UCC interfaith relationship with Jewish community destroyed
Friday, June 29, 2007
With today's announcement distancing itself from the Middle-East resolution from General Synod, the United Church of Christ's national office ~and President John Thomas in particular~ have further eroded the UCC's relationship with every major Jewish organization whether they represent the Conservative, Reform or Reconstructionist movements. Here are a few of the quotes from the Jewish community on the United Church of Christ and President John Thomas from the past 3 years:
"Thomas' screed is a stain on a church with a rich moral tradition."
-A. James Rudin, senior interreligious adviser of the American Jewish Committee and author of "The Baptizing of America: The Religious Right's Plans for the Rest of Us."
"At least you are honest. You used to rail about the pressure from the “pro-Israel lobby.” You’ve dropped the code language. It’s Jews you’re talking about, as you admit in your current letter. Your irritation is puzzling, though. You have done a near perfect job keeping those pesky Jews from your offices, and from your convention floor when resolutions about the fate of Israelis came up. If we didn’t know better, we would think you simply don’t like outside interference and pressure. But you have no problem with the pressure from organizations like Sabeel and Al-Awda, both of whom reject the legitimacy of a Jewish state, and both of whom have either partnered with the UCC, or have been listed as a resource. And you don’t mind twisting a few arms yourself, do you? Remember the infamous “midnight meeting” at your General Synod in 2005, when you didn’t like the committee recommendation to the floor, so you substituted your own language, without anyone realizing it and had delegates adopt a resolution different from what they thought they were approving?"
-Letter to John Thomas from the Simon Wiesenthal Center, July, 2006
"While it is heartening that the United Church of Christ has come out strongly against those who advocate for Israel's destruction, it is troubling that church leaders continue to embrace the Sabeel Center while ignoring statements from its leader questioning Israel's right to exist. You can't have it both ways."
-Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, Anti-Defamation League, Director of Interfaith Affairs, January 2006
Eight Jewish groups rebuked the United Church of Christ for what they said was an imbalanced statement on Israel. Joining the JCPA in the letter were the Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements; the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and B'nai B'rith International.
-JTA, June, 2007
"UCC President John Thomas' recent comments concern us on a number of levels. Some time ago, we reached out to John Thomas and the leadership of the UCC to engage in dialog. We have always believed that it is important for Christians and Jews of good will to keep the lines of communication open even if we may not agree on specific issues. In regards to the crisis in the Middle-East, we simply wanted to encourage the leadership of the UCC to proceed with caution and balance as it addressed this very complicated issue. Each time we reached out to the leadership of the UCC, it went without acknowledgment. In light of the UCC's General Synod and considering John Thomas' lack of response to our reasonable request to discuss these issues, we are extremely concerned. The hostility to the State of Israel and to Jewish people appears to be firmly entrenched in the leadership of the UCC. We know this hostility is not shared by the membership of the UCC and we still seek ways of reaching out to the UCC community."
-The Simon Wiesenthal Center, March, 2006
"I will tell you this in all candor and with a certain measure of anguish - because of I have so many friends, not only at Wayzata Community Church, but in the UCC and in the Presbyterian and Episcopal movements in much of the liberal Protestant world - I'm embarrassed... I'm embarrassed at positions that some of the liberal Protestant churches have taken advocating divestment from Israel. Those are not balanced positions even if they try to condemn both sides. It's like passing a law that says "in an effort to reduce urban homicide, we insist that no federal funds be spent on sending weapons to either the police or the criminals". I'm sorry, that is not a balanced statement. I'm afraid that the UCC at it's recent Atlanta convention was seduced by a very slick propaganda campaign into abandoning Christian principles and taking one side of a very complex situation."
-Rabbi Harold Kushner, author of the best selling 'Why Bad Things Happen To Good People' September, 2005
"Criticizing Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is vile. But singling out Israel for opprobrium and international sanction out of all proportion to any other party in the Middle East is anti-Semitic, and not saying so is dishonest."
-Thomas L. Friedman, NY Times columnist
"By treating Israel within a different moral yardstick that the rest of the world, these moves are functionally antisemitic, undercut the forces of peace and moderation, and embolden the forces of terrorism. Finally, these resolutions make a mockery of a previous commitment by the UCC to combat antisemitism. The concerns, hopes and aspirations of world Jewry have been swept aside and relations with the Jewish community have been severely damaged"
-The Simon Wiesenthal Center, July 2005
I cannot overstate the negative consequences of these resolutions within the Jewish community, and the need for repair and healing.
-Neil B. Goldstein Executive Director American Jewish Congress, July 2005
Jewish groups were sucker punched last week when the United Church of Christ (UCC) abandoned a carefully crafted compromise and instead voted to support “divestment” from Israel. "Some outraged Jewish leaders publicly suggested anti-Semitism as a motive. Others were uncomfortable with the label, but a growing number of Jewish officials don’t see any other explanation for a divestment push that defies logic and turns fairness on its ear."
-Jewish Journal, July 2005
It is disappointing and disturbing that while assuring us of the importance of interfaith dialogue, the UCC leadership has taken actions that ignore the primary concerns of the Jewish community, especially at a time when the Israelis are taking painful steps toward peace, including disengagement from Gaza.
-The Anti-Defamation League, July 2005
"UCC Truths is easily the most fair-minded and polite and boring
apostate group in the history of religious dissent."
"If you believe love should be uncritical, you
may soon be thinking that I do not love this church. But my experience has been
that to be a member of the United Church of Christ is, almost by definition, to
be a critic of it. To be uncritical is to be the real oddball in this church.
Perhaps to be uncritical is to be un-Christian".
-From The United Church of Christ
Tomorrow, THEOLOGY AND IDENTITY: TRADITIONS, MOVEMENTS, AND POLITY IN THE
UCC (Pilgrim Press: 1990), edited by Dan Johnson
and Charles Hambrick-Stowe