Land continues to be a source of pain and concern for us all’. Perhaps the revision of the introduction aims to make this explicit.

But rewriting the introduction without addressing the troubling theological statements (at least, troubling to people interested in interfaith relations and any theology of collaboration or generosity) in the body of the report would make little difference overall. In an early statement which is still available on the Church of Scotland’ Facebook page, a spokesperson asserted:

The Church of Scotland would never and is not now attacking Judaism and the intent of the report must not be misinterpreted as such. Nor is the report denying Israel’s right to exist, but any group’s divine right to land. To reach that conclusion is not the same as denigrating the Jewish people or denying the right of Israel as a state to exist. Speaking out critically about Israeli government policy cannot be equated with denigrating the Jewish people.  A good friend speaks the truth in love, and the truth is there can be no peace without justice.

If this were true, many passages of the report would need emendation, not just the introduction. The language utilised in the report in several places reflects a supersessionist theological view, in which a “good” Christianity replaces or evolves out of a “bad” or outmoded Judaism. The text opposes ‘the particular exclusivism of the Jewish faith’ to ‘the universalist, inclusive dimension of Christianity’ (p. 6). The report points to ‘Jewish specialness’ (p. 8), and implies that Jews believed God to be ‘confined within the land of Israel’ (p. 7) or ‘confined to the place of the Temple’ (p. 8)—at least until a prophetic proclamation like the book of Jonah or the words of Jesus appeared to bring new theology. When the writers of the document look at Paul’s letter to the Romans and his insistence that ‘all Israel will be saved’ (11:26), they highlight the interpretation of this as ‘a vision of a reconciliation beyond this age’ suggesting that God is not with Jews (or any other non-Christians) now.

From the Christian side, the document presents New Testament views on land, people and sacred space as the culmination of a process, so that ‘Previous experiences of land, including the peaceful returns from exile, were stages towards a wider future’ (p. 8). Jesus’ teachings are cut off from the tradition which taught him: ‘The Good News of Jesus is inclusive’; he ‘offered a radical critique’ of Jewish understandings (which was not taken up); and ‘Jesus’ cleansing of the Temple means not just that the Temple needs to be reformed, but that the Temple is finished’ (all p. 8). Overall, when talking about Jesus and Christian scriptures, the report leaves the impression that Christianity is all that Judaism is not. Apparently, Christianity is open, welcoming, universal, not tied to a place as with the old Temple, and presents a God who cares for all people, while Judaism is closed, hostile to outsiders, ethnocentric, tied to a place, and presents God as one who cares mostly for the people of Israel alone.

One can understand why adherents to Judaism might be distressed. While the writers of the report do admit that a plurality of voices and viewpoints appear in the Hebrew Scriptures—looking to the prophets and especially the book of Jonah—there is little sense that such multiplicity of opinion is integrated with Israelite religion all the way through. The report demonstrates hardly any sense of Judaism as a living religion, as a faith tradition which reaches beyond what Christians call the Old Testament. The only time contemporary Judaism is discussed in any detail, it is through the lens of Mark Braverman speaking as an American Jew to critique Israeli treatment of Palestinians; this means that the only view of Rabbinic Judaism that readers get is connected to ‘political Zionism’, a Passover liturgy which reinforces ‘brittle superiority’, and a community bound together by ‘separateness, vulnerability and specialness’ (p. 6). This provides a rather narrow glimpse.

Judging by the response excerpted above from the Church of Scotland’s Facebook page, I’m not sure that the church is really aware of the theological damage which the report represents in its original form. The most recent statement on the matter, however, does declare ‘That the Church condemns all things that create a culture of anti Semitism’. It will be interesting to see if that condemnation includes the Church’s own negative teaching about the Jewish faith. There is no way that the report stands alone, for the only way that the report’s characterisation of Judaism would appear without an expectation of it causing problems is if it is so engrained in the Church’s understanding that such views slip beyond self-correction.

Here, to me, is the heart of the theological problem from a Christian point of view: why does it seem necessary to present people of another faith negatively in order to enhance what we think is positive about our own faith? Why do Christian theologians allow the perpetuation of what is clearly a misinformed and biased view of another world religion? Why does our valuing of Jesus rest so much on representing him as severed from his own religious life as a Jewish man? Because it is a Christian theological problem: as much as construing Christianity in opposition to those who are considered “other” harms those others, it also hampers the vision and breadth of Christian theological thinking. You could say that it is simply always easier to blame someone else rather than engage in self-criticism,2 but it goes deeper than that.

