Methodist preacher to sue his own church over claim of anti-Israel bias

by Richard on October 3, 2010

David Hallam, a Methodist Local Preacher and blogger, is preparing to sue his own church over claims it is using charitable donations to pursue a campaign of discrimination against Israeli Jews.

Words fail me. But 1 Corinthians 6 seems not irrelevant.

{ 66 comments… read them below or add one }

1

methodist preacher 10.03.10 at 4:27 pm

Good to see Connexions making an argument based on Biblical texts.

I carefully thought and prayed about this before taking any action whatsoever.

The first thing that strikes me is that there is a procedure to go through laid out in Matthew 18. This was exhausted BEFORE I sought any legal advice and the General Secretary of Conference will confirm this.

Secondly, Paul in Corinthians was writing in a very different context. Our legal system is based on Judeo-Christian concepts of justice so taking a case for legal resolution is not taking it before “unbelievers” (or heathens as other versions of the Bible say) in the way that it would have been in Paul’s time. That doesn’t mean that we should discount Paul’s words but it means we must understand the context. Stephen Dawes wrote a little book aimed at Methodists on this point: It is called “Bible believing Methodists should not eat black pudding”.

Thirdly, the Methodist Church in the UK has a legal basis that is recognised in the law of the United Kingdom. Once again the General Secretary of Conference has been very careful to point this out to me. This was in the form of a letter stamped “Private and Confidential” so I have felt constrained about publishing his arguments in detail.

My covenanted contribution to Methodist funds is a legally based contract which the Methodist Church is obliged by law to use in certain ways. There is no question of the Methodist Church being above and beyond the law of the land. If there were, by now we would have developed a very different structure as have some independent congregations.

Fourthly, I think churches and faith organisations have a very difficult relationship with accepting “the rule of law”. I understand this, sometimes legislation and the courts make demands on Christians which seem contrary to our beliefs. In recent years the Methodist Church has made great strides to comply with recent current legislation. I haven’t been aware of Connexions or many others in the Methodist Church campaigning against this. It is a difficult call but I personally object to the church behaving in a discriminatory way which I believe to be both morally and legally wrong.

Fifthly, I have met many people who have escaped from some very nasty sects posing as Christian groups. I personally know of one example where the elders believed they had the authority to beat disobedient wives. I know the lady concerned and I know the elders. This happened just a few hundred yards from where I now sit, less than 30 years ago. They rely on this passage from Corinthians to justify their behavior. So be careful in what context we use this passage.

I can assure you Richard that this has been a matter of great personal distress. I have spoken to my many Jewish friends who are deeply unhappy about the way in which the Methodist Church has handled this issue. I am not prepared to let my contribution on the collection plate be used to run discriminatory campaigns against Jews.

2

John Cooper 10.03.10 at 5:37 pm

” I am not prepared to let my contribution on the collection plate be used to run discriminatory campaigns against Jews”

Neither am I david - but on this one you are wrong on many levels. I’ll be spelling out why I think why on my blog tomorrow. I felt it churlish to remark on yours, but hope RH doesn’t mind my use of his, but your blogpost today was remarkably inaccurate (yet accurate) when it completely failed to say that it was you taking the action - not the lawyer acting off their own back - or is that something you are able to clarify on?

Since we’re on the subject of bibles I’m off to read mine and re-read the gospels to see what Jesus taught about injustice and how we should respond. I don’t think it mentioned lawsuits taking money from mission to defend democratic decisions…

3

PamBG 10.03.10 at 7:18 pm

Words fail me. (And, yes, feel free to say “Well that will be the first time”.)

4

Richard 10.03.10 at 8:30 pm

Pam — well, since you invite the comment — There’s a first time for everything :)
John: be my guest. Like you, I’m a bit surprised by the post on David’s blog. He isn’t usually ‘backwards at coming forwards’.

David: I’m glad to see you using Stephen Dawes’ book so approvingly. If memory serves, you were a bit scathing about it a little while ago. And you’re right: of course the 1 Corinthians passage has to be read with its cultural context in mind. Like every other bit of scripture. But if you’re saying that you’d exhausted every other means of taking this up with the church, I have to tell you that I simply don’t believe you. If the courts have any sense, this action will be given short shrift. But if it ends up costing us all millions, I hope you’re proud of yourself.

Meanwhile, the illegal occupation of the West Bank continues, and the Palestinian people endure injustice from the Israelis.

