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Every denomination needs one of these...

Nancy Taylor stumps for Sabeel

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Rev. Nancy Taylor, pastor at Boston's Old South Church and potential nominee for President of the United Church of Christ is feeling a bit defensive after being ripped in an article in The Jewish Advocate for her part in bringing a Sabeel event to her church:
Rev. Nancy Taylor runs the Old South Church. We’ve heard that she’s not actually hosting or officially sponsoring the Sabeel/Tutu, but is renting them the space – in which they will say these hateful things. I’ll assume she didn’t know that Ateek preaches the “Jews are crucifying again” message when she signed the rental contract. We can also assume that if she had mistakenly rented the Old South Church to any other sort of bigot, or to a racist or a homophobe, she’d now rush to bar the door. Contract or no.

Dear Rev. Taylor, if the Boston chapter of the ADL can do the right thing, so can the Old South Church.
In her September 9th sermon, Taylor responded to the criticism:
The columnist who wrote those things in The Jewish Advocate represents an extreme, angry hard right side of the Jewish community. While he is busy writing in his own style of colorful and incendiary language, I have, for months, been in quiet, respectful and meaningful communication with leaders in the Jewish community.

Last week I met with the executives of the Jewish Community Relations Council and the American Jewish Committee. Andy Tarsy of the Anti-defamation League had planned to be there … but he has been pre-occupied lately and could not make it.

These leaders are not happy with our decision to host Sabeel and the Archbishop. They express concern, disappointment and fear. Why? Because the Archbishop and Sabeel use the language of apartheid to describe the situation of Palestinians and because they promote a program of selective investment in Israel as a means of applying pressure. Our Jewish friends experience these as a threat to the security, and as an affront to the dignity, of the state of Israel.
Dexter Van Zile, writing for
the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), has an in depth analysis of Sabeel and Nancy Taylor's defense of Sabeel:
Jewish concerns about Sabeel go much deeper than its efforts to smear Israel with the apartheid charge or its involvement in the campaign to convince protestant churches in the U.S. to target Israel for divestment (not “selective divestment” as Rev. Taylor asserts.)

These things are troubling to be sure, but the concerns are much deeper than what Rev. Taylor states. Ultimately, the concern is about Sabeel's tendency to use Christian theology and scripture to demonize Israel and deny the Jewish people the right to self-determination in a sovereign state.
Taylor's sermon only tells part of the story. If she were to be completely honest with her congregation, she would let them know that:
  1. The Anti-Defamation League has spoken out strongly against Sabeel and the UCC's support for Sabeel: "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," said Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, ADL Director of Interfaith Affairs. "You can't have it both ways."
  2. Criticism of the UCC by Jewish groups is not limited to the "angry hard right side of the Jewish community" - every major Jewish group representing the spectrum of political ideologies has been critical of statements against Israel by the United Church of Christ including Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements; the American Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League and B'nai B'rith International.
  3. The Simon Wiesenthal Center called the UCC's divestment resolution "functionally anti-Semitic"
By characterizing the issue in political terms, Taylor's sermon seems to indicate that she either doesn't understand the concerns of the Jewish community or she simply doesn't care. Either way, Taylor is maintaining the arrogant position established by UCC President John Thomas which has virtually destroyed our interfaith relationship with the Jewish community. If nothing else, this would certainly qualify her to be the next UCC President.
posted by UCCtruths, Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Rev. Taylor is either strangely misinformed about Sabeel or she is intentionally misinforming others.

If the first case were true, one would think the responsible thing would have been to investigate the matter BEFORE hosting them. If she had done so, she could with any semblance of honesty maintain the statements she's apparently made ... in her sermon no less.
commented by Blogger will, 10:54 PM  
Once again UCCtruths has posted or permitted a post that sheds a negative light on the Palestinian cause. I commented recently on another post and mentioned a recent trip I took to Israel/Palestine. This trip was hosted by Sabeel so I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Rev. Ateek and the staff of Sabeel.

Not once in his books (the ones I have read) nor in his talks or comments did he ever even hint that Israel didn't have a right to exist. He did give background on the history of the founding of the State of Israel and the expulsion of the Palestinians from their lands and property (from the Palestinian perspective) but never did he say the State of Israel should be destroyed.Althought the founding of the State was unjust the reality and right of it's current existence is not in question with Sabeel. Justice according to what Sabeel promotes would be either a two-state solution or one bi-national state of equals.