One of the major roots of the problem lies in the difficulty which we Christians have thinking through the meeting point of universality and particularity in relation to our faith in Jesus Christ. Theologically, the Christian faith has to deal with this one who is both anchored in a specific historical person and available to all people, times and places as the one who is most intimately connected to the Lord of all that is. Christian spirituality thus resides in the tension between the abstract and the concrete, the local and the global. However, as most human beings quite naturally find irresolution uncomfortable, the theological temptation has always been to resolve the tension, to head in one direction or another. Most often this has meant choosing the universal, partly because the universal has been accorded more value philosophically. The problem is that this tendency can fail to remember that Christianity also has a particular side; at the worst, this can fuel imperialistic visions of the Christian faith in which all other faiths become subsumed in the Church whether their adherents like it or not. The confusion manifests in the ‘Inheritance of Abraham’ report in the way that it values the inclusive, universal qualities of Christianity but also presents Christianity’s exclusive side without even recognising that it is doing so: at one point, after criticising the exclusivity of the Temple, the report declares that ‘The new “place” where God is found is wherever people gather in the name of Jesus’ (p. 8) seemingly without noticing how this excludes all non-Christians from God’s presence. Theology matters because people need to recognise and reflect upon such tension; Christian theologians need to continue to try to express the dialectic central to Christian life in a way that builds up peace and justice for all people.

Another contribution to the report’s problematic presentation of Judaism comes from the shadow side of specifically Protestant theology, namely turning the centrality of Scripture into blinders concerning religious tradition outside the text and a discomfort with sacred space. Now, I would not be a Protestant myself without believing that theology should have a Biblical basis. However, such a basis means identifying themes, symbols, modes of interpretation, literary meaning, and more; it does not mean ignoring everything that has happened since the Bible was written. But too often Protestant theology thinks that theological reflection equals Biblical exegesis. Taken to extremes, it is construed that only what is closest to the time of Jesus counts, but even without going this far, the tendency towards Bibliolatry can mean doing things like assuming that ancient Israelite religion, Second Temple Judaism, and modern Judaism are all exactly the same.

As for sacred space, the implication that the Temple is by definition a negative institution stems in no small measure from a Protestant distrust of anything built that some might claim to hem in God, like shrines, cathedrals, or other holy places. On the one hand, this is a way to remind everyone that nothing constructed by human hands can contain God (no, not even theology). On the other hand, this can represent a misunderstanding of theologies which observe the holiness of particular places, and can push towards a devaluation of embodiment and physicality. This connects back to the point concerning how hard it is for Christians to articulate the theological mutuality of universality and particularity. Human beings are situated in specific places, dwelling and moving in relation to one another and the earth, but this can be seen as too limiting, and as constrictive to values of universality and inclusion. It becomes easier not only to denigrate materiality, but also to map the lesser quality onto whoever is other, whoever you as a Christian wish to differentiate yourself from. Thus Jews become indelibly linked to a temple system which is portrayed as restrictive in its understanding of God and damaging to human equality, while little thought is given to the plurality of viewpoints concerning the temple, let alone the fact that Jews have lived as Jews without the temple for almost two thousand years.

Much more could be said concerning the unconscious beliefs which undergird the original ‘Inheritance of Abraham’ report. Be that as it may, the report most certainly shows that theology matters. Understandings and assertions need careful and rigorous thought. Self-reflection and self-critique might catch some of the more egregious errors,3 and might also provoke questions of those assumptions leading to the negative portrayal of others, questions which might help Christians act with greater theological generosity, humility, and love. It is not that it has not been done before; a 2003 Church of Scotland report on Israel/Palestine took a very different tone, raising the importance of listening to others, and admitting that Christians ‘have no right to dictate to Jews how they ought to respond to their traditions’ and that ‘Judaism has its own integrity, distinctive practices and theological traditions’ (p. 19 of that report). There is always the possibility of doing theology better.

Holier than thou? The Church of Scotland’s report on the ‘promised land’

The Community Security Trust, the UK body that is concerned with the security of the British Jewish community, has posted this seething critique of the Church of Scotland, which we will reproduce in full here because it is so good.

One of the best known scenes in Monty Python’s Life of Brian film shows Brian’s mother, Mandy Cohen, insisting that her son is not the Messiah. She shouts at the multitude,

He’s not the Messiah. He’s a very naughty boy!

A similar logic underpins a new report on the ‘promised land’, voted through by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The Jews, it seems, have long been naughty boys (and girls), and this misbehaviour is now manifest in Zionism and the actions of Israel.

The Church report seems unsure if Jewish scripture itself is to blame; if Jews misunderstand their own scripture; if Christian Zionists misunderstand Jewish (and Christian) scripture; or if Jews have been especially naughty for rejecting the perfection of Christianity and the New Testament. Whatever the case, the report explains that the ‘promised land’ is spiritual and universal. It “can be found – or built – anywhere”, belonging to all people, not just Jews, and both Jewish and Christian Zionists need to stop claiming otherwise.