5

Pete Phillips 10.03.10 at 8:49 pm

I just don’t understand this. Methodism also passed a resolution to create a new standing order that racism is contrary to the gospel. If this case succeeds, Methodists would need to dis-member conference itself. Don’t you think the Law & Polity Committee and the hoards of legal experts wouldnt have looked at this.
For goodness sake, Methodist money should not be going to lawyers in this way!!!
Dear oh dear!!!
Pete

6

DaveW 10.03.10 at 9:27 pm

Actually I don’t think that it is the first time words have failed you Pam. Maybe the problem is that your memory is failing as well. ;-)

Anyway I don’t expect anyone will be surprised or interested to know that I agree with John and Richard (and I guess with Pam when she finds where she has put her words).

All mechanisms surely cannot have been exhausted when conference has not been asked to change the policy via a memorial or a representative proposing a notice of motion.

7

Kim 10.03.10 at 10:31 pm

I am very, very saddened about this state of affairs for you guys. David has manoeuvred it into a win-win situation for himself, and a lose-lose situation for the Methodist Church: for if David loses the case, he will come out of it, in his own eyes (such is his megalomania), as a martyr to the cause of “Israel”, as the faithful Elijah who has not bowed the knee to the baal of Conference; while if the Methodist Church wins the case, it will look like Goliath beating, er, David, not to mention that the secular press will turn the litigation into a spectacle that can only be a huge embarrassment for the church.

As for, specifically, David’s opening gambit in this thread, he can’t help himself (can he?) but begin with an unctuous self-reference to what a prayerful guy he is, along with a snide allusion to Connexions (uncharacteristically, of course) deploying the Bible. Alas, he proceeds in his exegesis of I Corinthians 6:1-11 to use an (uncharacteristic!) argument from context (citing Dawes of all people - careful, David, if he were like you, you would be hearing from his lawyer!), which is risibly specious, if predictably self-serving.

Yes, of course the courts in first century Corinth were heathen, but Paul also specifically refers to the scandal of going before “judges … who have no standing in the church” (v. 4). Will David ensure that the judge in his case is a member in good standing of of the church? Will he withdraw his case if the judge turns out to be a pagan? And David’s assertion about “Our legal system [being] based on Judeo-Christian concepts of justice”? It is quite beside the point (not to mention not being exclusively true). Paul’s point is that the church - and the church alone - should handle a matter of dispute that arises in the church. V. 7: “The very fact that you have legal disputes among yourselves shows that you have failed completely.” The hermeneutical trajectory is that an ecclesiastical matter should not go before any secular court. But, no, David, goes to the state for redress. But then his Christianity has always had a whiff of the Constantinian about it. And his biblical interpretation - well, he argues his case like a, er, lawyer, doesn’t he?

8

Richard 10.03.10 at 10:53 pm

Kim: what can I say? You’re right on the money.

9

Felonious Monk 10.04.10 at 1:17 am

What are we to do when what passes for the Church (arguably) breaks its own rules? What are we to do when children to young to remember Egypt and Jordan stealing land that the League of Nations and the UN and the British Mandate(Empire) had returned to the Jews think that the Jews are occupying land that is legally theirs? Even the UN, dominated by Arab Oil, has forgotten these salient facts.

‘Palestinian’ Arab Christians have been driven out of Bethlehem and Nazareth etc. Shechem (look it up) /Nablus is repeatedly desecrated even though they ( the Arabs) claim to be Abraham’s Children.
Around the world, Christians are regularly martyred by Islamic zealots and we are SILENT!!!!!; but when the victims are Jews HOORAY!!!!!

Of couse, Israel isn’t perfect, but then neither are we.

10

Richard 10.04.10 at 7:15 am

These waters are murky enough already, Felonious. Let’s not muddy them further by getting into recent Israeli history (the thread will get hopelessly confused.

The issue here is… Well, the truth is that I’m confused. The issue is either
1. that the Methodist Conference acted in a racist way, or
2. that the Methodist Conference exceeded its powers by making the resolutions it did

Both charges are pretty obvious nonsense in my eyes.

Your penultimate sentence is contemptible.

11

Earl 10.04.10 at 6:40 pm

When it comes to the issue of racism, the definition apparently depends on whose ox is being gored. There will always be those who complain when saints do not hold their tongues in the face of injustice. Far greater than any purported cost in settling this matter would be the higher price that would ultimately be paid for doing nothing.

