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Chief Rabbi pleads with Communion to stay one despite differences

31 July 2008

by Ed Beavan

Dr Jonathan Sacks

Dr Jonathan Sacks

THE CHIEF RABBI, Sir Jonathan Sacks (above), made an impassioned plea to the Anglican Communion to hold together in spite of its differences. He praised the Church for its “unique contribution to the world”, and described it as “wonderful”.

The Chief Rabbi was speaking during a question-and-answer session at the Lambeth Conference on Monday evening, on a day when the theme was “Christian Witness and Other Faiths”.

After delivering his lecture, “The Relationship between the People and God”, he made a heartfelt plea for unity within the worldwide Communion. “I’m speaking from the heart,” he said. “I’ve no right to say it. The hardest thing in the world is to hold the adherents of a faith together. Every faith faces schisms and cracks.

“The Anglican Communion has held together quite different strands of Christian theology and practice more graciously and successfully than any other religion I know. The fact that you hold together in spite of difference is something, as an outsider, I view with wonder and admiration.

“And you must hold together for the future; for it’s your ability to hold together in a world driving apart that is your unique contribution to the world with a landscape of division. You are a wonderful Church.”

Sir Jonathan went on to describe his “unusual” CV for a chief rabbi, which included St Mary’s C of E Primary School and Christ’s College, Finchley, in London.

He said that in 13 years at Christian schools he had never experienced any incidents of anti-Semitism; rather, his Christian schooling instilled in him the virtue of tolerance. “I owe a great debt to the Church of England for what it gave me when I was growing up.”

The Chief Rabbi went on to express his sorrow at the failure of the Oslo Peace Accords for the Middle East after the assassination of the former Israeli President, Yitzhak Rabin, in 1995.

He praised the work of Jews and Palestinians who had lost children in the conflict and were now peacemakers in the region. The “shared tears” of the two sides could be the most effective tool for conflict resolution in the Holy Land.

He also spoke of his belief in the covenants of fate and faith, suggesting that when societies abandoned covenants they disintegrated.

He alluded to the centuries of persecution Jews had faced, when “the word ‘Christian’ struck fear into Jewish hearts”; but he gave thanks that relations between Jews and Christians were today being redeemed. Since the formation of the Council of Christians and Jews in 1942, he said, “Jews and Christians have done more to mend their relationships than any other two faiths on earth, and today we meet as beloved friends.”

He urged the two faiths to continue to extend their friendship more widely in the face of poverty, hunger, disease, and environmental catastrophe.

The Lambeth delegates stood to applaud him, and the Archbishop of Canterbury praised him as “one of the most distinguished political and religious thinkers” in England today.

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