In assessing criticisms of CMJ and ITAC by Stephen Sizer, it is important to understand the position from which he approaches the subject. He certainly appears to have a vendetta against us but what really drives him is a strong antagonism to Israel. Stephen was once a rather uncritical pro-Israel supporter and, through a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, began to understand something of the plight of the Palestinians. He then reacted against Christian Zionism and began what I can only describe as a rather obsessive campaign against it, with all the zeal of a new convert. As part of this campaign he persistently attacks us. It is necessary therefore for readers to tone down his views considerably.
All history is biased but Stephen's is particularly biased. Stephen lives in Virginia Water, Surrey, England, 2000 miles away from the turmoil and complexities of the Middle East. Unlike my wife and myself, he doesn't hear the suicide bombs. He doesn't experience the atmosphere of anxiety which follows each attack. In fact in the whole of his paper (27,000 words - half the size of the average paperback) he does not refer to Palestinian terrorism once (except in a quotation from me - of which he disapproves - criticising the Lambeth Conference of Anglican Bishops for the same failing). Indeed, he makes no criticism of Palestinians at all, but he makes many (both explicit and inferred) of the Israelis. One therefore has to make allowances because Stephen is commenting on a situation on which his knowledge and experience is limited. The UK Jewish Handbook (which records communities with as few as nine members) records no Jewish community in Virginia Water. Stephen's parish will not therefore provide him with significant contact with Jewish people and their culture, their views, their needs and anxieties. Nor does he appear to have had much contact with Israeli Jews. It is necessary therefore to remember that Stephen is not speaking from a truly knowledgeable position of understanding Jewish people. By contrast, ITAC is constantly working with Jewish people and Arabs in Israel.
However, there are more difficulties with Stephen's approach. He is not careful enough in his research. For example, if he were really seeking to be a serious researcher and writer, who makes many criticisms of us, one could reasonably expect him to interview me as the current senior Director. By contrast, he writes that he has interviewed Canon John Peterson, the Revd Garth Hewitt and the Rt. Revd. Riah Abu El Assal, all of whom are decidedly pro-Palestinian. In fact, the detailed critique of Stephen's writings below will show that he is not careful, objective and fair enough in his writings. For example he is still quoting the old aims of CMJ which were changed in early 2001 I would not accuse Stephen of being deliberately or consciously anti-Semitic - I am sure he is not. But, given the enduring power of anti-Semitism, not least over 2000 years in the church, there is a danger facing all of us of unconscious anti-Semitism. There is a such a danger in being as antagonistic towards Israel and as uncritically pro-Palestinian as Stephen. Certainly, the Jewish community, after 2000 years of anti-Semitism (a good deal of it within the English church), will see Stephen's campaign as anti-Semitic. This does not appear to concern him.
However, I am certainly not saying that all criticism of Israel is motivated by even unconscious anti-Semitism. (I should add that Christians may also have anti-Palestinian or anti-Arab feelings which are equally wrong). Stephen's paper often reads more like journalism than a serious piece of critical research. He makes various positive comments about us then undermines them with innuendo or "guilt" by association. Hence he quotes me but frequently uses the phrase: "Higton insists " which conveys the false impression that I am using special pleading to defend the Society. Then on several occasions he states that certain views of which he disapproves are not official views but then goes on to infer that because our staff (who enjoy freedom of speech) express those views they are really what the Society holds. Sometimes he does this with the views of 19th century leaders of the Society. (As one of my colleagues pointed out, Stephen's implied criticisms of some of the founders of the Society ignore the obvious point that in their generation they were considered pioneers to be admired. Downgrading their contribution from a year 2003 perspective is a serious breach of historical method). Similarly, Stephen seems not to understand that it is possible for us to network with organisations with whom it we might have important disagreements but who share a major common concern. He therefore concludes that when we network with organisations whose main raison d'etre is Christian Zionism that means we share their emphasis and views on that subject. By contrast, Stephen, as an evangelical Anglican, would probably co-operate with Roman Catholics in areas of common concern, whilst disagreeing over the authority of the Pope, the doctrine of Mary and eucharistic theology. If that is the case perhaps he could afford us the same freedom. It is difficult therefore to take his brief positive affirmations of us seriously. He shows no concern for the Society or for the damage he is doing to it, at a time when the work is vulnerable because of the economic effects of the Intifada etc.
