Thursday 9 May 2013

Former CWI Director slams Church of Scotlands Israel report

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.


  1. I thought the report was measured and respectful to all - now it is removed - censored if you like by a powerful politically driven lobby - although I have saved a copy. It will be interesting to see the next version. but it would be nice if Christian zionists would understand the theology of those of us who are sceptical of the zionist project. We seek to express and show the love of Christ/Messiah to all people on the earth - Jews, gentiles, Palestinians, Muslims etc. We genuinely seek peace, justice and security for both Palestinians and Jews in the Holy Land and seek to move back from the dangerous situation that is being engendered by Israeli expansionism and islamic extremists. I fear the zionist project is endangering the lives of many Jews. We interpret Israel ecclesiologically and Christologically - that is, the true Israel of God is formed of people from every nation (Jews, gentiles etc) in Messiah, not apart from Messiah - Jesus is the rightful king of Israel - according to Isaiah 1-11 - ' to us a child is born'. It would be good if Christian zionists would tone down the language and seek understanding with fellow believers - we are called to build the Church of Jesus together in unity.

  2. "censored if you like by a powerful politically driven lobby"

    Ah yes, it's that powerful Zionist lobby again, isn't it Andrew. Rather reminiscent of your comment here where you insinuated that Nick Howard is part of some evil Zionist Tory cabal:

    "One may also ask about links with some in the Conservative Party here and known work (i.e.Fox-Werrity affair) to support the State of Israel."

    "I thought the report was measured and respectful to all"

    Really? Like the complete absence of any condemnation of Palestinian terrorism, the unjust and entirely decontextualised accusation of ethnic cleansing in the 1947-1949 war, the charge that "the Jewish people" (as opposed to Israelis) need to repent of (alleged) ethnic cleansing and of (allegedly) "thinking of themselves as victims and special" (p.6)? Can you not see how offensive such comments would be to the average Jewish person, Andrew?

    " It would be good if Christian zionists would tone down the language"

    But it's ok for Anti-Zionists such as yourselves to throw around accusations of "censorship by a powerfully politically driven lobby"?

  3. "I thought the report was measured and respectful to all".

    You really believe that, do you? Really, honestly? And then you compound that utterly ridiculous statement by talking of a "powerful lobby" (we all know which lobby that is, don't we?). And the outcry across all segments of society, and across the country and world? Did this powerful lobby orchestrate that too?

    "We seek to express and show love to all peoples - Jews". Well, you have a funny way of showing it. Indeed, can't recall you ever saying anything positive about Israel.

    You should also stop worrying yourself about how Zionism is endangering Jews, it's by far the least dangerous option for their survival.

    "if CZ would understand the theology of those of us who are sceptical". We do understand it, all too well. Or do we also have to celebrate some half-baked ideas which demand hermeneutical gymnastics?

  4. The report references the American Jew Braverman and Palestinian Kairos group and endorses the following sentiment. 'He [Braverman]is clear about the fact that Christian people have to repent of the wrongs done to the Jewish people, but this does not mean that the church cannot criticise Zionism today.' The report suggests that the present policies of the Israeli state are not in accord with the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel of 14 May 1948, nor does it consider the conditional nature of the promise of land to obedience to the Law of Moses.
    James, members of the Tory party do lobby for Israel, can I not point that out?
    As for hermeneutical gymnasitcs Calvin, the New Testament writers read the Old Testament in terms of its fulfillment in Christ. This is not gymnasitcs, but a simple Augustinian understanding. Real events in the OT about Israel point symbolically to the work of Christ who is universally seated upon David's throne over Israel. This is not replacement theology, but continuity with God's purposes through Israel.

  5. "James, members of the Tory party do lobby for Israel, can I not point that out?"

    Yes you can, but since you later on admitted that you know very little about Nick Howard's political views (, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that you made the insinuation in order to muddy the waters and avoid facing the evidence which had been marshalled against your fellow anti-Zionist Stephen Sizer. When you continue to repeat the trope of a powerful lobby censoring dissent, it becomes all the
    harder to take you seriously.

  6. "a simple Augustinian understanding"

    which, if you knew but a fraction of church history, has led to centuries of Christian contempt and mistreatment of the Jewish people.

  7. Yes it has. Augustine's theology was rooted in Rome. He was sent to these shores by the Pope (Gregory, I think) to "Christianise" us heathen Brits. BUT there was already a rapidly growing indigenous church, which Rome could not abide. If Augustine had stayed away & Pope Gregory had never heard about us, our Easter might still coincide with & have some resemblance to Pesach and we might not be having this debate!!

