Board of Deputies' president 'too harsh' on Church of England

The Board of Deputies has been criticised by its former interfaith officer for its reaction to last week’s Church of England Synod vote on Israel.

Board president Vivian Wineman accused the Synod of approving an “inflammatory and partisan” volunteer programme on the West Bank.

But Philip Rosenberg, who left the Board last year, said this week that the “unnecessarily harsh” response “risks endangering our relationship” with the Church.

He singled out Mr Wineman’s remark that the Jewish community “does not need lessons from the Anglican Church in justice and peace”.

Mr Rosenberg was also concerned that the Board cancelled a meeting with a senior Church official the day after the vote. By contrast, Hendon deputy Malvyn Benjamin suggested “cutting off relations with the Anglican Church.”

Mr Wineman rejected cutting links but stressed: “We are not going to carry on with business as usual” with the Church.

The Synod agreed to endorse the Quaker-run Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme to Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), which sends volunteers to monitor Palestinian human rights.

But the Board says the programme neglects Israel’s point of view and creates animosity towards it among Christians.

Deputies were outraged by allusions during the Synod debate to “powerful lobbies” as well as remarks by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, who abstained in the EAPPI vote.

He had juxtaposed a reference to Yad Vashem, in order to make a point about Israel’s right to exist, with another about Palestinians queuing at checkpoints.

The Council of Christians and Jews has written to bishops to express concern about the EAPPI programme.
Edward Kessler, executive director of the Woolf Institute in Cambridge, believes the “over-the-top reaction” from the Board “was generated by a failure to cultivate relations with the appropriate people within the Church. It has set back Church of England-Jewish relations.”

But the Church, he said, “has lessons to learn about being unaware of the complexities of both the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and also of the shades of opinion within the community”.

The Chief Rabbi’s office revealed this week that Lord Sacks had, before the Synod vote, privately expressed to the Archbishop of Canterbury the community’s concerns over EAPPI and that, regarding the issue, “the Chief Rabbi will, as he always does, do anything to support the community.”

Last updated: 11:16am, July 19 2012