The first of the report’s “Deliverances” sums it up:

Refute claims that scripture offers any peoples a privileged claim for possession of a particular territory.

It was understandable that Life of Brian would cause many Christians to feel that their faith was being singled out for misinterpretation and ridicule. Any Jews reading the Church of Scotland report may experience a similar feeling, but they are not the intended audience. Rather, it aims to educate Scottish Christians, to rebuke Christian Zionists, and to reassure Christians who feel guilty about antisemitism.

For most of these last 2,013 years, Christian attitudes to Jews have not been the best of adverts for the creed of ‘love thy neighbour’. We had hoped that the modern day Church of Scotland would be a living contrast to this history, but that hope is now exposed as naive and outmoded, superseded by the Church’s anxiety to argue against the ‘promised land’ ideology of (mainly American) Christian Zionists.

It is natural that a Christian report should employ Christian theology when speaking to Christians, but ultimately the subject of this report is not Christian Zionism, it is Jews, Judaism, the ‘promised land’ and how it manifests in modern day Israel. As Ben Cohen explains here in Haaretz newspaper, the report’s knowledge of Jews, Torah etc is little more than a “parody of Judaism…not only the delegitimization of political Zionism – but of Judaism itself”.

Beyond the theology, the saddest thing is that this episode will cause the small Scottish Jewish community to now ask if the Church of Scotland is antisemitic: either in intention, or in effect, or if the opposite is in fact the case. This will largely depend upon whether the Church shows itself genuinely open to hearing (and understanding) Jewish perspectives, or if it simply does not care.  The distinction is crucial. Misunderstandings can be overcome with good faith and dialogue. To simply not care is entirely different, and in this context, amounts to malevolence.

The Church claims to care very deeply indeed. So, did these concerns extend to consulting with Jews when drawing up the offending report? Well, sort of, because this report is actually a revised version of an original edition that was far, far worse, but was removed and significantly amended following furious and unprecedented protest by the leadership of the Scottish Jewish community in early May 2013. (Their utter denunciation of the report’s content, its non-consultation with Jews and its impact upon interfaith relations really should be read here.) This included their describing the report as:

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.

The following week, after a request from the Council for Christians and Jews, the Church hosted Jewish leaders and later thanked them for being “gracious in their concern”. The new report was issued “acknowledging that some of the original language, on reflection, was misguided”. The new report still gets nowhere near the sophistication and breadth of Jewish views – often sharply divergent – on the subject of Jews and the land of Israel, but it does at least ensure that the worst “misguided” elements are given a Stalinist makeover and wholly removed. For example, the following have all disappeared:

Politically, the wild claim that, “the visionary concept Eretz Yisrael Ha’shlema (from the Nile to the Euphrates) was fundamental to Ben-Gurion’s ideology”.

On antisemitism, the Holocaust and Christian superiority, [Mark] Braverman is adamant that Christians must not sacrifice the universalist, inclusive dimension of Christianity and revert to the particular exclusivism of the Jewish faith because we feel guilty about the Holocaust. He is equally clear that the Jewish people have to repent of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians…They must be challenged, too, to stop thinking of themselves as victims and special…”.

Theologically, terming Judaism as “exclusive” and “particular”. These had indicated Judaism’s alleged moral and theological inferiority to Christianity.

Furthermore, there are some new and very important additions, such as “Israel is a country which is recognised within the international community of states”, and also condemnation of “anti-Semitism and Islamophobia”. (Why the report references Islamophobia in this context is curious. Anti-Christian hate or bias gets no specific name check.)

For a detailed analysis of the new report’s theological revisions see the Kippah and the Collar blog here. It explains, for example, how the rewrite of the Jonah section removes the worst anti-Jewish excesses, but retains, “For Christians, G-d in Jonah is merciful”, as if Jews, by contrast, would not believe G-d to be merciful.

The new report states that it does not “suggest that one perspective supersedes another”, i.e. that Christianity does not replace Judaism. You cannot, however, polish one thing into being another thing. For all its added veneer, the new version comes from the same thinking as its predecessor, only more politely. The Church hierarchy have not rethought the doctrine of the report, they just speedily rewrote it in time for the General Assembly on 23rd May. Engaging in a long dialogue with Jews was never part of the plan: not for the year prior to the first report’s release, nor after the first tranche of Jewish concerns were heard.

