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Every denomination needs one of these...

Nancy Taylor responds to Rabbi Ronne Friedman

Friday, November 09, 2007

Rev. Nancy Taylor of Old South Church in Boston has responded to concerns raised by Rabbi Ronne Friedman about the recent Sabeel Conference. With Rev. Nancy Taylor's permission, Rabbi Ronne Friedman has distributed the letter she sent to him without editorial comment. The only comment that I will add to this letter is that Taylor deserves credit for engaging the Jewish community in dialog. One of my biggest concerns during the 2005 General Synod is that UCC President John Thomas didn't even respond when two of the largest Jewish groups in the country requested a meeting with him on the issue of divestment (well before his opinion of the issue was public and well before the issue escalated).

Here is Taylor's letter:
Dear Ronne,

Thank you for your letter of October 23 expressing your concern about the Friends of Sabeel Conference that is being held at Old South. I hear and receive your genuine anguish with respect to our willingness to rent our building for this conference. I am distressed that this decision is cause for tension and distance between us.

On behalf of the United Church of Christ, Old South Church in Boston and on my own behalf I want to assure you that we stand firmly in support of Israel. We grieve for Israel's profound experience of insecurity and fear as it is surrrounded by a horrific combination of hostile nations, corrupt leadership and terrorism. At the same time we stand in solidarity with Palestinian Christians who also suffer fear and deprivation as an oppressed minority. We acknowledge that both parties - Palestinians and Israelis - possess narratives that are fraught with suffering, insecurity, injustice and anguish. Standing with Israel and standing with Palestinian Christians are not mutually exclusive commitments. The narriatives of these two peoples remain in uneasy proximity and neither can or should be eclipsed in favor of the other.

The United Church of Christ and Old South are deeply committed to interfaith relationships, including with the Jewish community. The UCC's General Synod has addressed this special relationship, most notably in the last 20 years:
  • Affirmation of the UCC's relationship with the Jewish community, including a rejection of supercessionist theology (GS 16 [1987]). Following this resolution, a significant dialogue project emerged on the central theological issues, among them supercessionism. The dialogue resulted in a major publication.
  • Condemnation of anti-Semitism in all its forms (Executive Council 1983), and the confession of the sin of anti-Semitism and its renunciation (GS 23 [2001 ]);
I am no apologist for Sabeel. Nevertheless Sabeel represents an important Palestinian voice. Unlike some other Palestinian groups Sabeel 1) supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, 2) condemns suicide bombing as morally and theologically wrong, and 3) supports the search for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through non-violent means.

The Sabeel conference is not an unbiased event. These are a desperate, minority people intent on sharing their views, exchanging information and seeking to gain the public's ear as they give voice to a very old complaint.

It is precisely because the Sabeel conference is a one-sided affair that I was intent on putting together a series of conversations and forums that would provide a broader perspective and a range of voices: Jewish, Christian and Muslim. To this end I entered into extended conversation with Jewish leaders in this city, inviting them to name a speaker who could provide a counterweight to Desmond Tutu. In your letter to me you recommended Elie Wiesel as a worthy counter-voice to that of Tutu. I agree. In fact I suggested Elie Wiesel as a possibility to these leaders. I do not know if they pursued that possibility. In any case, I left it in their hands to name a speaker who would fairly represent whatever views or perspectives they wanted to see and hear on the record as a part of Old South's series. Their chosen speaker, Dennis Ross, cancelled at the last minute and no replacement was named although I would have welcomed it. Despite this and another cancellation, Old South has persevered in our commitment to offering voices and perspectives that represent a range of views.

I look forward to our meeting next week and to the possibility of working our way through these difficult and complicated discussions.

With deep respect,

The Rev. Nancy S. Taylor
posted by UCCtruths, Friday, November 09, 2007


Good letter. Rev. Taylor's is an attitude that Jewish organizations can work with. President Thomas should take notes.
commented by Anonymous EV, 12:07 AM  
"We grieve for Israel's profound experience of insecurity and fear as it is surrrounded by a horrific combination of hostile nations, corrupt leadership and terrorism."

It took entirely too long for someone in the UCC to make this acknowledgement. Better late than never. Sabeel doesn't encourage people to address these issues.

commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 2:55 PM  
The comments anon mentions, however, are dwarfed by the huge microphone given to the Sabeel organization by the church. Sabeel gives lip service to the two state solution, but does not support Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state. In addition, Christians are being very much persecuted in Gaza, and organizations like Sabeel turn a blind eye.
commented by Anonymous Anonymous, 1:42 PM  
Kudo's to Taylor.
commented by Anonymous Kelm, 2:22 AM  
From Rev. Taylor's letter:
At the same time we stand in solidarity with Palestinian Christians who also suffer fear and deprivation as an oppressed minority.
- - - - - - - - - - -
At whose hands are Palestinian Christians being oppressed?

What does Sabeel say about it?

Sabeel's politicized agenda is most clearly revealed when the question of the Arab Christian minority is raised.

The brutal reality of Arab-on-Arab violence (which should be of pressing interest to Christians) is downplayed - because although true, it doesn't fit the PC Liberation Theology script. And it interferes with the agenda of demonizing Israel.
commented by Anonymous Ben-David, 4:29 AM  
John Thomas gave a sermon at Old South Church about one week before the Sabeel conference. His sermon, in which he alluded to Sabeel, can be heard on the podcast at http://www.oldsouth.org/

BTW, I could use some advice in downloading the podcast from my Windows XP PC to my iPod.
Bob in Hartford, Connecticut
commented by Blogger Robert, 9:24 AM  

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