CCJ statement on the 2022 Methodist Conference Memorials 8 & 9Posted Fri, 06/24/2022 - 08:01 by Lazzaro
In the past and in the present, Methodists have been supporters of good relations with British Jewry. The Council of Christians and Jews’ first director, the pioneering Revd WW Simpson, was Methodist, and Methodists make up our members, supporters, staff members, Branch leaders, and friends, and contribute to the current state of good interfaith relations enjoyed in the UK. CCJ has also benefitted from generous grants from the Methodist Church to encourage better understanding of the complex issues facing all communities in the Holy Land, including the publication of a recent resource, Listening and Learning. This resource presents a balanced view of core issues like Zionism, occupation, and settlements, and, crucially, features Jewish voices throughout, as well as Christian ones.
We fear that the positive interfaith relationships in the UK nurtured by the Connexion are threatened if the proposed measure (called a memorial) to support boycotts, divestment, and sanctions of Israel are approved by Methodist Conference next week. This is not to silence Methodists’ concern for justice and co-existence for Palestinians, but rather to ask that Christians be sensitive to the often fragile interfaith balance in British communities, and to the reality that statements about Israel can have negative consequences here in the UK, especially for the Jewish minority. Without meaning to, Christian rhetoric can polarise and divide where it might bring insight and encourage conversation.
Inevitably, a memorial like the one proposed is a broadbrush treatment of a hugely complex issue. The issues raised are worthy of open debate in certain contexts, but we are concerned that highly charged, inaccurate and unhelpful terms like ‘apartheid’ will shut down that discussion before it starts, and will not result in nuanced positions in the pews. We fear that the memorial will ultimately hinder the ‘sustained dialogue’ that the memorial wording rightly calls for. We in CCJ are committed to helping Methodists, and all Christians and Jews, engage in this dialogue, but the memorial may do more harm in the UK than good in the Middle East. Perhaps uniquely in the UK churches, Methodists are able to bridge church divides and speak across an ethnically and religiously diverse nation. The UK needs these safe spaces of listening and learning, and we look forward to supporting them within the Connexion locally and in every Methodist setting.