Church of England apologises for 'shameful actions' against Jews

On Twitter, Archbishop Justin Welby - who did not attend the service - said it was an opportunity to “remember, repent and rebuild”.


The imposing Tom Tower of Christ Church, Oxford University

Eight hundred years after Christian leaders introduced a raft of antisemitic laws, the Church of England is to apologise for its “shameful actions” against Jews.

A service attended by representatives of the Archbishop of Canterbury will be held at 2pm today at Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral to mark the anniversary of the 1222 Synod of Oxford.

The Synod adopted harsh anti-Jewish laws: social relations between Jews and Christians were blocked; church tithes were levied against Jews, and English Jews were forced to wear an identifying badge. The construction of new synagogues was also prevented.

Harsher restrictions followed, culminating in the expulsion of the Jewish community from Engand in 1290. That edict was not overturned for more than 350 years when Oliver Cromwell allowed Jews to return to England.

Although the Church of England did not exist at the time, Anglican leaders have insisted on the importance of an apology.

On Twitter, Archbishop Justin Welby - who will not attend the service - said it was an opportunity to “remember, repent and rebuild”.

“Let us pray it inspires Christians today to reject contemporary forms of anti-Judaism and antisemitism, and to appreciate and receive the gift of our Jewish neighbours,” he added.

Speaking before the event, the Archdeacon of Oxford, Jonathan Chaffey, said the commemoration of the Synod of Oxford was a “symbolic opportunity” to apologise for “the shameful actions of past prejudicial and persecuting laws of the Church against Jews”.

He continued: “On Sunday 8 May we will celebrate the positive Jewish-Christian relations and reaffirm our joint commitment to continue strengthening these interfaith relations, learning together and speaking out against prejudice. 

“Part of this commitment includes the ongoing work of the Council of Christians and Jews and support for Christian and Jewish engagement, education and social action.”

The service follows a 2019 Church of England report on Christian-Jewish relations that urged Christians to actively challenge antisemitism. 

At the time, Archbishop Welby said: “Only by looking back and recognising our failures as Christians can we begin to move forward with authenticity.”

In the report’s afterward, Chief Rabbi Mirvis said: “How I would love to call out, back through the annals of history, to let my ancestors know that there would be a time of warm friendship between successive Archbishops of Canterbury and Chief Rabbis. 

“For if I could somehow let them know that one day the foremost spiritual leader of the Anglican Church would join a Chief Rabbi in prayer at the Western Wall in a sovereign Jewish State, realising our 2,000 year-long dream of returning to our homeland, they would have simply found it inconceivable.”

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