Thinking Anglicans

New Church of England document on Christian-Jewish relations

The Faith and Order Commission of the Church of England has published a teaching document entitled God’s Unfailing Word.  This is available as a PDF here.

There is a press release:

Church of England teaching document calls for repentance over role of Christians in centuries of antisemitism

Christian theology played a part in the stereotyping and persecution of Jewish people which ultimately led to the Holocaust, a new reflection on Christian-Jewish relations issued by the Church of England acknowledges.

The teaching document, entitled God’s Unfailing Word, is the first authoritative statement on the subject from the Church of England. It speaks of attitudes towards Judaism over many centuries as providing a “fertile seed-bed for murderous antisemitism”.

It urges Anglicans and other Christians not only to repent of the “sins of the past” towards their Jewish neighbours but to be alert to and actively challenge such attitudes or stereotypes.

The document, published by the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission, encourages Christians to rediscover the relationship of “unique significance” between the two faiths, worshipping one God, with scriptures shared in common.

The Christian-Jewish relationship should be viewed as a “gift of God to the Church” to be received with care, respect and gratitude, it makes clear.

Christians should, therefore, be mindful of the difficult history of the two faiths and apply sensitivityin the use of some passages of scripture and liturgy, hymns and art as well as in sharing their faithwith Jewish people and in discussions about Israel.

The document includes an honest and challenging afterword by the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, in which he speaks of “profound friendship” but also a “substantial misgiving” on the question of evangelism.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, responds in a foreword, describing the Chief Rabbi’s reflection as doing Anglicans a “great service” and making clear that Christians sharing their faith must do so with “gentleness and grace” and recognising the “weight of that history”.

The Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, Chair of the Faith and Order Commission, said: “Assumptions about Judaism and Jewish people, past and present, colour Christian approaches to preaching, teaching, evangelism, catechesis, worship, devotion and art, whether or not Christian communities are conscious of their Jewish neighbours, near and far; teasing out those assumptions and exploring them theologically is therefore a challenge that pertains to the whole Church.

“That challenge is also, however, a precious opportunity. As the first ‘principle’ underpinning this report states, we are convinced that ‘the Christian-Jewish relationship is a gift of God to the Church, which is to be received with care, respect and gratitude, so that we may learn more fully about God’s purposes for us and all the world’.”

The Church Times has a news report, which gives some background information: New book seeks to repair the harm done to Jewish people.  And also has a helpful page containing extracts from the document.

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Rod GillisMarian BirchRod GillisSusannah Clarkpeterpi - Peter Gross Recent comment authors
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peterpi - Peter Gross
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peterpi - Peter Gross

With everything that’s going on in the CofE, this looks like a ray of sunshine. I am Jewish. My parents fled Nazi Germany to the USA. My dad and his sister, my aunt, a mere six months before WWII broke out. I want to thank the Church Publishing House, the Faith and Order Commission and who knows how many others for working on this document. There is indeed a long and messy relationship between Judaism and Christianity, starting with a nasty divorce, nasty Gospel passages in response to that divorce, and going downhill from there. For over a millennium, numerous… Read more »

Susannah Clark
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Susannah Clark

Got to thank you for this overview, Peter.

I’ve simply never understood anti-Semitism. Why do people do that? It makes no sense to me.

It seems like anti-Semitism can be like a flame that catches fire and spreads through a hateful populace when they’re looking for scapegoats or promoting a populist narrative.

The events of 1189 and 1190 in England are harrowing: the terror and violence that was visited on Jewish families as the English people turned against them.

Fear and loathing projected onto other people.

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

The Canadian General Synod recently passed first reading removal of an antisemitic prayer for the ‘conversion’ of the Jews from the traditional BCP. It has been replaced with a new prayer, one developed in consultation with the Canadian Rabbinical Council. See link for Anglcian and Jewish comment. A similar Good Friday collect was deleted from the Canadian BCP some years ago. However, Jewish dialogue partners preferred replacement to complete deletion. I’ve copied the prayer below as well. Recognition of Christian antisemitism is slow in coming. It requires vigilance still. The text of the new prayer is below. The traditional wording… Read more »

Marian Birch
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Marian Birch

I was made aware of the Canadian Gen Synod action a while ago, but though I approve of trying to deal with such concerns, I actually don’t think that the replacement prayer is very good. I am not sure whether using the ‘fraternal’ metaphor of brother works well here – partly because it is clear in traditional Christian theology that the church locates itself as Jacob and the Jewish people as Esau. And though that metaphor might be undesirable to sustain and could be best avoided altogether – by using the phrase ‘our brother Jacob’ the prayer implicitly locates Christians… Read more »

Rod Gillis
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Rod Gillis

I wonder if you are not over thinking, applying in too literal a way, a particular text? Overcoming ‘traditional’ antisemitic Christian theology is one of the goals. From a Jewish prospective, Jacob is Israel. Allowing others to define themselves is a pillar of genuine dialogue. The Rabbinical Caucus was consulted and approved. See the interview with Rabbi Adam Stein ( 1st link). Keep in mind that the ‘new’ prayer was designed to fit into the context of the traditional BCP in terms of language etc. (see 2nd link).

Rabbi Stein here:
https://www.anglicanjournal.com/in-reconciliation-we-face-hatred-together/

Rev. Chris Dow, BCP Society, here:
https://www.anglicanjournal.com/prayer-for-reconciliation-with-the-jews-up-for-first-hearing-at-general-synod/