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January 12, 2010

Paul Merkley Weighs in on Canadian Church Scene


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Scholar Paul Merkley

Paul Merkley, professor emeritus in history at Carleton University in Ottawa, and the author of numerous texts including American Presidents, Religion and Israel (Praeger, 2004) has authored a detailed assessment of anti-Zionism in Christian churches in Canada. The piece, “Anti-Zionism and the Churches: The Canadian Scene,” was published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs earlier this month.

In this piece, Professor Merkley also provides an institution-by-institution breakdown of the anti-Zionism in Canadian religious bodies. For example, Kairos, a Canadian organization that has been in news lately has been criticized for “its support of Israel Apartheid Week events at Canadian Universities, for its policy statements and publications that adopt uncritically the Palestinian narrative … and for its description of Zionism as an ‘ideology of empire, colonialism, and militarism.’”

Merkley also recounts the events of the past summer at the summer church conventions held by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and the United Church of Canada (UCC).

ELCIC officials, Merkley reports, prepared the way for the passage of anti-Zionist resolutions with articles in the denominational magazine Canadian Lutheran. Their efforts were apparently successful despite vocal opposition to anti-Israel resolutions that reiterated the message offered in the church’s magazine. Merkley writes that “several amendments intended to moderate anti-Israel bias were defeated.”

The United Church of Canada, on the other hand, were not able to achieve the passage of anti-Israel resolutions, largely because of the over-the-top anti-Israel rhetoric in documents prepared for the denomination’s annual convention. In these documents, “Canadian Jews in general, and certain unnamed Jewish members of Canada’s parliament in particular, were denounced for disloyalty to Canada on account of their loyalty to Israel.” This over-the-top rhetoric, Merkely reports, caught the attention of the Canadian news media, and the resulting coverage “brought a degree of heat upon the UCC leaders that ELCIC leaders were spared. Indeed, the ELCIC convention appears to have been entirely ignored by the national media.”

Merkley concludes:

he case of the ELCIC demonstrates that where there is no extra-ecclesial scrutiny of discussion within a denomination - the normal state of affairs, given the media's indifference to church matters - the biases of clerical leadership will prevail against the attitudes of the laity in internal debate. The case of the WCC demonstrates that where a denomination's deliberations come under media scrutiny, the anti-Israel bias of the leadership gets exposed, the leadership becomes uncomfortable and defensive, and an alerted laity will defeat their resolutions.

The entire piece, which can be found here, is well worth reading.

Posted by dvz at January 12, 2010 02:21 PM

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