Indeed, the General Assembly overwhelmingly rejected a suggestion that everything be postponed until next year’s meeting, so as the Church might have proper dialogue with Scottish Jews. The rejection came after the Assembly received an assurance from the Reverend Sally Foster-Fulton that the Church was “looking forward to, and expecting” future dialogue with Scottish Jews. This assurance is questionable, especially when the Reverend also admitted in her opening of the Assembly debate that there had been no such prior dialogue within the “past year”. The new report will make no difference to Israel’s actions concerning Palestinians, but it (and its process) will significantly affect how Scottish Jews regard the Church.

The report (and the controversy) may also affect how Scottish Christians regard Scottish Jews, or at least how their leadership regards its Jewish counterpart. Never mind the theological infantilising of highly complex Jewish and Jewish Zionist attitudes to the land of Israel, there is also a grave risk of bad faith: as has occurred many times in settings where professed Jewish concerns are rejected as fake cover for Israel’s alleged crimes. Complain as a Jew in such a context and you get dismissed as a conspirator and a liar. The Church may well have to consciously reject such attitudes if it wants a meaningful future dialogue.

Unfortunately, the report’s authors are already steering the Church towards exactly this bad faith. Whereas the new report still does not quote a single Jewish theologian or Jewish authority on actual Jewish issues (including antisemitism), it now – following the Jewish complaints – includes an ugly and lengthy quotation from the politically charged Mondoweiss website. The quotation ends with a disgusting allegation, in the very worst of faith, concerning Jews who engage in dialogue with their Christian neighbours, but actually only care about covering Israel’s back with the smear of antisemitism:

…Non-support and, worse, criticism of Israeli policies, was seen by Jewish dialoguers as backtracking to anti-Semitism. That’s where the dialogue became a deal: Silence on the Christian side brings no criticism of anti-Semitism from the Jewish side.

Is this really how the Church of Scotland wishes its attitude to Jews and Jewish concerns about antisemitism to be understood?

Finally, there is what this new report says about what the Church is and is not, willing to target.

The report condemns the notion of a faith claiming a land, but it only names the Jews’“privileged claim” to Israel.

No mention is made of truly embattled Christians in SyriaEgyptPakistanNigeria or elsewhere. The Church may try and defend Christians who face persecution for merely being Christian, but its explicit moralising on others’ beliefs is, for now, strictly limited to those from whom there is no threat of anti-Christian riots and murders.

Frankly, it is impossible to imagine that the Church of Scotland would ever dare to write such a report that claimed to analyse the Koran, Mecca, concepts of Muslim land, dhimmitude and how all of this impacts against Christians today. What message does that double-standard send out?

Ultimately then, this report not only risks directly betraying Christian relations with Jews; it is also an indirect betrayal of all those Christians who most need the Church’s focus, energy, support, charity and prayers right now.

Read the CTS report here.

Sizer Promotes Church of Scotland anti-Israel Report on Iranian TV

Stephen Sizer does his best to excuse the Kirks anti-Israel report by claiming people believe “the Zionists have the Church in their pocket” and that is why the Church of Scotland need this report to prove these accusations wrong.

This, perhaps, is a window more into the mind of Sizer than the Kirk, and explains his habitual bias against Israel over the many years of his crusade against the world’s only Jewish country.

Sizer also misses the point of the controversy, which was the implication that Israel had no right to even exist, not Christian Zionist pushing for a divine right idea. Sizer doesn’t miss an opportunity to hit his favourite straw man.

Even if the Church of Scotland is embarrassed about the document and withdrawn it for a re-write, Sizer is not, and supports it on the Iranian propaganda channel PressTV.

It is increasingly harder to view Sizer as anything other than a theological-political agent provocateur for the Iranian anti-Israel propaganda machine.

Church of Scotland to Rewrite Controversial Israel Report

The Guardian reports that Church of Scotland leaders have removed its offensive Inheritance of Abraham report from its website in order to re-write it to remove any suggestion that the Church of Scotland is questioning Israel’s right to exist.

It is unlikely that a pro-Israel report will emerge from the re-write though!

The Church of Scotland has moved to defuse a furious row with Jewish leaders and the Israeli government after agreeing to change a controversial report on Israeli settlements.

Senior figures in the church met Jewish leaders on Thursday after an official report entitled the Inheritance of Abraham? .. suggested the church consider political action including boycotts and disinvestment in Israel in protest at illegal settlements in the occupied territories.

The Church and Society Council, which is to present its report to this year’s meeting of the Church of Scotland’s governing body, the general assembly, later this month, has agreed to reword the paper’s introduction to make clear the church has never challenged the right of Israel to exist.

The original report, which will be debated and then voted on by 723 general assembly commissioners, or delegates from across Scotland, has also been taken down from the Church of Scotland’s website until it is rewritten.

here