Declaration of rabbis and bishops...they agree!
Today in the UK, rabbis and bishops agreed on some statements of joint affirmation. They published the declaration and the news immediately flew across the news wires and services. What shall we make of this?
The document is in full at the bottom of this commentary.
I believe that the peoples of the world will continue to merge and divide on the basis of good will or bad will. The gathering in Lambeth in the UK was one of good will and that's pleasing to see. Who wants enemies? We'd all rather have friends.
Second, when religions unite and share good will, that's much better than the historic dismissal and/ or torture, certainly by Christian England viz Jewish people. For a detailed yet encyclopedic report of the history of Jewish people in England, see British Jews
Third, I find some serious missing pieces. What they don't say might actually be louder than what they do say. For instance, Anglican Christians in particular, are working to kick against the Israeli government and her actions viz Palestinians. See Anglicans divest or here from the NY Sun
What do they not say about evangelism? The declaration indicates a respect for Judaism and Christianity which "draws both on our particularity ...and which makes its contribution to the wider dialogue of the religions of the world." Now what is the particular distinctive of Christianity? And what did it contribute? Hospitals? Welfare? Educational institutions?
I believe the distinctive of Christianity is the Saviour, Jesus. Himself a Jew. And His claims to be the Messiah and Redeemer of the world. He as a Jew not only came for Jews, but He came for the world. He came to bring us back to relationship with the Almighty. How would He do that? By forgiving us our sins, known and unknown.
So what shall we make of the agreement then of clergy to cooperate? What does it do to works like Jews for Jesus? The declaration makes no mention of evangelism or proselytizing. The declaration merely puts both religions on equal footing, albeit the Jewish is the earlier version. "Christianity emerges from within Judaism" it says.
The Anglican "Church's Ministry among the Jewish people" (CMJ) expected the archbishop to sign patronage as every archbishop had from the organization's inception in 1809. That is, until Williams' predecessor. Now, due to the 'relationship' that the archbishop and the rabbis share, the evangelistic arm of the church is sidelined, or worse. The silence is deafening.
The representative of Anglican Friends of Israel had a reminder. Simon McIlwaine, the director of AFI, said: "We join with the chief rabbis in reminding the Church of the centrality of Israel, not only to the Jewish faith, but to the Christian faith too. "We also hope that this visit will remind the Church of the dangers of being swept up in an Islamic agenda to bring the entire Holy Land under Muslim control and may this visit strengthen the bond of interfaith fellowship and celebration of the common Biblical, theological and moral heritage we share with the Jewish people," he added.
All that said, may all people of good will find peace together. And may they allow us to share what we believe freely, that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah and His love is for all people--including Jews, Muslims--all people.
The full text of the Declaration published today:
1. The Most Revd Dr Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger of Israel, met in friendship at Lambeth Palace on 5th September 2006/12th of Elul 5766, to commit themselves to a continuing relationship based on mutual trust and respect. They gave thanks to the Creator and Lord of the universe for their meeting. At the end of their meeting they made the following statement:
2. “We meet today as religious leaders, Anglican Christians and Israeli Jews, each part of the wider world community of Christianity and Judaism. We seek a dialogue which draws both on our particularity and also on the universal nature of our respective communities and which makes its contribution to the wider dialogue of the religions of the world in which we share.
3. Our meeting forms a further and hopeful chapter in the long story of the relationship between Christianity and Judaism. It is a story in which Christianity emerges from within Judaism, but includes down the centuries all too many times of violence and persecution by Christians of Jews. It also includes significant signs of redemption and hope for a fruitful future together, not least in the United Kingdom where the resettlement of the Jewish communities after three and a half centuries of exile is being celebrated this year. The United Kingdom, encouraged by its Christian community, was involved in the origins of the State of Israel and the Church of England was instrumental in initiating the first Council of Christians and Jews in the dark days of 1942. Since those terrible times of the Holocaust a relationship between our communities, nationally and internationally, has grown from the steady work of encounter, discussion, reflection and reconciliation.
4. This relationship has not been without setbacks and difficulties, but for the Church of England and the Anglican Communion this is a commitment that reflects a continued determination to honour the covenant made by God with Abraham. The outworking of this determination is found in many places: in our welcome for the foundational document ‘Nostra Aetate’  of our sister Roman Catholic Church in 1965 which has happily led to her present relationship of dialogue with representatives of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel; in the recommendations of the Lambeth Conferences of 1988 and 1998 and the document ‘Sharing One Hope’ [2 & 3]; in the joint declaration by the Presidents of the Council of Christians and Jews on anti-Semitism in 2001 ; in the work of the office of the Archbishop of Canterbury towards the Alexandria declaration in 2002 ; in our strong support for the inauguration of a national Holocaust Memorial Day in the United Kingdom; and in the statements made by the Archbishop on those occasions . Our prayer is that the Almighty will redeem our past and direct our future.
5. The dialogue between religions is an essential need of our time and requires that all people of faith bend their best efforts to this common task. In this connection we are sensitive in particular to the importance of continuing to develop our relationships of trust with Islam, nationally in our two countries and internationally. For Christians and Jews, however, the task of building mutual relationship has a different and prior basis than our dialogue with any other religion. Our relationship is unique, not only historically and culturally, but also scripturally, and for both religions, is rooted in the one overarching covenant of God with Abraham to which God remains faithful through all time. It is unique historically through the interaction of the Christian and Jewish communities, especially in Europe down to the Holocaust; and it is unique in the contributions made through the arts, science and humanities to a common culture.
6. Our meeting today builds also on the personal relationships which have grown between us from our previous occasions of personal meeting in Europe and in Israel and from our correspondence. We expect and intend that the friendship and respect that we hold for each other will continue to grow and provide an example to our communities.