Bishop avoids conference after Jewish complaints
THE Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt Revd Martin Wharton, has
cancelled an appearance at a conference on the Holy Land, after
strong objections from the north-east's Jewish community.
Bishop Wharton had been scheduled to speak at a conference
taking place in Gateshead tomorrow, "Peace & Justice in the
Holy Land". The event has been organised by a group of people who
have taken part in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in
Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). Its sponsors include Christian Aid,
CAFOD, and Friends of Sabeel UK.
Bishop Wharton said in a statement that he had decided not to
attend the conference "for the sake of good relations between all
the faith communities in Newcastle".
A spokesman for Newcastle diocese said that Bishop Wharton's
decision not to appear was "not a boycott"; it was because his
attendance "seemed to have become a point of issue between faith
communities within Newcastle".
The Representative Council of North-East Jewry wrote to Bishop
Wharton in August, to protest at his voting for a motion at the
General Synod which supported EAPPI (
Synod, 13 July). The letter said that his vote "makes any
further contact with the Jewish community in the north-east
impossible". The Board of Deputies of British Jews has said that
EAPPI is "partisan" and "anti-Israel".
Pat Devlin, one of the organisers of the conference, said that
there was "no ill-feeling" between Bishop Wharton and the
conference organisers, whom he had met to explain his decision. "We
know that he supports the overall aims of the conference," she
The chief executive of the Council of Christians and Jews (CCJ),
the Revd David Gifford, said that the conference "has the potential
of becoming yet another anti-Jewish meeting, creating more anxiety
and distrust between the north-east Jewish community and the
Church". He suggested that the organisers postpone the conference,
"and reconsider a new way of openness, sensitivity, and
Ms Devlin said that the conference was not "anti-Jewish. It is
coming from a peace and justice and human-rights perspective."
The RC Bishop of Hexham & Newcastle, the Rt Revd Seamus
Cunningham, was scheduled to attend the conference, but also
decided not to attend. He told the Jewish Chronicle that
he had become aware "that many Jewish people in the north-east were
angry and upset".
A report published on Tuesday by a coalition of NGOs, including
Christian Aid, Trading Away Peace: How Europe helps sustain
illegal Israeli settlements, calls on the EU governments to
ban the import of products from Israeli settlements, such as fruit
and vegetables, textiles, and cosmetics. It says settlement
products should be labelled so that consumers can make "an informed
Complaint. The Board of Deputies of British
Jews announced on Wednesday that it had "lodged a formal complaint"
under the Clergy Discipline Measure against the Revd Stephen Sizer,
Vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water, in Surrey. The Board of
Deputies said that the complaint was "based on statements made by
Revd Sizer that the Board regards as anti-Semitic".
Mr Sizer was accused earlier this year of linking to
anti-Semitic material online. A review by the Crown Prosecution
Service concluded that he had not committed any criminal offence