The issue of female bishops was not the only controversial motion debated at the Church of England’s General Synod this week. The motion it passed in July, endorsing the partisan Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) was also discussed.
The Revd Canon Simon Butler, vicar of St Mary’s Church, Battersea and Robert Hurley, a lay representative from Oxford diocese, asked about the church’s relationships with the Jewish community following the Synod’s endorsement of EAPPI. The Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, warned that it would lead to “serious impairment of Jewish/Christian relations.”
This week, the Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Mike Hill, vice-chair of the church’s Mission and Public Affairs Council, said: “Relations with many parts of the Jewish community were strained as a result of the vote, and hurt and anger were expressed in the Jewish press and elsewhere at some of the language used in the debate.
“Some formal contacts were put on hold by the Jewish community while the impact of the debate and vote were considered. While noting the strain in relations that the debate caused, it is also important to recognise that the topic of Israel/Palestine does not define Christian/Jewish relations.”
He said representatives of the church, the Council of Christians and Jews and the Board of Deputies “have since met and will continue to meet to address the issues raised.”
John Dinnen, the Herefordshire pathologist whose private member’s motion sparked July’s debate, remained defiant as he asked a supplementary question. “When you have had contact with other Jewish groups, have they included groups like Jews for Justice for Palestine and the Israeli Committee Against House Demolition, which are entirely supportive of EAPPI, and also, are you aware that five per cent of the EAPPI volunteers are Jewish which is a higher ratio than the number of Jews in England?”
Bishop Hill replied: “We are aware that certain participants in the programme are Jewish themselves.”
Dr Chris Sugden, a lay representative from Oxford diocese, asked: “In light of the present critical and tragic situation in the Holy Land today, what work is being done to further the work of the Alexandra Declaration to promote peace between Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities there?”
Bishop Hill responded: “Everybody on this Synod would share your anxiety about what is happening right now. It was in our prayers this morning, it will be in our prayers again.”