People outside CMJ and ITAC describe his approach as simply an attack on us (and, by implication, on other Jewish ministries). Whilst he may not approve of the eschatology of some of our staff, at least they are involved in carrying out (or actively facilitating) Jewish evangelism. As far as I know, Stephen isn't. Why does he therefore irresponsibly cause damage to those who are - even if he doesn't entirely agree with them? Stephen does at times show a lack of serious thought about the issues. For example, he criticises us for not publishing many articles critical of Israel. A moment's thought would make it clear that, as a ministry to Jewish people from a church with an appalling 2000-year history of anti-Semitism, we are unlikely to be overtly very critical of the people with whom we are seeking to share the love of Christ. Would Stephen publish even justified critical articles of parishioners he is seeking to reach, thus risking erecting unnecessary barriers between them and the church? I should add that we carry in our bookroom at CMJ HQ and sell on deputation some books which are critical of Israel or pro-Palestinian, including Bishop Riah's book. In view of all this, it may be felt that Stephen is not in a strong position to express meaningful and reliable statements on the complexities of the Middle East conflict, the multiple facets of Zionism (including Christian Zionism) and the our carefully developed position. However, experience teaches that some readers are not always careful enough to check out the credibility of their sources, so it is necessary for detailed corrections to be made available.
First I will explain CMJ's position on Zionism. IS CMJ ZIONIST? The problem is that "Zionism" is one of those words with different meanings. It has to be defined.
IF ZIONISM MEANS THE FOLLOWING:
· standing with the Jewish people, as critical friends, after almost 2000 years of Christian antisemitism (some of it in the Church in England),
· combating antisemitism, including that unconscious variety which causes some people, in the name of justice, to be unjust in their criticism of Israel,
· thanking God that, after all their suffering as the most persecuted people on earth, culminating in the Holocaust he has provided a safe homeland for the Jewish people,
· rejoicing in God's faithfulness to the Jewish people over the millennia, preserving them as a people for his glory,
· believing that God hasn't given up on the Jewish people or replaced them by the church,
· believing that God still has a purpose for the Jewish people, namely to bring them to faith in Jesus as their Messiah,
· taking a critical approach to the many criticisms of Israel to ascertain whether they are true or false and defending Israel where appropriate,
· condemning Palestinian terrorism,
......................... then CMJ is pleased to be Zionist.
HOWEVER, IF ZIONISM MEANS:
· ignoring the plight of the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs,
· believing the Palestinians and Israeli Arabs have no right to be in the Holy Land,
· believing that Israel can do no wrong,
· ignoring the genuine examples of breaches of human rights and military over-reactions by Israel,
· forgetting that the Torah (Jewish law) commands Jewish people to treat the non-Jew as well as they treat fellow-Jews,
........................ then CMJ is definitely not Zionist.
CMJ'S OFFICIAL POSITION
CMJ is officially committed to the following statements:
i. CMJ believes it has a special call to minister among Jewish people. This is a response both to God's command and to the neglect of this ministry by much of the Church. However, we regard Jew and non-Jew as equal in Christ who unites them in one body; this unity does not remove their proper distinctiveness.
ii. The Society has never limited its ministry in an exclusive way to Jewish people, nor does it wish to do so.
iii. We work for reconciliation between all people because that is a demand which comes from the heart of the Gospel, for God loves all people equally. It should be remembered that the ITAC has a long tradition of employing Arab and Palestinian staff, some of them in senior roles and is seeking to develop its ministry of reconciliation.
Detailed response to Stephen Sizer's criticisms of CMJ
In his Introduction Stephen states that "in so far as contrary views have not similarly been published by CMJ or its staff, it is assumed that those quoted are therefore broadly indicative of CMJ generally." I have dealt with this objection above. But what surprises me is that he can assume, on the basis of a few articles, that he knows the views of the majority of staff. Yet as General Director since 1999 I don't know what the eschatological views of most of our staff are. This is typical of Stephen's less than scholarly approach. It appears that he has made up his mind about our views and, one way or another, he is going to confirm his presuppositions.
In his section 1.1 "The History of CMJ" Stephen refers briefly to the eschatological views of the founders and early leaders of the Society: Lewis Way, Joseph Wolff, Charles Simeon, William Hechler. He writes that some of them were influenced by the 19th Century Millenarianism of Edward Irving and Darby's Dispensationalism. He includes such views as that which claimed the 1,260 years' of the Book of Revelation commenced with Justinian and terminated in 1793, that the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel were inhabiting the region north of Kashmir and towards Bohara, in the great central plain of Asia, or that the North American Red Indians were the 'Lost Tribes' and that the Jews would regain Palestine in 1897-98. These are not views one hears frequently in the Society today! He is seeking to ascribe a "Literalist Hermeneutic" to us and backs this up with quoting these various nineteenth century worthies. This excursion into 19 century eschatological speculation is all very interesting but quite what it has to do with the 21st century official theological views of the Society is not made clear, especially as Stephen himself has quoted statements that the society does not commit itself to particular views on the matters he raises. This large section is simply irrelevant to our official views. However, in the true tradition of the propagandist, Stephen continues to repeat irrelevant associations between us and certain millennial views presumably in the hope that readers might be convinced they have relevance. Stephen makes it clear that the Society has no official millennial position. Why can't he stick to that?
