Ernst Moeksis/flickr

Church of England repents of past anti-Semitism that led to Holocaust

Thu 21 Nov 2019
By Heather Preston

The Church of England has highlighted centuries of Christian antisemitism in a new report and called on the Anglican community to repent.

The tool for teaching on Christian-Jewish relations, which has been three years in the making acknowledges the substantial role Christian theology has played in the stereotyping and persecution of Jewish people which ultimately led to the Holocaust.

The document, "God's Unfailing Word" is the first authoritative statement on the subject from the Anglican Church and speaks of historic attitudes towards Judaism which have provided a "fertile seed-bed for murderous antisemitism".

The Church's Faith and Order Commission urges Christians to repent not only for the "sins of the past" but also to challenge active attitudes and stereotypes towards their Jewish neighbours.

 

"The attribution of collective guilt to the Jewish people for the death of Christ and the consequent interpretation of their suffering as collective punishment sent by God is one very clear example of that," the report states.

"Within living memory, such ideas contributed to fostering the passive acquiescence if not positive support of many Christians in actions that led to the Holocaust.

"Christians have been guilty of promoting and fostering negative stereotypes of Jewish people that have contributed to grave suffering and injustice."

The document encourages Anglicans to savour and respect the "unique" connection between the two faiths in their worship of one God, referring to the Christian-Jewish relationship as a "gift of God to the Church".

Commenting in an afterword to the report Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis thanks the Church of England for the report and praises it's "sensitivity" and ownership of "Christianity's role in the bitter saga of Jewish persecution," before making a proposal that Christians should stop evangelising to the Jewish community.

Mirvis criticised the report for not rejecting "the efforts of those Christians, however many they may number, who, as part of their faithful mission, dedicate themselves to the purposeful and specific targeting of Jews for conversion to Christianity."

He has encouraged the Church of England to follow the example of the Catholic Church, saying: "In 2015, the Vatican issued a document exploring 'theological questions pertaining to Catholic-Jewish Relations'. In doing so, it took the opportunity to make clear that the Catholic Church would 'neither conduct nor support any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews'."

Responding to his comments in the document's foreword, The Archbishop of Canterbury, describes Mirvis' reflection as a "great service" to Anglicans and reinforces that Christians should share their faith with "gentleness and grace", recognising the "weight of that history".

 

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