What amazes me the most about comments such as this one is that you apparently think that Israel doesn't have to behave like the rest of the civilized world. When a government/nation discriminates against a specific ethnicity and does everything short of genocide to eliminate the presence of said ethnicity in modern parlance we might call those actions terrorism. But when it comes to Israel (or the U.S. even) they are given a pass under the cloud of self-defense or pre-emptive strike/war. I just don't understand why you refuse to give the other side an ear.

In college I worked for a Jewish agency that was bringing Jewish immigrants to the U.S. from the former Soviet Union because they were facing threats and violence due to anti-semitism. I proudly served those people (and would again). Now after having been to Palestine and seen the conditions that the Palestinian people are living under in the occupied territories and the discrimination they face as Arab-Israeli citizens I cannot be silent about the injustices that are occuring (injustices by the way the hurt our Christian sisters and brothers also). Does that mean I hate Jews? Does it mean I support terrorism (in the form of Hamas or what have you)? No it means that as a Christian I will not stand by and see unfairness and discrimination and violence continue when I can do something about it.

I only wish that more people who take a support Israel at all costs approach to the region would make a trip to the area and skip the typical tourist agenda in favor of seeing the realities of the wall, the checkpoints, the discriminatory laws, the constant harassment and chargeless arrests. Anyone who sees these things and comes away without the words Apartheid (Afikaans for seperateness) or segregation on their minds wasn't or isn't paying attention.

One more thing. This post cited Jewish organizations and their opposition to this conference at Old South ~ I wonder why did you not seek out Christian comments? Since many Christians are affected by the occupation and since Sabeel is a Christian organization one would think that the author of the post would seek to include comments from Christian leaders and organizations who support Sabeel and its mission...

...Oh yeah that's not the point of this bog is it?

commented by Anonymous Chad Kyler, 8:38 AM  
Chad: You write about Rev. Dr. Ateek:

"Not once in his books (the ones I have read) nor in his talks or comments did he ever even hint that Israel didn't have a right to exist."

Go read Justice and Only Justice. Page 165.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 10:58 AM  
"Go read Justice and Only Justice. Page 165"

I have read the book and here is a link to the page you cite :


Where on this page does Dr. Ateek suggest or state that Israel does not have a right to exist. This page actually reinforces my comment above that Sabeel suggests a bi-national State for Jews and Palestinian Arabs...

If what you mean is that Ateek suggests the Zionist cause of creating a "Jewish State" must be abandoned is suggested on this page then I would agree (but that is not what you say) ~ as well I would agree with the sentiment.

Nowhere in scripture do we find evidence that Canaan/Palestine was ever a completely/purely Jewish State ~ in fact we find the opposite in the message of the prophets who called Israel to observe a just treatment of strangers, sojourners and aliens (those foreign to the Jewish people obviously) treating them as equals and citizens and allowing them an inheritance in the land (see Ezekiel & Isaiah for starters). Obviously this is not the current policy of the State of Israel.

I think you misrepresent what pg. 165 of Justice only Justice actually says.
commented by Anonymous Chad Kyler, 12:13 PM  
Chad, a problem I have with the liberal denominational critique of Israel is that it holds only Israel to blame in this conflict. The conditions you witnessed didn't just come about because a colonialist aggressor entered the region, enslaving the ones it didn't kick out. (But that's the picture drawn within the "peacemaker" narrative.) The conditions are just as much a result of the surrounding nations not willing to work to bring a lasting peace, but these are not held accountable to the extent that Israel is. Why ONLY Israel?

Do you think that the majority of Israeli society relish having to maintain military vigilance, where nearly everyone must serve in the military at some time? Do you think that the majority enjoy maintaining an occupation? Speak to Israeli immigrants to this country, and you'll hear an earful of how tired they became of living in a state of constant vigilance.

It's not only Israel that has brought about this awful situation, but it's ONLY Israel that Sabeel encourages the churches to sanction.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 1:48 PM  
I think history has shown that Jews should have their own state, a place where they are the majority. I simply reject the repellent idea that the Jews, uniquely among all peoples of the earth, do not have the right to their own state.