I personally do not accept dispensational premillennialism. In fact I have serious problems with it and gave a paper entitled "Dispensing with Dispensationalism" at a recent staff conference. But, as with all my colleagues, I am being tarred with the dispensationalist brush. We do affirm that God has an on-going covenant relationship with the Jewish people. This is clearly taught in Romans 9-11. But that does not commit us to dispensationalism or to the "separation" of God's work amongst the Jews from his work among Gentiles. I have the distinct impression that Stephen doesn't fully understand dispensationalism but rather likes to use the word pejoratively, as some people use the words "fundamentalism" or "liberalism." Basically such terms are used, not rationally or accurately but as a "put down." We call someone names so we don't have to listen to them or take them seriously. Also within this Section 1:1 Stephen gives the impression that the Society enjoyed rather gratuitous political support from the UK Government and Consul in Jerusalem in the mid-nineteenth century. In this he shows the limited nature of his historical research because he doesn't refer to the long process of seeking to set up a church in Jerusalem which was thwarted by the Turks until the consulate achieved permission to build a consulate chapel, which became Christ Church. Towards the end of this section Stephen seems to see some significance in wording differences between the description of the LJS (London Jews Society - a popular 19th century name for the Society)/CMJ by Anne Dexter in 1986 and that on the CMJ Web site in 1999. I must confess I fail to see any significance in verbal differences between these two legitimate descriptions. I can only wonder if it is evidence of Stephen's groundless conspiracy theory about CMJ's alleged political agenda, which he raises elsewhere. He criticises Anne Dexter for writing that Christ Church was "the only Protestant Church in the Turkish Empire until close to the end of the century." He then refers to CMS forming parishes from 1865 (two-thirds of the way through the century) onwards, which fits reasonably into Dexter's statement. However, the conspiracy theory may be in evidence when Stephen writes: "It is interesting that Anne Dexter does not refer to the Society as 'CMJ' once in her book despite serving for twelve years with them." What is behind these words - some vague innuendo about secrecy or duplicity?
The same also seems possible when in section 1.2 "The Priorities of CMJ" Stephen writes about the Society changing its name over the years. It seems here (and from previous correspondence) that Stephen concludes CMJ has amended its name because it has adapted its aims. In fact, it was simply to remove terminology that unnecessarily offends Jewish people. "Mission" is a dirty word because of the history antisemitic forced conversions in Christendom. The word "Jew" or "Jews" on Gentile lips can also be somewhat offensive in that it has so often been used very negatively. "Promoting Christianity" is also unfortunate terminology, since we do not believe we are trying to convert Jewish people to another religion, but rather to the fulfilment of biblical Judaism in the Messiah, which, in Gentile terms, is called Christianity. He goes on to say that "when the Anglican Communion began to revise the Constitution of the Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East in the 1970's" (namely, when the first Arab Bishop was appointed), and removed the term 'Israel' from the whole documentation, the Society expressed strong opposition. In view of the Societys calling to minister to the Jewish people, it is surprising that Stephen appears to feel that there is some sinister Zionist undertone to the society's opinion that it should respect the name of the Jewish State, especially when the name of that state was being deliberately omitted for political reasons. Doubtless he would not have the same approach to a Christian ministry to Palestinians showing equal respect to the name Palestine. The Society could not be party to such an approach, which was at best insensitive and discourteous towards Israel and at worst anti-Semitic. Hence it set up the 'Israel Trust of the Anglican Church' (ITAC) an independent Israeli friendly society or charity to run the work in Israel, to ensure the name 'Israel' remained publicly part of its declared mandate. This was to make a statement to the Jewish community, after 2000 years of Christian anti-Semitism, that at least some Anglicans were not antagonistic towards their safe homeland. Stephen unfairly and incorrectly puts the first motive as protecting ownership of properties Stephen later quotes a document, dated 1849, which states one of the aims of the LJS was "encouraging the physical restoration of the Jewish people to Eretz Israel - the Land of Israel." He then compared it with CMJ's aims in 1993 where these words "had now been dropped, possibly subsumed within the first commitment, 'To be workers with God in his continuing purpose for the Jewish people.'" Here there seems to be an implication of an attempt by the Society to conceal Zionist leanings in "ambiguous" wording. Actually, these words have nothing to do with Zionism. They are referring to the belief that God has not finished with the Jewish people as an ethnic group but rather he intends to bring them to salvation (Rom 11:26).
Stephen sees Zionism anywhere because he has started from preconceived ideas about us. Despite the fact that, as he acknowledges, I had already made this clear to him, he still implies that we indulge in covert Zionism. Stephen then quotes various staff members from 1996 and 1998 who affirmed "restorationism." Stephen implies that the term "restorationism" (meaning the restoration of the Jews to Israel) is a self-evidently bad thing. He doesn't give reasons but simply assumes it is and that his readers will agree. This is not scholarship. The main restoration that CMJ is concerned about is the restoration of the Jewish people to Messiah. However, in view of the appalling persecution of Jewish people by the church and others, CMJ does support the setting up of a "safe" homeland for them. But we do not require any particular eschatological view from our staff, except to see God's faithfulness in the Jewish people's return to Israel. Stephens Section 1.3 shows further evidence of his superficial research. He is unaware ITAC transferred the Stella Carmel conference centre near Haifa and the Beit Immanuel guest house in Jaffa to the local Congregations in 2002. He is also unaware of a major new development in the work in Jerusalem dating from 2001, namely the Bet Nicolayson Heritage Centre or the new Beit Bracha prayer, retreat and healing centre project in Migdal, Galilee which began in 2001. Nor is he aware of the major new development of work in the Ukraine.
So judgmental is Stephen against us that in section 1.3.1 "Christ Church, Jerusalem" he sees the holding of Sunday services in Christ Church as being "in competition with St George's." He cannot see that there is room for both churches with their distinctive styles of worship. He also seems to have forgotten that Christ Church was functioning long before St George's was built. If anything, it is St George's historically which was established in competition with Christ Church - some 50 years after Christ Church was opened. He comments on the fact that the Hebrew-speaking congregation meets on a Saturday and adds "The separation of these two congregations, one Jewish and the other gentile appears to suggest the view that God has a separate and 'continuing purpose for the Jewish people'." Does he also believe that the fact that St George's has an Arabic-speaking congregation and an English-speaking congregation meeting at different times implies a similar theological distinction? In fact the two services at Christ Church reflect the need to meet the needs of two different congregations - one Hebrew-speaking which wishes to observe Shabbat and the other English-speaking and international observing Sunday. One practical issue is that Israelis work on Sunday! He adds that Christ Church has a menorah (7-branched candlestick) but no cross on the Holy Table. In fact it has both, although there was a time when it had only a menorah. Nevertheless there were (and still are) numerous symbols of the cross in the building (I once counted over 40) and the building is cruciform!
In section 1.3.2 Shoresh Tours Stephen criticises Shoresh Tours for arranging a conference tour some years ago with Prophetic Word Ministries, which included visits to battle sites and settlements in the Occupied Territories and a talk from a military speaker. Shoresh will facilitate tours for Christian groups without necessarily agreeing with everything those groups believe. However I fail to see how an interest in the recent history of the Jewish people is incompatible with the purpose of an organisation which is called to minister to the Jewish people. Is Stephen as critical of the definite political emphases included in tours by or on behalf of St George's?
Stephen's section 1.3.3 on "The International School, Jerusalem" is particularly misleading. He says a. "A decision was made in 1996 . to sell the [Anglican International School, Jerusalem], against the wishes of the Diocese of Jerusalem." But Stephen omits to mention that:
· ITAC is legally independent of the diocese (for historical reasons) and so is free to buy and sell property.
· The Society very quickly decided that the decision to sell, which had not been acted on, was mistaken, and it was reversed. Stephen writes that at the time Walter Riggans sought to distance CMJ from the school as well as its unmistakable Anglican origins.
· However all Walter Riggans wrote was that "the word 'Anglican' was a little confusing", meaning that the school was not owned or run by the Diocese of Jerusalem. c. The school sale was to fund a re-establishment of work in Eastern Europe which, he implies was to encourage aliyah - the return of Jews to Israel ("Several other Christian Zionist organisations have been active in Eastern Europe since the fall of Communism, encouraging Jews to return to Israel" emphasis mine).
· The Society never made a decision to use the proceeds to re-open work in Eastern Europe. · However, we have since then opened a work in the Ukraine which is evangelistic and compassionate but not involved in encouraging aliyah Stephen adds that the intention was to sell the property to a Jewish property developer and were unwilling to allow the Diocese to continue to operate the school."
· During the brief period when the decision to sell was still in force, intention was to sell only to a Christian purchaser, not to non-Christians whatever their nationality.
· The diocese did not own or operate the school, so it couldn't "continue" to do that. I do not think that the Diocese offered to purchase the school. Rather it launched a (very expensive) legal challenge to the ownership of the school, which persisted after the decision to sell was reversed.
In section 1.3.4 "The Anglican Cemetery in Jaffa" Stephen implies some very serious false allegations. I warned him that in an earlier draft of his paper his comments on this point may be libellous. But still he writes: "Allegations of financial impropriety were made in the Israel press which have been denied by Tony Higton. In 1998, however, at the time of the aborted plan to sell the Anglican International School, .. [A] resigned and left the country. . [B]. also resigned ." (A. and B., whom Stephen continues to name publicly, were senior staff before my time as Director) This could be seen as implying that these two ex-staff members resigned in part because of financial irregularities over burials in Jaffa. I (our Council) know for certain that this is untrue and I believe it might prove to be libellous. In fact, the allegations of financial impropriety, which came from a senior source in the Diocese of Jerusalem, are untrue.
The fact that Stephen continues to write as he does shows something of his determination to attack the Society. In section 1.4 "Contemporary Individuals Associated with CMJ" Stephen writes of how, in 1992, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, caused controversy by refusing to become a Patron of CMJ. However he omitted to record that in October 2001 Dr Carey gave us the following supportive official statement: ""The Archbishop of Canterbury kindly agreed to meet with Tony Higton recently to discuss CMJ and its work. Tony found it very helpful and was particularly pleased that Dr Carey gave him 45 minutes out of his busy timetable. During the meeting, the Archbishop encouraged CMJ to carry on its educative ministry to the Jewish people and the church."
Stephen goes on to ask whether the Society would in future recognise the "authority or jurisdiction over their ministry" of the Diocese of Jerusalem, or seek to work more closely with its Bishop. This is further evidence of poor research by Stephen. Christ Church was opened in 1849 and was the seat of the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem - then Jewish believer Michael Solomon Alexander. After Alexander's premature death, Britain and Prussia had an agreement whereby they would take it in turns to appoint a new bishop. By the end of the 19th century the Bishop was more interested and involved in Arab ministry. Christ Church, which was built and owned by the Society was, of course, morally and legally bound to maintain its first priority of ministry to Jewish people. Consequently, St George's Cathedral was built at the end of the 19th century and became the seat of the Bishop. This did not, of course, alter the ownership of Christ Church or the independent status of the Society. Hence, in this unusual situation, the Diocese does not have any authority or jurisdiction over the ministry of the Society. However ITAC has always sought close fraternal relations with the diocese as fellow Anglicans and it has sought to respect the Bishop, whilst properly exercising its own authority over its staff, property and work in Israel. Hence my colleagues and I have taken initiatives to hold various dialogues with the Bishop to improve understanding and relations, including a three-day residential conference. The Bishop invited me to preach at St George's in 1999. Sadly, relationships are currently less close. This is because of the legal challenge to our ownership of the Anglican School buildings - which were built by the Society over a hundred years ago and used by us ever since. Despite this, our commitment to unity and reconciliation is such that we have taken an initiative to restore closer relations, but are still awaiting a response.
In section 1.5 "Relationships with other Zionist Organisations" Stephen implies that because the Society maintains links with Christian Zionist organisations it therefore is in full agreement with those organisations. Hence, the argument goes, the CMJ is predominantly a Christian Zionist organisation. But it really won't do for Stephen to try to make out that the Society is Zionist simply because it has fraternal relationships with other Christian organisations, or that our buildings are sometimes used for conferences held by other Christian organisations or that some of their members worship at our centres. That doesn't mean we agree with everything they do or say. We have fraternal relations with catholic and orthodox bodies, but that doesn't mean we totally agree with them theologically. We have ITAC has fraternal relations within the Diocese of Jerusalem but that doesn't mean we share all the same political views! The Society's links with such organisations are casual and informal. In each case we have no commitment to them, nor do we necessarily agree with them over everything they stand for or every method they adopt.
The second main part of Stephen's paper is on "The Theology of CMJ" and he stresses the views of ex-staff and others from the history of the Society. It is important to state that the theology of CMJ is determined only by the Directors in consultation with Council. Would Stephen be happy with someone deciding on the theology of his parish church by referring to the views of his predecessors in the 19th century or the views of his more fundamentalist church members? Or would he rather claim that the particular theological position of his parish church is determined by himself in consultation with his church council? Were I to read up the views of his predecessors or to interview some of his churchmembers I might come up with an entertaining (but misleading) account of his church's theological position.
As always, Stephen emphasizes the Society's connection with Dispensationalism in section 2.1 "Dispensational Roots." Despite our very clear rejection of this teaching, Stephen always finds a way to allege that really we are dispensationalists. He really has made up his mind and refuses to be confused by the facts! He says that "some within CMJ" see God's purpose for Israel as eternally separate from that for the Church. I state again that the Society certainly does not believe that God's purpose for the Jews are eternally separate from that of the church. Rather it believes both Jewish and Gentile believers are united in the one "olive tree." In fact, Jesus has made Jew and Gentile believers one "and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility." Jews and Gentiles are not only alike reconciled to God through the cross but they "both have access to the Father by one Spirit." Gentiles are "fellow-citizens with God's people and members of God's household . a holy temple in the Lord in which God lives by his Spirit." Eph 2:14-22. To back up his views Stephen quotes the views mainly of individuals within the Society, normally contributors to our magazine, which, as the magazine itself make clear, do not necessarily represent the official views of the Society. Stephen may want us to have heavy censorship of our staff and our magazine, but we think that is unChristian.
In section 2.2 "Literalist Hermeneutic" Stephen disapproves of the fact that the Society rejects the idea that the church has replaced Israel (Replacement Theology) or superseded Israel (Supersessionism). However this is hardly a fringe view held by fundamentalists. The General Synod report on Christian-Jewish relations "Sharing One Hope?" published in 2001 stated that "The theory that the Christian Church has simply superseded or replaced the Jewish people, who no longer have any special place in God's calling, is widely seen as untenable " George Carey, then Archbishop of Canterbury and no mean theologian, commented: "the theological reasons for rejecting supersessionism seem obvious and compelling. The apparent theological problem with supersessionism is that, were it true, no one could take the God of Israel at his word." Stephen also misrepresents the Society by saying that it refutes the idea that promises which once applied to Israel can be appropriated by the Church. The Society accepts that such promises can legitimately apply to the Church but not that they therefore necessarily cease to have any application to Israel.
In 2.3 "Interpretation of Christian Mission" Stephen quotes Bishop Riah as saying that Arab Christians are better placed to witness to the Jews than Western expatriate missionaries. "The church continues to be here and the new comers . discovered that we have nothing against people working to bring Jews to Christ, on the contrary some of our own people who speak Hebrew better can serve within Christ Church better than many English or Americans who come here.." However I am not aware of any significant witness to Jewish people on the part of St George's. This is probably because of the very pronounced anti-Israel stance of the Cathedral. It is hardly accurate for the Bishop to describe the Society as "new comers." We have worked in the land since the 1820s and Christ Church was founded in 1849, whereas St George's Cathedral was opened in 1898!
In section 2.4 "Relationship of the Church to Israel" Stephen criticises the Society's support for Messianic Jews and Messianic Judaism in distinction to Christianity, He adds: "In doing so they perpetuate the distinction between Jews and Gentiles even within the Christian community." Stephen here shows his lack of understanding of the impact of almost 2000 years of antisemitism on Jewish/Messianic believers and of their need to express their faith in terms which are in harmony with Jewish culture. (Would he do this for all cultures or just for Jewish culture?) He shows a lack of appreciation of the Jewish roots of Christianity and of the fact that, in addition to many riches contributed by 2000 years of a largely Gentile church, the "Gentilisation" of Christianity has lost numerous riches stemming from its Jewish origins. We do not want to "perpetuate the distinction between Jews and Gentiles" in fact we strongly disapprove of it. Rather we want both people groups to benefit from each other in unity in diversity. And we reject the colonial view which Stephen appears to espouse that Jewish believers should be discouraged from expressing their faith in Messiah in terms of their own culture. He then writes that the Society "like many dispensationalists, appear therefore to elevate Israel and the Jews to a special status above the Church who are seen as 'the newcomers' to God's continuing covenant with the Jews." We most certainly do not hold the dispensational view elevating Israel and the Jews to a special status above the church. According to the NT, the New Covenant is the blossoming of the Abrahamic covenant and it embraces both Jewish and Gentile Believers within the church. However we do believe that within this unity, God has a particular purpose to bring about a massive turning to Christ by the Jewish people, thus fulfilling his promises to them (Romans 11, esp. v 26). We are also clear that there is only one way of salvation - through Christ. Both Jew and Gentile enter through the same door.
In section 2.5 "Theology of the Land" Stephen says the Society argues that since the Jews remain central to God's redemptive plan, the Land is central also. This is not true. Eschatology must be Christocentric. Christ is central to God's plan, not the Jewish people (or Gentiles) or the land. If the people or the land become central that leads to theological and spiritual problems. Then Stephen accuses us of carefully avoided using the term 'Palestinian' wherever possible" in our magazine. This is a groundless criticism. As General Director, I frequently and without hesitation use the term "Palestinian." Stephen's hypercritical reading of Zionism into everything we say or dont say is more revealing about his political position than that of ours. We most definitely does do not "restrict the term 'Palestinian' to those critical of Israel or when they wish to comment negatively about Palestinians generally." This simply show Stephen's prejudiced views. We very often use the term 'Palestinian' positively. His later comment that we appear to distinguish between the right of Arabs to a 'homeland' and Jews to a 'secure state'" is another evidence of his hypercritical position.
In section 2:6 "Restorationism" Stephen writes that I insist that we are not involved in actively encouraging Jewish people to move to Israel .' Then he proceeds to undermine this because we network with Jewish ministries who do. I have explained this above but would point at that, as General Director, I do know whether we are actively promoting aliyah or not. Yet he concludes that our commitment to restorationism has in fact been consistent, if not always explicit, since the early days of the organisation." Either he is claiming superior knowledge of the Society (compared to mine) or he is implying that I am not being strictly honest. My personal view on aliyah is that it is a good thing to encourage it where Jewish people are in serious difficulties, which would be alleviated by the move. I am unconvinced that simply encouraging aliyah for the sake of it is a priority for Christians. But we are not actively promoting it anyway. Again Stephen quotes ex-staff and 19th century worthies to back up his claims but I have dealt above with the fallacy involved in his conclusion Stephen quotes a 1990 ITAC leaflet which states that the Society has "worked towards the return of the Jewish people to Zion." Admittedly this pre-dates my directorship, but I would challenge the authors to indicate any way in which we have done that in recent decades.
