Op-Ed: Canadian Churches For and Against Israel
Dr. Manfred GerstenfeldThe writer has been a long-term adviser on strategy issues to the boards...
“Sixty-seven percent of all Canadians register as Christians, while 24% state they have no religion. Islam is the third largest religion with 3% of the whole population, while Judaism is in seventh place at 1%. About 25% of Canadians say that they attend church regularly.
“Roman Catholics make up about 40% of Canadian Christians. All Protestant denominations account for 35%, of which mainline churches represent 18%. The largest mainline Protestant denomination is the United Church of Canada (UCC) with about 9% of Canadian Christians, followed by Anglicans, Baptists and Lutherans.
"Membership in these mainline churches, all affiliated with the World Council of Churches, has declined steadily in recent decades. Evangelical churches represent about 10% of Canadian Christians."
Paul Merkley is Emeritus Professor of History at Carleton University in Ottawa. He is the author of several books on Israel and Christian Zionism. He is also a member of the Board of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem.
The resolutions seem to accept the falsified narrative of ‘an original Palestinian people.’
“Among Protestants, division over policy toward Israel seems to follow the fault line between ‘mainline’ and ‘Evangelical’ churches. Mainline churches are inclined toward anti-Zionism, whereas Evangelicals lean to Zionism.
"Christian Zionists believe that a faithful attitude toward the Scriptures embodies credence in prophetic sections of the Hebrew Bible. Mainline churches and more established Evangelical churches – such as Methodists and Baptists – reject this notion.
“In recent years, the UCC adopted many resolutions concerning ‘occupied Palestine’ and Israel. The principal issue at recent conventions has been expanding the BDS campaign. There have also been workshops and a major prayer service for the ‘defeat of the Israeli occupiers.’
“During summer 2013, the UCC held a national convention while the Anglican Church and the Lutheran Church conducted a combined national convention. They adopted resolutions against Israel similar to those which had failed to pass earlier. Anglican/Lutheran resolutions called for ‘education in churches about the impact of illegal settlements on the lives of Palestinians and Israelis…about imported goods identified as produced in, or related to illegal settlements, etc.’
"They also called on churches to explore and challenge theories and beliefs which deny Israel’s right to exist. It seems to ignore that this denial is the official position of all Palestinian political groups, including Hamas and Fatah.
“These Anglican/Lutheran resolutions neglect the suffering of Israelis under Palestinian rocket attacks, the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) frequent celebration of terrorist attacks, the dedication of Palestinian sports arenas and other facilities to suicide bombers and incitement of school children to become martyrs. The resolutions seem to accept the falsified narrative of ‘an original Palestinian people.’
"They do not mention the PA’s denial of the Jewish people’s millennial history in the land of Israel.
“The Canadian Council of Churches is the principal inter-church body. It includes the World Council-affiliated churches as well as Roman Catholic and Orthodox bodies. Since 1947, it has bombarded the government with advice on the whole range of current policy matters, domestic and international. The rank and file in churches have little awareness of the public positions taken by their leaders.
“The Roman Catholic laity and most of the clergy – with the denomination’s point of gravity being in the province of Quebec – are probably better disposed toward Israel than both Vatican and Protestant mainstream leaders. Yet, Roman Catholics are not moved like Christian Zionists by the notion of Israel enjoying God’s particular favor. The Bible does not hold a central place in their tradition, although there is reason to believe that this is changing. They are also less interested in current religious books and Christian television.
“For many years, Kairos was a very effective inter-denominational Canadian Christian organization promoting social and political issues. Its positions were on the left-internationalist side. Its leaders often came from historical peace churches such as Mennonites and Quakers. Kairos supported Israel Apartheid Week and described Zionism as ‘an ideology of empire, colonialism and militarism.’ It also adopted the Palestinian narrative about the Nakba unconditionally.
"In 2009, the Canadian government announced the gradual withdrawal of all Kairos’ public funding, which has since been completed.
“Church affairs draw little attention in Canada’s media. Exceptions are stories about long-ago sexual abuse in schools and occasional current items about misuse of parish funds by clergymen. Protestant denominations make major efforts to draw attention to their convention resolutions. The BDS issue got some headlines on inside pages of papers, but drew no editorials.
“When I searched the internet for references in print media to recent anti-Israel declarations by the UCC, I only found one observation in a local paper in April 2014. Barry Kay, a Political Science professor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario made a passing remark: ‘Institutions such as the United Church of Canada, which among all the abuses in the world has targeted only Israel for boycott, and further declared that Palestinians should not recognize the Jewish state, are themselves an obstacle to a conduit for peace in the region. In their quest for sanctimony, they merely served to perpetuate futility.’”