The Episcopal Church has approximately 2 million members and 7,200 churches in the U.S. and is part of the 77-million member worldwide Anglican Communion. The Episcopal Church is not a trustworthy observer of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The church’s leaders and constitutive bodies routinely issue one-sided statements about the Arab-Israeli conflict, and its publications portray Israel as exclusively responsible for violence in the region. The church has provided substantial support for anti-Israel activists in both the U.S. and the West Bank. Its so-called peace activism amounts to an ad hoc anti-Israel media campaign that serves to delegitimize Israel’s rightful place amongst the nations of the world. A careful reading of public statements regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict confirms that, indeed, the Episcopal Church has been relentless and unfair in its criticism of Israel.Both the General Convention and the Executive Council of the Church have exhibited a marked tendency to issue one-sided statements about the Arab-Israeli conflict that hold Israel to a utopian standard of conduct and its adversaries to no standard at all. Some examples include:
- In November 1994, the Executive Council approved a resolution asking Motorola to “establish a policy to prohibit the sale of products or provision of services to any settlement, including persons residing in those settlements, located in the Occupied Territories.” This resolution, passed one month after two Hamas suicide bombings had killed 13 Israelis and wounded 80, did not offer any condemnation of Palestinian violence or call on companies to ensure that equipment they sell to the Palestinians is not used for terror attacks.
- In June 1995, the Executive Council passed a resolution asserting that Jerusalem should be a shared city (ignoring decades of Arab aggression against Israel that make such an arrangement untenable) and condemning the construction of settlements in the West Bank including East Jerusalem.
- In July 2000, the General Convention approved a resolution affirming the “right of return for every Palestinian, as well as restitution/compensation for their loss as called for by the United Nations.” In fact, under international law there is no such collective “right of return.” Moreover, were such a “right” exercised, the result would be the elimination of Israel as a Jewish state. Finally, the resolution offered no acknowledgment of the Jewish refugees from Arab countries who came to Israel after its rebirth in 1948.
- In August 2003, the General Convention approved resolutions condemning the construction of the security barrier and home demolitions without explicitly condemning or calling for an end to Palestinian suicide bombings, drive-by-shootings and other violence.
- In June 2006, so-called peace and justice activists within the Episcopal Church presented draft resolutions to the General Convention condemning the security barrier without asking the Palestinians to stop the terror attacks that prompted its construction.
And most recently The Episcopal Bishop of Massachusetts, Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, was a featured speaker at the “Israel-Apartheid” conference, and the Episcopal Divinity School, which trains the church’s future leaders, co-sponsored the event.
As Rafael Medoff describes in his JPost Op-ed, this is a group that at best has an uneven record when it comes to Jews:
In England during the 1930s, the Archbishop of Canterbury – leader of the Anglican Church, which was the parent body of America’s Episcopal Church – was Rev. Cosmo Gordon Lang, who contended that “the Jews themselves” were to blame for the “excesses of the Nazis.”
By contrast, Rev. William Temple, who succeeded Lang as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1942, was an outspoken advocate for the Jewish victims of Hitler and did not hesitate to take unpopular positions, such as urging the Allies to grant asylum to all Jewish refugees. In fact, part of the reason the Roosevelt administration decided in 1943 to hold its sham refugee conference in far-off Bermuda, away from the eyes of the public and media, was because it was worried about “Canterbury giving publicity in the press,” as assistant secretary of state Breckinridge Long wrote in his diary. In the US during the Holocaust, most Episcopal leaders, like most leaders of other church denominations, refrained from speaking out about the Jews’ plight. But there were important exceptions.
On the other hand:
Two Episcopal schools, the General Theological Seminary (New York) and the Berkeley Divinity School (Connecticut) were co-sponsors of an important “Inter-Seminary Conference” which was held in New York City in early 1943 to discuss the Nazi mass murders. Organized by student activists from the Jewish Theological Seminary, the conference was the first significant attempt to rally Jewish and Christian religious opinion in support of rescue. A number of Episcopal leaders were active in the Emergency Committee to Save the Jewish People of Europe (better known as the Bergson Group), which lobbied for US action to rescue Jews from the Holocaust. Episcopal Bishop Henry St. George Tucker of New York was a featured speaker at its landmark 1943 Emergency Rescue conference. Rev. H.P. Almon Abbot, Rev. Rev. Harry Longley, and Rev. W. Bertrand Stevens, the Episcopal bishops of Kentucky, Iowa, and Los Angeles, respectively, were co-sponsors of the conference. Rev. Stevens also co-sponsored the Los Angeles performance of “We Will Never Die,” a theatrical event that the Bergson Group used to raise public awareness of the Holocaust…………Today, as during the Holocaust, there are those within the Episcopal Church whose positions on issues of Jewish concern have raised troubling questions. But it is clear that there are other voices, as well.
Read the entire Op-Ed piece here Does the Anglican Church have an Israel problem?