Former Free Church of Scotland Moderator Rev Dr John Ross (above) reflects on a controversial report from the Church of Scotland which denies any special privileges for the Jewish people in the land of Israel.
‘The inheritance of Abraham?’, cobbled together by the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council has been removed from the Kirk’s website because it is being rewritten by Church of Scotland officials.
Dr Ross was awarded his PhD for research on the Scottish Mission to the Jews, and previously served as General Secretary of Christian Witness to Israel and was the European Co-ordinator of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism.
The Church and Society Council’s report for the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said John Ross, was ‘patronising and deeply offensive.’
The Times said it was ‘a slap in the face.’ The Jerusalem Post saw it as an ‘Anti-Jewish text [that] will shame the Church of Scotland’.
The Jewish Chronicle spoke of it as breathtaking arrogance and with impeccable logic, the evangelical Cranmer blog argued that the ‘Church of Scotland report denies Jesus was the promised Messiah’. I agree, but I am not in the least surprised.
Sally Foster-Fulton’s (Church and Society Council convener) report is both highly controversial and utterly superficial. It provides further proof of how a growing antisemitic tendency within the Kirk is leading to a deliberate rejection of the Church of Scotland’s historic missionary priorities.
In his critique of ‘The inheritance of Abraham?’, John Ross provides a very useful historical background to the report.
Here, then, is another stage on the Kirk’s inexorable journey away from is historical commitment to the Bible as the Word of God, its confessional theological heritage, and its erstwhile evangelical missionary commitments.
To all intents and purposes the Church of Scotland’s missionary interest in the Jews ended in 1981. That year the General Assembly redefined its relationship to the Jewish people in terms of dialogue with the community rather than the evangelisation of individuals. But this much vaunted high level project, considered so strategic, was stillborn.
In 1985 this reorientation gave rise to the Board of World Mission and Unity’s report, ‘Christians and Jews Today’. This report was sent down to the Kirk’s presbyteries for consideration, but two years later less than half had bothered to respond.
For most, the Church of Scotland’s historic relationship to the Jewish people was unimportant and uninteresting. Enthusiasm for Jewish missions, which had been sustained for a hundred and fifty years, had finally been overcome by inertia.
In the years that followed, the Kirk’s Board of World Mission and Unity ceased to make an annual report to the General Assembly on Jewish related issues. The historic view of Israel, as the Jewish people, both in the Land and the Diaspora, was jettisoned.
Israel was now seen as synonymous with the State of Israel and support for Israel was mischievously misrepresented as a tendency to uncritically rubber stamp any old Knesset policy.
By 2000, the Kirk’s interest was refocused on the political situation in the Middle East. Its reports extended a biased support for Palestinian cause, dropping the term ‘Israel’ in favour of a mythical entity called ‘Israel/Palestine.’
It is significant, therefore, that the 2013 report comes not from the World Mission Council, but the Church and Society Council, the Jewish people being no longer of any missionary interest to the Kirk.
The most grievous omission of the current report is its total neglect of the Church’s historical recognition of the great debt it owes, under God, to the Jewish people. Recognition of this fact need not lead to uncritical approval of everything done by the State of Israel.
Indeed it is the prerogative of friends to offer strong constructive criticism. But today’s Church of Scotland is no friend to the Jewish people, on whom it has turned its back.
If this report is accepted, it will prove that the Kirk has turned St Paul’s ‘great sorrow and unceasing anguish’ (Romans 9:2) for the Jewish people, into scorn and rejection. How different the stance adopted by Thomas Chalmers, who, in his Lectures on the Epistle to the Romans, described a sensitive sharing of the gospel with the Jewish people as ‘the first and foremost object of Christian policy’.
The downgrade we are currently seeing in the Church of Scotland in this, as in many other areas, is inevitable and it will get worse.
Remove the lynchpin of Scripture as the Word of God, as the liberals did, and in time the wheels fall off the ecclesiastical vehicle.
Dr Ross's comments are covered this morning in The Scotsman and in the Church of Scotland's Life and Work.
Rev Stephen Sizer predictably and enthusiastically praised the Kirk report and appeared on the Iranian-run Press TV to endorse the report. He also used the report to promote his own anti-Israel material.