ACC tones down resolution on Middle East conflict

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Kingston, Jamaica
The 14th Anglican Consultative Council (ACC) averted what some delegates feared could seriously damage Anglican-Jewish dialogue by passing a toned and pared down alternative to a resolution on the ongoing crisis in the Middle East.

Bishop Michael Hill, of the diocese of Bristol and representing the Church of England, said that while he did not disagree with the intent of the resolution – originally drafted by the Anglican Peace and Justice Network (APJN) – to draw attention to the plight of people suffering amid the conflict, he was concerned that its “tone and volume seems to be on the verge of pretty angry.”

He expressed concern that “intelligent and compassionate voices of Judaism with whom we are in dialogue with will immediately construe it to be anti-Semitic and label it as such.”

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, also spoke out against the APJN resolution, singling out in particular, a section that “condemns the judaization of the city (of Jerusalem) by the government of Israel and insists that this process be reversed.”

Archbishop Williams said “judaization is a word that I cannot, in conscience, accept,” noting that it equates “the political machinations of the Israeli government” with the people of faith in Jewish society.

Archbishop Williams said that he was not cautioning the ACC to “avoid saying the difficult things,” but rather say it in a way that does not jeopardize the Anglican Communion’s dialogue with the Rabbinate.

The archbishop said that he “understands the passion” that drives the resolution and is aware of the Israeli government’s “unjust practice” of buying up land in the Old City of Jerusalem. “It’s clear that we cannot rise in good conscience without saying anything about the level of injustice and the level of suffering” being experienced by Palestinians.

Nevertheless, he said, “in terms of effective resolution making, I believe that less is more. This resolution is a great deal more of an essay.” He noted that it said more than any other resolution that the ACC considered involving situations of conflict in other parts of the world that are just “as tragic and as heartbreaking” as in the Middle East.

Strength, he said, is not achieved by “sabre-rattling.”

Archbishop Muneer Anis, primate (senior bishop) of Jerusalem and the Middle East, said he, too, is aware of the “indescribable” situation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but said that Christian-Jewish dialogue was an important component of the peace process.

Claire Amos, co-ordinator of the Anglican Communion Office’s Network for Inter-faith Concerns, who prepared the alternative resolution, explained the texts in the resolution that were deemed problematic. It included one that states that the ACC “recognizes that the city of Jerusalem is equally holy to the three monotheistic faiths and must not be the monopoly of one religion.” She said that there are more than three monotheistic faiths and said it was more appropriate, in the context of the resolution, to name Christianity, Islam and Judaism. She also said there was “difficulty” around the use of the term “equally” holy. “There’s no competition of holiness,” she said, noting that some people don’t believe in the idea of holy places.
Ms. Amos also took issue with the original resolution’s declaration that the ACC “rejects the teachings of Christian Zionism that purport to give divine legitimacy to Israel’s claim over the land of Palestine and that encourage Israeli violence against Palestinians, contradicting our faith in the God who loves all people equally and unconditionally and calls us to do justice for the oppressed and blesses us when we are engaged in peacemaking.”

She said the definition of Christian Zionism here was “vague and can range from Christian support for Jewish Zionism or the apocalyptic view of Scripture.” She added: “There needs to be more work on this and it would be interesting for the Communion body to write a report on Christian Zionism.”

She warned that if the APJN resolution passed, it would be “deeply detrimental” to the ongoing process of dialogue under the auspices of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office and “what it can possibly offer to peace and justice,” and “can’t be seen other than bad faith” on the part of the Anglican Communion.

There were no APJN members present when the resolution was discussed, since Network representatives had already left the meeting. Tony Fitchett, chair of the resolutions committee and lay delegate of the Church of the Province of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, said, however, that APJN representatives were “unhappy” that their original draft was reworked.

The ACC, in the words of its chair, Bishop John Paterson, voted by “an overwhelming majority” to use the alternative resolution that had been prepared by Ms. Amos. The final version of the resolution, called on Israel to:
? end its occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip;
? free immediately all settlement building with the intention to abandon its settlement policy in preparation for a Palestinian state; and
? remove the separation barrier (wall) where it violates Palestinian land
? end home demolitions.

There were many speakers in support of the alternative resolution, including Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, primate of the Anglican Church of Southern Africa, who said that “having lived in apartheid” he was affected by seeing “the wall, the checkpoints and the segregation of God’s people” in the Gaza Strip.

The ACC approved the alternative resolution, which “deplores violence wherever it is used in conflict in the land of Israel/Palestine and affirms its desire that a robust peace process in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict leading to a two-state solution should be pursued by all parties without delay.”

The resolution also “laments the fact that current Israeli policies in relation to the West Bank, in contravention of UN Security Council resolutions, have created severe hardship for many Palestinians and have been experienced a physical form of apartheid.”

Recognizing that “the city of Jerusalem is holy to Christianity, Islam and Judaism and is not therefore the monopoly of any one religion,” the ACC said it “upholds the view that members of all three faith groups have free access to their holy sites.”
It also expressed its “deep concern about recent and continuing events in Gaza, and supports and draws attention to the Statement on the Situation in Gaza issued by the primates’ meeting last February.”

Lastly, the ACC called on “people of faith and good will to pray and work for peace so that justice and reconciliation may be achieved for all the people of Palestine and Israel.”

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Marites N. Sison
Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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