New Zealand Church Rejects Liturgy Change Urged by Jews

New Zealand Jews are dismayed at the failure of the Anglican Synod to restore the words “Zion” and “Israel” to psalms included in the prayerbook of the country’s largest church denomination.

The synod declined at its recent annual meeting to reverse the deletions made four years ago. The ruling was termed “a major step backward in Jewish-Christian relations” by the president of the New Zealand Jewish Council.

Wendy Ross of the council said the synod vote represented “actual hostility” toward the Jews. The decision was made despite the almost unanimous opposition by Maori churchgoers, although their community had been identified as the intended beneficiaries of the changes.

The Anglican Church of New Zealand adopted the revised text in 1988 in an attempt to “modernize” Christianity. The word “Zion” was deleted in 33 places and the word “Israel” in 21.

The changes were made at the suggestion of the Rev. Brian Carrell.

The Jews lobbied over the past four years for restoration of the full text.

Churchgoers urging restoration of the deleted words included the Anglican bishop of Auckland, the Rt. Rev. Bruce Gilberd, who told the synod it had a duty to put right “the serious offense” and “unnecessary hurt” to the Jewish community.

In New York, an expert on Jewish-Christian relations told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency the decision reflected views deeply influenced by church perspectives on the Israel-Arab dispute.

“It is an indication of how an uncritical political identification with the Palestinian cause has spilled over to the liturgical life of the church, to the degree of editing their own traditional prayers to remove any historic identification of the Jewish people with the land of Israel,” said Judith Banki, associate national director of interreligious affairs at the American Jewish Committee.

But there was a positive development in Australia. Australian Jewish leaders applauded this week’s decision by the Anglican Synod of Australia to set up a working group that will develop guidelines on promoting understanding of Jews and Judaism.

Similar working groups were established by two other major Australian churches recently.

(JTA staff writer Malka Rabinowitz contributed to this report.)

NEXT STORY