Methodists and Jews repair rifts

By Marcus Dysch, July 7, 2011
Why is this week different from all other weeks?

Why is this week different from all other weeks?

Methodist Church members took part in a mock Seder this week as efforts continued to repair relations between the church and the Jewish community.

A year after Methodists passed a policy calling for a boycott of goods from "illegal" Israeli West Bank settlements, relations thawed sufficiently for more than 100 Methodist conference delegates to join the event.

There has been "clear movement in the right direction," according to Board of Deputies senior vice-president Jonathan Arkush, who has been among those working to repair the damage.

He added: "After the painful resolutions last year, our communities
are demonstrating a commitment
to bridge-building that is bearing
real fruit."

The Board sent a delegation to the Methodist conference taking place this week in Southport, Lancashire.

‘This was practical interfaith dialogue at its best’

Monday's event at Southport Hebrew Congregation, funded by the Board and led by Rabbi Zevi Saunders, included a theological response from Liverpool's Reverend James Booth, one of the favourites to be elected as the next Methodist Church president.

David Gifford, Council of Christians and Jews chief executive, said: "The demonstration Seder was a unique opportunity for the Methodist Conference and Jewish community to come together. It was practical interfaith dialogue at its best."

Although this year's conference did not feature a full debate on the church's stance on Israel, a number of resolutions were heard including two confirming the church's opposition to antisemitism.

The conference also reaffirmed a motion first passed in 1983 noting "distress" at antisemitism in Britain and encouraging better dialogue with the Jewish community. Delegates agreed work must also be done to make clear the church's "abhorrence" of antisemitism.

One resolution, put forward by Methodists from Alfreton, Derbyshire, called for the boycott to be revoked, and noted "the threat to Israeli citizens from Islamic militants who have sworn to wipe out Israel".

Organisers said they supported actions which could bring peace to the region, but saw "no compelling grounds for reconsidering
the resolution".

Christine Elliott, Methodist secretary for external relationships, said: "Our relationship with the Board of Deputies has come a very long way since this time last year.

"Relationships become real when you have to deal with difficult matters and we're so pleased that we have been able to listen clearly to one another and establish common ground.

"I have been moved and encouraged by the honest and robust discussions that we have had with our Jewish brothers and sisters and I look forward to developing our friendship further."

Last updated: 12:19pm, July 7 2011