In section 2.7 "Eschatology: Signs of the Times" Stephen says I am a premillennialist. I am certainly not a dispensational premillennialist. However Stephen does not appear to distinguish between Dispensational Premillennialism which is a relatively recent phenomenon and Classical Premillennialism (a substantially different theory) which was more or less the universal view amongst the early Fathers of the church in the first three centuries AD. He goes on to say that I have apparently revised my eschatological views. After reading an earlier version of his paper I had written to him: "It is typical of the ill-researched nature of this paper that you are quoting my eschatological views without, apparently being aware that my wife and I published a whole book on eschatology in 1998. It reflects the development and modification of our thinking." Continuing his tradition of superficial research, Stephen in this version of his paper at this point refers to my book - but not the book my wife and I wrote on eschatology. Instead he refers to my book on prophetic ministry (over moral and doctrinal aberrations) in the Church of England. Had he researched properly he could have discovered the correct book ("I Believe in Heaven on Earth" by Tony and Patricia Higton, Hodder 1999)! But, when all is said and done, my personal views are not the official view of CMJ or ITAC. Stephen writes that our representatives have promoted a theology that distinguishes the Jews from the Church and gives them a superior position within God's continuing purposes; equates biblical Israel with the contemporary State of Israel; and encourages an exclusive Jewish occupation and settlement of Eretz Israel. While not necessarily reflecting the official position of CMJ, it is significant that contrary views have not been given voice in their periodicals. The outworking of this theology within the mission agenda of CMJ, whether explicit or implicit, nevertheless has significant political ramifications." I have already dealt with much of what he states here but I need to add that I have never come across any staff who believe in an exclusive Jewish occupation and settlement of Eretz Israel. I would respond very negatively to that opinion and none of the views he mentions here are the official position of the Society.
In section 3 Stephen turns to "The Politics of the CMJ" and refers to "Support for the State of Israel" (3.2) Yet again he quotes people (mainly ex-staff and non-staff) but, at the risk of boring the reader, I must repeat that they do not speak for the Society. Again, because of inadequate research, Stephen quotes a short paper 'The State of Israel: Why should we support it?' He is clearly unaware that this paper has been revised under the significantly changed title "The State of Israel: How should we regard it?" Over "The Territorial Extent of Eretz Israel" (3.3) Stephen writes: "In their 1996 Resource Pack, CMJ acknowledge that Christians are, 'free to disagree about issues such as the acceptable borders for the modern State of Israel.' Representatives of CMJ, however, have consistently argued that even the disputed 1967 borders including the Golan Heights of Syria and the West Bank of Jordan, do not go far enough." One may ask why, when an official written statement is made by CMJ, he still has to try to undermine it by quoting individuals whose (private) opinions might support his preconceived critical views of the Society.
One could be forgiven for concluding that he is determined to condemn us however weak some of his evidence might be. Stephen writes: "It is clear, however, from the text of the Balfour Declaration, the League of Nations Mandate and Churchill's White Paper that it was never the declared intention of the British government to establish a Jewish or Zionist state in Palestine." He is correct in this. The Balfour Declaration stated: "HM Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people and will use its best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country." But why does Stephen not complete the story? In May 1947 the UN set up a committee which produced two plans for Palestine. A minority recommended a federal bi-national state. The majority recommended that there should be Jewish and Arab states, with Jerusalem internationalised. On 29th November 1947 this was endorsed by the UN General Assembly by 33 votes to 13 with 10 abstentions. The Arabs rejected this plan but the Jews accepted it and took unilateral action over it. It is therefore misleading for Stephen to omit the most important fact that the UN voted for the setting up of a Jewish state within Mandated Palestine.
Stephen goes on to speak of a public debate held in 1997 between himself and Neil Cohen, then a CMJ staff member, when Neil was affirming that Israel would eventually extend from the Nile to the Euphrates and the Mediterranean to the Arabian Desert. This is a personal view and was certainly not an official statement on behalf of CMJ. In his section 3.4 on "The Jewish Settlements in the Occupied Territories" Stephen acknowledges that I have stated that we have not expressed an official view on Jewish Settlements and the Occupied Territories. But, never content with an official statement, he, as usual, immediately goes on to say that various writers in our magazine have recognised Israel's claim to the disputed Occupied Territories. Again I have to say that they were not speaking on behalf of the Society but rather expressing their own opinions which, as a tolerant organisation, we welcome them doing, whether or not we agree with them. We do recognise the dangers to Israel's security in the peace process but that does not mean we're against it. And we are aware that there are at least as many Jewish people who claim the right to be repatriated to Arab lands from which they were forced out as there are Palestinians with claims to return to Israel. 583,533 Jewish people were driven out of Arab lands around the time of the re-establishment of the State of Israel. Our calling requires us to show solidarity with the Jewish people as the most persecuted people in history. But our support for the Jewish state is constructively critical. We are aware of injustices in Israel's dealings with the Palestinians. Equally we are aware of faults on the Palestinian side and of unjust, hypocritical criticisms of Israel from other nations. We want to see a just and peaceful settlement for both peoples.
