Last year, when I first started this second blog, I wrote about my concern for chicanery in the United Methodist Church. Just a quick update, Bishop Ough (pronounced “oh”) announced last month that a Special Conference was now called and will occur in 2019, just as promised, and just in time to avoid giving votes to the new African bishops, who would be against any changes regarding homosexuality to the Book of Discipline. Of course, how much of the UMC will remain after that special called conference is anybody’s guess, but that’s a matter for another post.
The fact du jour that has my knickers in a knot today is what I perceive to be the denomination’s bent toward anti-Semitism. I know that charging the United Methodist Church with such bias seems strong, but after looking at the evidence, and seeing the actions that the denomination’s Social Justice Warriors have taken and are pushing, I don’t think that there is any other conclusion that one can arrive at.
Actions of Anti-Semitism?
Before I get into this discussion, let me admit upfront that I am a thorough-going Zionist, no ifs, ands, or buts. No apologies, no hemming and hawing about. It’s not up for discussion.
That said, I have to confess that I am more than a little p.o.’ed by the UMC’s stance. One of the most popular movements today for all
Slack-Jawed Social Justice Warriors is the BDS Movement, which stands for Boycott, Divest and Sanction. This “movement” is directed at the nation of Israel, and seeks to create public pressure on companies and people to not engage in business with Israel (the boycott action), pressure all those who have investments in companies that do business with Israel to eliminate those companies from financial portfolios (divest) and impose international sanctions on Israel (sanction) via the United Nations and other national resolutions.
The United Methodist Church has its feet planted more or less firmly in this movement. For example, while last year’s General Conference (the quadrennial meeting of the denomination’s delegates) didn’t pass some of the desired resolutions of the different BDS organizations, the denomination’s Wespath branch (which controls the UMC’s finances, such as pensions and benefits and investments) had already taken different actions to divest from Israeli financial institutions.
Two Petitions, Different Priorities
As I said above, the quadrennial meeting of the General Conference of the UMC, has delegates, both clergy and laity, from all the countries in which the UMC serves. It is at this quadrennial conference that church polity is discussed, voted upon and finalized for the entire denomination. While there are annual conferences around the UMC (I am in the Virginia Conference), the General Conference is the only body that decides additions, deletions and alterations to the Book of Discipline, which is the governing connection of the UMC.
It is at the General Conference that the petitions from the different conferences, requesting formal action or sanction by the church, are presented for discussion and decision, and it was this aspect of the church’s actions last year that has me distressed. Last year, among the many different petitions that were presented at GC and acted upon, were two specific actions taken, by vote of the General Conference, that I believe demonstrate the institutional bias of anti-Semitism that infests today’s UMC.
Ecumenical Brotherhood For Thee, O Muslim…
Last year, among the many petitions that came from the different annual conferences, were two dealing with Judaism and Islam. The first of these petitions is so heart-warming, so touching.
Entitled “Our Muslim Neighbors” (petition #60231), it calls upon the UMC to become more understanding and co-operative of our Muslim brothers and sisters. After all, says the petition, while “the two faiths sometimes understand differently the particular ways in which God deals with human beings, … they agree that the proper human response to the Almighty is a life of humble obedience, including repentance, faith, and good works.”
And so we, as Methodists, are enjoined by this petition to be good neighbors and to enter into a dialogue with Muslims in which we “we reflect critically upon our Christian tradition…” (why is it always Christians who have to be critical of their religion?), and show respect by “not enter[ing] into formal interfaith dialogue with the intent to convert the Muslim community to Christianity.” (So much for the UMC’s mission statement, “making disciples for the transformation of the world, huh?)
This, oh so, ecumenical document was passed by a nearly unanimous vote, 759-24.
But Ecumenical Anti-Semitism For Jews
Now, since we are feeling so brotherly toward people of different religions, it would seem only right that calls for church response to actual prejudice, bigotry, and persecution of another faith would meet with the same open-heartedness as Methodist concern for Muslims. You would be wrong.
Petition #60926 was entitled Confronting Twenty-First Century Anti-Semitism, and called upon the UMC to make a statement that prejudice and hatred of Jews was wrong and that the UMC was going on record as saying so. According to the author of the petition, the presiding officer of the GC at that time broke precedent by interrupting him as he was presenting his petition and allowing others to then make false statements about the petition.
As a result, this petition was rejected by the General Conference by a vote of 336-446. To read the author’s depiction of what happened at GC, go to his article on Juicy Ecumenism; at the end of the article, you will find the entire text of his Confronting Anti-Semitism petition.
By the way, if you are tempted to think that this vote by the General Conference was merely an ecclesiastical tempest in a teapot, a mere spat, please read the news report of the event from the American Jewish Committee: Methodist Conference Rejects Israel Divestment, But Fails to Confront Anti-Semitism.
It is no stretch to say that this action by the General Conference was a black mark against the UMC. The article is absolutely spot-on when citing Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC Director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations: “the UMC missed an opportunity to join in solidarity with the Jewish people in confronting the resurgence of the oldest form of hatred in the world, anti-Semitism, and that is disturbing.”
Amen, Rabbi. Amen