  8. I've been out of circulation for a few days and missed the comments.

    Andrew, your comments tel me more about yourself than about the report. First of all, you appear to subscribe to the old myth of the almost supernatural power of the Jews (now 'the lobby')to control the world.

    Second, are you not aware of the stable this report comes from. This is the same church that is prepared to recognise the validity of homosexual relationships. The Church of Scotland is not controlled by the 'Jewish lobby' but by the leftist, liberal, secular humanist lobby.

    For the drafters of the report to claim some from of biblical validity and 'Christ-centredness' for their tendentious document is rich indeed.

    As for Augustine and Calvin, since when did their writings become the measure by which we understand Scripture?

    What I see in evangelicals who want to deligitimise the state of Israel is a willingness to jump into bed with anyone - liberal theologians, radical Muslims, anti-Semites and loony lefties - so long as they are against Israel.

  9. The CoS report is a disgrace and drags the church backwards towards Crusader theology about the Jews. No other country has to tolerate a Christian denomination making the implication that it should not exist because its existence is bad theology!


  10. Mike - I do not beleive that Jews control the world as you suggest. The worldy system, beast of Revelation, New World Order, call it what you will, is primarily Luciferian - this system hates the Jews and seeks their destruction in another holocaust through use of agent provocateurs. But salvation for Jews can come through Messiah and we (Gentile Christians, Messianic beleivers) need to work for peace, justice and reconcilliation in the Middle East.
    Secondly, in fairness there are many traditionalist members in the Church of Scotland who struggle against liberalism. Some are Calvinist, some CZs. This report may reflect a traditionalist or Christian-socialist mindset as opposed to a liberal one, although the desire for peace, justice and reconcilliation for all is not really socialism.
    I don't think Augustine and Calvin got everything right, but Augustine was merely expounding as best he could New Testament apostolic teaching - the Reformation was heavily influenced by Augustine (apart from Catholic authority). Augustine also taught the Church to let the Jews live in peace amongst them 'slay them not.' City of God XVIII 46.
    I don't wish to de-ligitimise the State of Israel's right to exist, such rights are given and taken away by God, but I do wonder how a secular, often liberal republic can have spiritual significance while rejecting Jesus' universal reign on David's throne of Israel.

  11. Thanks Andrew. The context of the quote from Augustine is: 'God has shown the Church in her enemies the Jews the grace of His compassion, since, as saith the apostle, "their offence is the salvation of the Gentiles." And therefore He has not slain them, that is, He has not let the knowledge that they are Jews be lost in them, although they have been conquered by the Romans, lest they should forget the law of God, and their testimony should be of no avail in this matter of which we treat. But it was not enough that he should say, "Slay them not, lest they should at last forget Thy law," unless he had also added, "Disperse them;" because if they had only been in their own land with that testimony of the Scriptures, and not every where, certainly the Church which is everywhere could not have had them as witnesses among all nations to the prophecies which were sent before concerning Christ.' The only reason Augustine appears to have believed that the Jews had not been annihilated was that they should serve 'as witnesses among all nations to the prophecies which were sent before concerning Christ.'

    I'm pleased you don't want to delegitimise Israel's right to exist but why single out Israel for criticism while appearing to ignore the crimes of Israel's neighbours? It's true that the nation does reject their Messiah but Israel's 'spiritual significance' has never depended on their spiritual achievements. Did the nation have no spiritual significance in the period of the Judges, or after the kingdom divided? Everything depends on the grace of God.

  12. "I do not believe that Jews control the world as you suggest."

    Ah, so it's NOT the Jews who constitute the "powerful politically driven lobby" which censors dissent. So who is it then, Andrew?

  13. Mike - my concern is the Christian theological justification of Israeli action - good or bad - I would be critical of a Christian theological justification of Islamic action too, although it is not widespread - if it exists at all.
    James - perhaps you know more about this than I do. You could enlighten me about how the network-lobby works. A start might be Conservative Friends of Israel perhaps? - but the real threat to the State of Israel does not come from anti-zionists, but from a lack of progress in peace negotiations. In the words of Saint Francis of Assisi

    Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
    Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
    where there is injury,pardon;
    where there is doubt, faith;
    where there is despair, hope;
    where there is darkness, light;
    and where there is sadness, joy.

    O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
    to be consoled as to console;
    to be understood as to understand;
    to be loved as to love.
    For it is in giving that we receive;
    it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
    and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen