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US Bishops decry Christian Zionism

28 June 2024

JANET KAWAMOTO/ENS

Demonstrators line up outside the ballroom where the House of Bishops was to convene its afternoon session on Monday, at the Kentucky International Convention Center, Louisville

Demonstrators line up outside the ballroom where the House of Bishops was to convene its afternoon session on Monday, at the Kentucky International Co...

A RESOLUTION condemning Christian Zionism has been passed by the House of Bishops of the Episcopal Church in the United States, during the 81st General Convention, being held this week in Louisville, Kentucky.

Having initially rejected the resolution, the Bishops brought it back for reconsideration, after the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, Dr Hosam Naoum, expressed his disappointment, the Episcopal News Service reports.

Resolution D006 condemns “the practical and political effects of that collection of theologies popularly known as ‘Christian Zionism’, which, distinct from historic Jewish Zionism, in its many manifestations, promotes an eschatology in which the Second Coming of Christ is contingent upon the existence of the modern State of Israel, wrongly conflates that State with biblical Israel, and denies both the legitimacy of Palestinian existence and right to statehood in the Holy Land.”

It was initially among four resolutions on Israel and Palestine rejected by the Bishops on Sunday. The following day, it was returned for reconsideration after a conversation between the Suffragan Bishop of New York, the Rt Revd Allen Shin, and Dr Naoum. It passed with two amendments: one removing language about the “discriminatory nature” of the Israeli government’s policies and practices; and all of section 5, which asked the TEC Office of Government Relations to “challenge the granting of tax-exempt status to religious organizations engaged in Christian Zionist advocacy and activity that contribute to the oppression of Palestinians”.

Among the resolutions rejected by the Bishops was one entailing recognition that Israel’s legal system corresponded to definitions of apartheid. Another recognised Palestinian Arabs as “among the indigenous people of the lands of Palestine and Israel lying between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River”. A third described boycotts, economic disinvestment, and sanctions as “time-honoured means of nonviolent resistance to oppression long respected and upheld by the Church”.

Their rejection prompted demonstrations outside the House of Bishops meeting.

“We are deeply discouraged that, given the news from Gaza since October, the Episcopal bishops were so dismissive of the resolutions on Palestine yesterday,” Priscilla Read, a demonstrator, told ENS. “There was no serious debate on issues that need serious debate.”

The Bishops initially passed three resolutions. A passage accusing the Israeli government of pursuing “an apartheid policy against the Palestinian people” was removed from a resolution condemning both the 7 October attacks and the Israeli government’s response. It affirmed that “for all the people of Israel and Palestine to enjoy freedom, peace, justice, and national self-determination, there must be a Palestinian state, coexisting with the Jewish State of Israel.”

Another resolution, brought by the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music and adopted by the House of Bishops, commits the General Convention to “clarifying, in liturgy and through education, a basic distinction between biblical Israel and the modern State of Israel, in order to avoid a conflation of the two, and to reduce such confusion as contributes to the harmful effects of those religious ideologies popularly known as Christian Zionism, distinct from historic Jewish Zionism”.

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