Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Britain's Methodists in Meltdown

Many words have been expended on the British Methodists' decision last month to launch a boycott of all Israeli products from the West Bank and east Jerusalem, giving that church the dubious honour of being the first Christian denomination in the United Kingdom to do so.  Some delegates reportedly wished to go further, and launch a full-scale boycott of the Jewish State.  The Methodists are even considering whether or not to countenance the very concept of Zionism. 

Needless to say, no country except Israel was singled out for criticism.  The Methodists' decision has been widely seen as antisemitic, and had been condemned by a wide range of people and organisations within and without the Jewish community.  The Board of Deputies of British Jews, not renowned for speaking out lightly, issued a forceful denunciation.  Even Rabbi Danny Rich, head of Liberal Judaism, and hardly a  tub-thumping Zionist, was unhappy.  A masterly op-ed in the Jerusalem Post (4 July) by the magnificent Robin Shepherd was headed 'The banality of Methodist evil'.

 But here's the thing.  The Methodist Church in Britain  is a church in meltdown. Its 'Statistics for Mission 2005-2007' - the latest statistical report available - shows that between 2004 and 2007 its membership dropped from 294, 000 to 267,000 (a decline of 9% in only three years).  Every other statistic was in a state of absolute rapid decline, in some cases of breathtaking proportions.  The Methodists' average Sunday attendance figure fell from 280,000 in 2004 to 230,000 in 2007 - that's a decline of 18%.

The working- and lower-middle-class members who have traditionally constituted the church's core seem to be voting with their feet, leaving the church ripe for takeover by radical extremists. Indeed, throughout the English-speaking world churches with a left-liberal agenda are in decline.  Secular socialists are generally athiests or agnostics, and so belong to no church.  And within the leadership of those churches only leftwing activists, clerical and lay, remain.

 The good news for supporters of Israel is that, by contrast, the fundamentalist churches are growing - in Britain, in Canada, and in the United States.  And their adherents tend to be Christian Zionists.

2 comments:

  1. Dear Daphne

    Anglican Friends of Israel was unimpressed by this move. We issued the following press release on the occasion:

    Press Release 4 July 2010

    Anglican Friends of Israel was disappointed at the decision by the Methodist Church to boycott goods produced by Jews living in Judea and Samaria.

    In convening the Working Group which produced the Report ‘‘Justice for Palestine and Israel’ the Methodist Church deliberately decided not to include the views of any who might have disagreed with a boycott, hardly a just approach.

    The historical section of the Report was, by the admission of the Working Group’s own Chairman Graham Carter, incomplete. Many would add that it was also inaccurate, including Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks who described the Report as “unbalanced, factually and historically flawed” giving “no genuine understanding of one of the most complex conflicts in the world today. Many in both communities will be deeply disturbed”.

    Theologically the Report’s findings are justified by the Rev Nichola Jones using the arguments of the Replacement Theology that underpinned Christian anti-semitism for 1500 years, and which has been widely rejected by other Churches.

    Methodist Church Media Officer Karen Burke, writes, ‘The Methodist Church has a long history of interfaith relationships; it greatly values the relationship it shares with its Jewish brothers and sisters and hopes that that relationship will continue to flourish.’

    However, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Jewish Leadership Council have accused the Report’s authors of “(abusing) the goodwill of the Jewish community, which tried to engage on this issue, only to find our efforts were treated as an unwelcome distraction” .

    Burke goes on to insist that ‘Israel should not be singled out above all other countries for opprobrium and international sanction.’ Yet despite many other far more pressing human rights issues, including those in which Christians’ human rights are violated, only Israeli Jews apparently merit Methodist punishment.

    The decision to boycott the produce of Israeli Jews in the disputed territories will benefit no one, least of all Palestinians whose livelihoods depend upon the work provided by those Jewish communities.

    Christians should be praying and working towards bringing a peaceful solution. It is sad that the Methodist Church has adopted a course of action that is more likely to add the conflict rather than to the solution.

    The version with links can be found on our website.

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  2. Many thanks for that, Fran.
    As you probably noticed, I pay a small tribute to the Anglican Friends of Israel in "In Praise of Israel's Christian Friends", below.

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