In addition, Arab citizens of Israel have far more rights than Arabs in their own countries, so Israel certainly does not need any lectures on human rights from Naim Ateek or anyone else. It is an uncomfortable but irrefutable fact that none of the Arab majority countries guarantee their people's human rights or liberties.
commented by Blogger Presbyman, 12:23 PM  
Here is the passage from 165 and 166 from Atiq's book:

"Contrary to what some people may feel—and this will come as a shock to many others—the PLO has always proposed the ideal solution for Palestine: one united and democratic state for all Palestinians and Jews. Interestingly, the United States, which prides itself on being the champion of democracy, has never accepted this proposal.

"I still believe that this solution is feasible. It is the best and easiest to implement. However, in line with the biblical injunctions above, I would have to agree, with Israel to reject it. Israel insists above all on being a Jewish state. As part of a democratic, binational Palestine, the Jews would eventually become a minority in the country. Furthermore, many Jews so distrust the Palestinians that they would not wish to consign their future to them. So in spite of all of its attractiveness, the idea of a binational state must be discarded."

Clearly, Ateek things the dissolution of Israel is the "best solution." That isn't clear enough for you?

Well, then here is what the Nation reported about a meeting between Ateek and Jewish leaders in the U.S. (LINK BELOW)

"Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor of the Anti-Defamation League confronted Ateek on his position that he did not accept Israel's right to exist. Ateek refused to repudiate it, quoting an Israeli writer's statement that if the Jewish people had a right to a homeland it should be in Germany, not Palestine. "


Then, in 2004, Sabeel, the group led by Ateek stated its vision for the future was one state for two nations and three religions."

Denial is not a river in Egypt, Chad.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 2:36 PM  
"I simply reject the repellent idea that the Jews, uniquely among all peoples of the earth, do not have the right to their own state."

Really? can you name me another people group on the planet that whose national policy is to build a State distinctly for one people of one ethnicity or faith or background that we support? I think is it despicable that we allow Israel "uniquely" to build just such a State!
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 3:07 PM  
Finally, the anti-Semitism is made explicit.

The Arabs have 22 states. All of them officially Muslim. All of them effectively Judenrein. In Jordan, it is illegal to sell land to Jews. The official punishment is the death penalty. They comprise millions of square miles and a population of 300 million. And what do you have a problem with? ISRAEL!

Israel, the Jewish State. Israel, which comprises of six million Jews and another one million Arabs. Relations are not perfect between Jew and Arab, but Arabs are allowed to vote, influence the outcome of elections (how do you think Netanyahu was ousted?) and have Jewish activists work to promote their human rights.

And then there's Armenia.

And Germany.

Very very very very sick. Sick sick sick. Shame. Shame. Shame.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 5:19 PM  
Chad - I have also visited Sabeel. I found Rev. Dr. Ateek to be non-offensive and hospitable on that occasion. He provides *one* perspective on a multi-faceted and complicated situation. This does not change the complaints that many in the Jewish community would have with Sabeel's goals, statements, actions. This particular post details an egregious misrepresentation by a UCC minister of those concerns.

Specifically, the support for a bi-national state is the support for the destruction of the current state of Israel. Supporting the destruction of a particular state is fairly unique among church activities. Equally, you, and Rev. Dr. Ateek (and Sabeel and FOSNA) seem to object to the existence of a Jewish state. Here again, many in the Jewish community would reject that idea. For a pastor to pretend this is not the case is absurd.

Similarly, Rev. Dr. Ateek and some Sabeel and FOSNA materials have used imagery to demonize Israel that is problematic. References to "the Israeli crucifixion system", among other things resurrect deicide charges that have had horrendous consequences. (Given it was the church that perpetrated this particular abuse, the church should be very slow to return to it. Add to this the way this type of language is received in the area, and it is clearly unacceptable.) Rev. Dr. Ateek has been made aware of this concern, yet continues to support the imagery in question.

Another issue of concern is the one-sided presentation Sabeel and FOSNA provide of the history of the region and of current events. No one can hope to gain enough of an understanding of the issues to even form a meaningful opinion if they are prevented from hearing the whole story.

Finally, the involvement of US mainline churches in this raises another question. It is understandable that the Sabeel Ecumenical Palestinian Liberation Theology Center would be focused on Palestinians. It is not understandable why US Mainline churches have become focused on this issue to the exclusion of most others - as if there were not many areas of conflict requiring attention. It is not understandable why US Mainline churches have been applying a double standard to evaluating Israel. It is not understandable why advocates use phrases like, "does everything short of genocide" - which are clearly counter-factual.
commented by Blogger will, 6:44 AM  

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