NEW YORK (Dec. 12)
Leader of the Reform movement have sharply criticized efforts by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA to link the Persian Gulf crisis to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
At their biannual general board meeting on Nov. 15, leaders of the church group adopted a statement saying that “active U.S. efforts to implement U.N. Security Council resolutions relating to the occupation of Kuwait by Iraq stands in marked contrast to U.S. negligence regarding the implementation of Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.”
Those resolutions call for Israeli withdrawal from territory taken in the Six-Day War of 1967.
The council represents 32 major Protestant and Orthodox churches with about 80 million congregants in this country, including the Methodist, Presbyterian and Episcopalian denominations.
“The U.S. government’s condemnation of the massacre on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount and its endorsement of a U.N. mission to the occupied territories was a welcome departure from past policies,” the statement also said.
“The failure of the U.S. government to take any substantive measures to oppose the Israeli occupation, however, weakens the effect of its appropriate outrage over Iraqi aggression.”
Rabbi Jerome Davidson, chairman of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations’ inter-religious committee, said he was “surprised that the NCC would have gone along with this ploy of Saddam Hussein’s and other Arab leaders to link the two situations.
“This is an unfortunate position for NCC to take when they want to build a stronger relationship with Israel,” he said.
Davidson and Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, the committee’s director, sent an open letter to the council’s leaders on Nov. 29, calling the parallel “a moral obscenity.”
NO REPLY TO UAHC COMPLAINT
The Reform leaders have not yet heard any response from council officials. The group’s position and its silence to the UAHC complaint could weaken the relationship between the two groups, according to Bretton-Granatoor.
Leaders of the two religious organizations meet periodically with each other and with other groups to discuss interfaith issues as they arise.
“This is a very troublesome, difficult issue that has not only spiritual and theological importance, but real political implications as well,” Bretton-Granatoor said.
“We would like to meet with them soon. Unless there is a real commitment to hammer these issues out, it could eventually cloud inter-religious dialogue in the months ahead.
“We’ve made tremendous progress (on inter-religious concerns) in the last couple of years,” he said. “This could scuttle a lot of the things that we’re doing.”
According to Dr. Jay Rock, director of the council’s Christian-Jewish Relations Office, “We’re glad to talk to them. We’re open to further conversation. We have had a good relationship with the Union for a long time.”
But he acknowledged his group has “not made a formal response yet, and it’s hard to know how we will follow up.”