|Subject: National Post Editorial by
Michael Coren, Mar 3/06 - A Church in decline|
A Church in decline
The former Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, told journalists that he was “ashamed to be an Anglican” after the Synod of the Church of England announced that it would consider withdrawing all investment from companies supplying Israel with equipment used on the West Bank. Because such machinery is inevitably used by Israel within its own borders the decision could amount to a major boycott.
The precedent for such a policy is, of course, the campaign against apartheid in South Africa. The Church of England has seldom applied boycott restrictions to, for example, Cuba, China or any Latin American or Arab dictatorship. Nor has it generally applied serious trade restrictions to any of the numerous countries that routinely persecute Christians.
Which is one of the reasons why this latest move has provoked such disgust. It stinks of hypocrisy. It is also acutely simplistic and severe. There are many people, including Israelis and supporters of Israel, who object to demolishing the homes of Palestinians where a family member has been involved in terrorism. These critics respond with argument and protest. To threatena boycott constitutes something fundamentally different.
According to George Carey the report, “ignores the trauma of ordinary Jewish people” and shows how the Church of England tends to “reduce complex issues to black and white.” Carey’s condemnation is extremely significant in that he was the last genuinely orthodox Archbishop of Canterbury, solidly rooted in the Anglican evangelical tradition.
His successor, Rowan Williams, is bearded, pleasant and quintessentially malleable. Whereas Carey was comfortable with the Christian conservatism of African Anglicans, Williams and his refined colleagues find their Third World brethren’s traditional position on subjects such as homosexuality and abortion, and their support of Israel, to be deeply troubling.
And here is the heart of the problem. This campaign is less about Israel and the Palestinians than it is about the decay and decline of mainstream Protestantism, not only in Britain but throughout North American and Western Europe. The Anglican, Presbyterian and in Canada the United Church have lost so many members and closed so many individual churches that in numerous areas they have become largely irrelevant.
There are more Roman Catholics at Mass on any Sunday in Britain than there are Anglicans at church. Even more shocking, within a few years there will be more Muslims at Mosque on Friday in the United Kingdom than there will be members of the Church of England at prayer on the Sabbath.
The reason for the collapse is not that these churches refuse to change and modernize but that they do nothing but change and modernize. Some of their members fall to indifference and agnosticism but many embrace evangelical churches and Roman Catholicism. In other words, the Anglicans offer liberalism, fashionable causes and moral relativism to people who came to church to find Christ.
Worthy as the Palestinian position may be, it is also the issue of the day for the left and enables overwhelmingly comfortable and affluent Anglican activists to demonstrate their radical and anti-American credentials.
As for anti-Semitism being involved, it is generally not the case. What there is within these circles is something known as Replacement Theology. The Jews, runs this argument, have been replaced as God’s chosen people by Christians. Consequently, the Jews have no claim or right to Israel. This is in direct contrast to the sometimes extreme and irresponsible fundamentalist view that Israel is not only God-given but that all of the Jewish people have to return.
The former abandons all empathy for the Jews, the latter has nothing to say to and for Palestinian Christians and ignores the need for a fair, just and lasting solution to the Middle East. Within those two wings, however, there are numerous Christians — the majority — who try to understand and appreciate both sides. This new threatened boycott campaign has made their position that much more difficult.
Yet as moribund and often risible as the Church of England may be, it is still the established church in England and its nominal head is the reigning monarch. The Archbishop of Canterbury ranks just below the Prime Minister according to official protocol and several Anglican bishops sit in The House of Lords.
Some of those bishops have spoken out against the new policy and will try to reverse it. Problem is, they’re minor actors in a divine comedy that looks grand but has no future. The Church of England ought to concern itself not with boycotting Israel but with asking why so many Christians have boycotted Anglicanism.