(JTA) – Britain’s organized Jewish community slammed the Church of England’s General Synod for endorsing an "inflammatory and partisan" pro-Palestinian program.
The Synod on Tuesday passed a motion to support “the vital work” of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel. The program brings church volunteers to the West Bank to “experience life under occupation” for three to four months, spending about one week inside the internationally recognized borders of Israel.
Participants are asked to lobby on behalf of the Palestinians upon their return.
The British Board of Deputies, British Jewry’s umbrella organization, issued a statement Tuesday ripping the vote.
"The Church of England has a duty to examine the situation in the Middle East in a balanced way," the board wrote. "Instead, by passing this motion, it has chosen to promote an inflammatory and partisan program at the expense of its interfaith relations. Justifying its decision using the views of marginal groups in Israel and the UK, the Synod has ridden roughshod over the very real and legitimate concerns of the UK Jewish community, showing a complete disregard for the importance of Anglican-Jewish relations."
The statement went to say, "Moreover, to hear the debate at Synod littered with references to ‘powerful lobbies’, the money expended by the Jewish community, ‘Jewish-sounding names’ and the actions of the community ‘bringing shame on the memory of victims of the Holocaust’, is deeply offensive and raises serious questions about the motivation of those behind this motion."
The Times of Israel quoted the bishop of Manchester, the Right Rev. Nigel McCullouch, chairman of the British interfaith group the Council of Christians and Jews, as saying that lobbying efforts on the part of the Jewish community to prevent the passage of the motion may have backfired, causing more delegates to vote for the motion, which passed with 201 bishops, clergy and laity voting in favor, 54 voting against and 93 abstaining.
McCullouch told the Times of Israel that the fact that so many abstained is "very significant."
"It was not an overwhelming endorsement by the Church of England,” the bishop said.