Methodist minister silenced on Israel

A senior Methodist clergyman has alleged that the church was negating its Christian responsibilities and theology by pushing an anti-Israel position.

The Rev John Peters, of the Watchorn Methodist Church near Derby and a minister for 39 years, was cut short in a lone pro-Israel stand at Methodism's most important annual regional meeting last weekend.

On Saturday Mr Peters attempted to address the Nottingham and Derby District Synod, an annual policy meeting attended by over 300 ministers and lay members.

He had prepared a response to the guest speaker, Rev Warren Bardsley, co-author of last year's controversial Methodist Church report, Justice for Palestine and Israel. But Mr Peters was told to stop speaking after digressing to highlight Iran's human rights record, and was prevented from distributing copies of his speech.

Mr Peters said his church had "lost its way" in accepting a revisionist version of the New Testament which sought to cut out Jesus' own acknowledgement that Jews have a connection to the Land of Israel.

District Synod chair, Rev Loraine Mellor, said: "At this time it would be inappropriate to offer a comment. There has been engagement with the Jewish community and dialogue with the Methodist church following the report in 2010, and I would only want to encourage that healing and dialogue. I would want to achieve the re-establishment of relationships between the Methodist church and the Jewish community."

Nottinghamshire Methodists' Reverend Alistair Bolt, who was at the meeting, said there was a theological debate on Israel to be had within the church. "But I think there are lots of Methodists who say we need a balance on who is being hurt and who is trying hard to make peace in this conflict."

Last updated: 11:15am, April 14 2011