I have also made it clear to Stephen that we have made no official statements on "Jerusalem the Eternal Undivided Capital of Israel" (3.5) or "The Rebuilding of the Jewish Temple" (3.6) In section 3.7 "Attitudes Toward Arabs and Palestinians" Stephen quotes Neil Cohen as saying: "the problem of refugees in Palestine was entirely caused by the Arab league... Arafat has consistently incited the Palestinians to a holy war against Israel." Neil added: "Partnership of Jew and Arab is untenable... we live in an age of political correctness which claims we live in a world where all people have equal rights. I don't agree with that because I don't think it squares with the biblical record... the search for peace in the Middle East, laudable though it is, is a wild goose chase." If quoted correctly, I would have to disagree with the quotation attributed to Neil that the problem of the Palestinian refugees was "entirely" caused by the Arab league. And I would even more so have to disagree with the quotation attributed to Neil about no equal rights. These are personal opinions which are not official statements by the Society. To the best of my knowledge no staff or Council members take the same line. Stephen goes on to criticise the fact that various Palestinian Christian leaders have described Jesus as a Palestinian. He claims that they were not suggesting that Jesus was a Palestinian Arab, but merely that he lived in what is now termed Palestine, as did his first disciples. He adds: "Tony Higton remains unconvinced arguing: 'Claims that Jesus and his followers were 'Palestinians' are a superficial rewriting of history for propaganda purposes and cannot be taken seriously. Your comment that such writers were merely claiming Jesus lived in what is now called Palestine is either naive or political. It is obvious that it is the language of propaganda." I am still of the same opinion. Stephen also criticises Rob Richards, a former CMJ staff member, for applying to Palestinians the OT injunction that Jewish people should love the "alien" (NIV) as they do themselves. It is difficult not to regard this as deliberate misunderstanding by Stephen. Richards is not saying that Palestinians are literally aliens in the Holy Land. What he is saying is that in a Jewish State, Palestinians who do not have Israeli citizenship should be treated in the same positive way as non-Jews (the term "alien" is used in the OT) were to be treated according to Scripture. We have not stated that the land belongs exclusively to the Jewish people.
Stephen comments: "Regrettably, such a stance which sees the land as belonging exclusively to the Jews, only alienates CMJ further from the majority of indigenous Christians who are Palestinians, and from many of their former evangelical supporters in the West, when they are made aware of these sentiments." If the misrepresentation of our official position in Stephen's paper is the sort of propaganda which is being circulated then no wonder some people don't support us. Stephen then moves on to the issue of "The Emigration of Jews to Israel" (3.8). I have dealt with this issue above. We are not involved in encouraging Jewish people to emigrate to Israel or in supporting organisations which do so. However this does not stop Stephen going on to say that writers in Shalom have supported the emigration of Jews from Russia and Eastern Europe to Israel, . What is not conceded is that the Israeli government has placed many such Russian émigrés in settlements in the disputed Palestinian Occupied Territories. By publishing these articles without criticism, CMJ is by implication complicit in supporting the expropriation of Palestinian land, the removal of Palestinians from their historic lands and their replacement by Russians and other Eastern European émigrés." I despair of ever convincing Stephen that we allow freedom of speech whether we agree with the sentiments expressed or not. He seems so concerned to prove us guilty by association. He then quotes Bishop Riah as saying, "They are blind to the injustices that have been committed against Palestinians, against their brothers and sisters in Christ." With respect, the Bishop is mistaken.
Stephen ends his paper with "A Critical Summary of the Distinctive Christian Zionism of CMJ" Firstly, he confidently affirms that CMJ's declared aims are Evangelism, Encouragement and Education. Had he done proper research, he would be aware that in early 2001 CMJ changed its statement of aims to:
· Proclamation: of the gospel in culturally sensitive ways in accordance with a strict Code of Practice and in the context of listening to, and learning from, Jewish people.
· Intercession: for Jewish people to come to faith in Messiah and for the mission of the Society
· Vision: of God in his continuing commitment to the Jewish people, explaining how God's future purposes for them are an encouragement to mission
· Compassion: as part of holistic mission
· Co-operation: with Messianic believers to evangelise and disciple Jewish people
· Education: teaching the Jewish roots of our faith as an incentive to prayer and mission
· Reconciliation: between Gentiles and Jewish people, seeking to combat antisemitism because reconciliation is at the heart of the Gospel and to overcome barriers to mission
Stephen lapses again into conspiracy theory. He says that behind CMJ's primary objectives various staff have an extreme Zionist agenda. It is difficult to resist the conclusion that he is inferring that CMJ covertly but officially agrees with this, which is simply not true. He repeats the criticism that CMJ doesn't allow people to interpret the Bible differently from its "literalist assumptions" which is simply incorrect. He quotes Naim Ateek as saying Kelvin Crombie "really harbours resentment against the Arabs and against Palestinian Christians." I know that this is simply not true but is rather very judgmental. For example, Kelvin is exemplary in his attitude to his own Arab staff. Stephen states again that CMJ has an uncritical support for the State of Israel. That is simply not true. We are constructively critical and had he researched thoroughly he would quickly have discovered that. I have to conclude that Stephen's paper is ill-researched, rather unscholarly and very prejudiced. As such it should not really be taken too seriously.