How to fix Jewish-Methodist relations - Panini football stickers

By Marcus Dysch
July 6, 2010


As the fallout rumbles on from the Methodist Church's endorsement last week of an anti-Israel report, I bring news of my own (albeit initially unintended) work to repair interfaith relations.

I am collecting stickers for the Panini World Cup album (yes I am 27, laugh if you like) and in an increasingly desperate attempt to fill the book and find those pesky last few Beckhams or Ronaldos I resorted to Twitter for help.

After posting a tweet asking for help from fellow collectors I was contacted by a lady from my home city, Hull.

We exchanged emails and sent each other a list of the numbers of the stickers we needed. Stay with me, it gets more interesting.

When it emerged I could only offer her half a dozen stickers, but needed no fewer than 40 of hers in return, I offered to send her a few pounds to make up the difference.

She replied saying she would not accept any money, "in the interests of interfaith relations".

I was slightly baffled, but after another email there and back discovered that she was a Methodist who had been following the JC's coverage last week thanks to my tweeting from the conference in Portsmouth.

Keen to do her bit to show there should be no hard feelings and we should work to keep lines of communication open, she wanted to assist me with my sticker collecting.

We posted each other the stickers and, rather sweetly, her five-year-old son, having received the package, "jumped about excitedly" and proclaimed me "fabulous".

There is a moral to this tale.

The situation with the Methodist Church's endorsement of the anti-Israel report is clearly very serious and threatens interfaith work between Jewish and Christian groups. The conference delegates clearly underestimated the political repercussions.

But I have also seen some relatively vitriolic, probably a little over-the-top, comments coming from the Jewish community.

It is worth remembering despite all this that the votes of 200 Methodists do not represent the views of every Methodist in the country. Yes the report was biased and uncalled for from a church organisation, but vast numbers of Methodists, in their churches and community centres around Britain, oppose it and do not intend to break off relations or go and plant Palestinian flags in their front gardens.

One Methodist minister contacted me yesterday to say he was deeply upset by the report and asked if I could relay to the Jewish community that he and his wife always attempt to purchase Israeli products, including those from settlements, when out shopping, and that he would be encouraging his congregants to ignore the report's call for a boycott.

Meanwhile interfaith groups are urging their grassroots members to go out and carry on their good work, meet each other, find ways to plot future relations and so on.

The everyday reality of life for Methodists, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and people of all religions is not motions and boycotts, protests and complaints, conferences and politics.

Rather it is friendly cooperation, a sense of being people of faith in a world where increasingly people are not religious, and small acts of kindness... such as the swapping of football stickers.

Follow me on Twitter here


Steven Cooper

Thu, 07/08/2010 - 17:02

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The conference delegates clearly underestimated the political repercussions.

I was a member of the Conference, and I don't think this is actually correct. The implication seems to be that had we "correctly" estimated said repercussions, we would have come to different decisions. I don't believe that to be so. We were under no illusions about the strength of reaction already received from several directions; but we listened to these, we considered what we believe to be true, and we made a decision.

It is inevitable that parties that need to be seen to be supportive of the Israeli government will demonstrate negative reaction to a set of decisions that are inherently critical of that government. But the Methodist Church, in being true to its convictions, would be wrong to allow such an inevitability to hold it to ransom. Thus the Conference made its decisions (which are well worth noting in their entirety here), not as a result of some kind of incompetence, or failure of reckoning, but as an honest and convicted expression of what it believes to be just and true.

It is worth remembering despite all this that the votes of 200 Methodists do not represent the views of every Methodist in the country.

Well, actually, that's exactly what the Conference does. The Conference membership is elected democratically from across every corner of the country, with the precise purpose of REPRESENTING the whole breadth of the Methodist Church. Of course, not all Methodists agree on any given point, but those disagreements are represented fairly and in due proportion in the membership of the Conference - and indeed were heard, in due proportion, in the Israel Palestine debate. The outcome though is indeed representative though of the prevailing majority understanding of the Methodist Church as a whole.


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