As far as taking this matter before a secular court, this is not the Middle Ages where Church matters can be insulated and separated from review. The Church is a legal entity that must exist and operate within the broader civil structures. The legal system is an appropriate mechanism by which to seek redress of this matter as this allows the matter to be decided in a equitable and timely manner rather than subjected to delays, excuses, etc.

12

Kim 10.04.10 at 7:13 pm

The legal system is an appropriate mechanism by which to seek redress of this matter as this allows the matter to be decided in a equitable and timely manner rather than subjected to delays, excuses, etc.

[To the sound of static] “The church on earth to Earl, the church on earth to Earl, come in please.”

13

Earl 10.04.10 at 8:29 pm

Static is an ongoing problem for those who insist on clinging to outdated equipments… or ways of thinking.

14

Beth 10.04.10 at 9:03 pm

Okay, I’m leaning toward agreement with MP and Earl, so I guess I’m probably wrong. But what the heck. The actions of the Christian church (pretty much any denomination thereof) have repurcussions that echo very loudly in secular society; if the church does something, then there are plenty of people who will accept that as “gospel”, and allow it to structure their own views. So I think secular society is not an inappropriate place to judge the public actions of the church.

As for the churchedness of the judge, well - if you really want to be judged according to biblical law, then be my guest, but I’ll be sticking with our imperfect but relatively sane civil law, personally.

And I think you all know my views about Israel. Start boycotting goods from China, Lybia, Egypt, Sierra Leone, Pakistan… and I will not question your right to boycott Israel. But an institution such as the church has a duty and a responsibility to lead its members, and it does not do so by singling out a particular country whilst others which are orders of magnitude worse - and probably supply much more to the UK marketplace, so that a boycott would have some economic point beyond making a gesture - are ignored.

If the church wants to do something, it could support Palestinian businesses, contribute to Palestinian charities, raise awareness through education within the church and public charitable campaigns. But I don’t believe it is within its moral remit to sanction Israel unless and until it is prepared to sanction every single country with a similar or worse human rights record. Leave the mote in Israel’s eye alone until you’re prepared to deal with the beam in China’s, and Indonesia’s, and Algeria’s, and the DRC’s, and… (fade to silence)

15

Paul Martin 10.04.10 at 9:10 pm

Is the boycott all Israeli goods, those from occupied territories or those from the settlements so condemned by the UN?

I would boycott the third, possibly the second but probably not the first.

16

Paul Martin 10.04.10 at 9:12 pm

On this basis I am wondering which political parties are opened to being sued.

17

DaveW 10.04.10 at 9:21 pm

Earl,

“Static is an ongoing problem for those who insist on clinging to outdated equipments… or ways of thinking.”

For the benefit of ignorant people, like me, why the documented procedures within the Church for challenging policy etc are a) outdated and b) not suitable in this situation.

Note that the procedures laid down clearly in the Constitution, Practice and Discipline of the Methodist Church have not been followed at all. It is not that David Hallam has tried and failed, he has not tried.

In other words he is using the courts as a first choice, not a last resort. Why is that appropriate?

18

Earl 10.04.10 at 10:12 pm

In confronting injustice some make banners and march in the streets. The results are usually a possible 60 seconds of notice on the evening news. In perhaps a few days, the matter is forgotten. If one wishes to accomplish something of enduring significance, more effective means must be used. In resolving conflict of this sort, the judicial process provides a fair hearing for both sides of the issue, an equitable decision by a disinterested third party and is most likely to produce a positive result for all concerned.

19

PamBG 10.04.10 at 10:42 pm

and I will not question your right to boycott Israel.

The resolution was not to boycott Israel. The resolution was to boycott goods from the disputed areas in Gaza. You know, the area was recently a matter of international focus and negotiation and which was undisputedly of international interest.

What’s laughable is that such a boycott was also undoubtedly going to have litter or no effect on anyone.

People are only playing the “racist” card here because they think that the rules of justice should only apply to one side.

20

DaveW 10.04.10 at 11:02 pm

Earl,

You paint a strange picture of Christian discipleship where you believe the way to ” accomplish something of enduring significance” is by taking your own Church to court before you have used any of it’s own procedures to challenge it.

I must have missed this bit in the Gospels, maybe you could enlighten me as to how this fits with following Jesus.

21

Kim 10.04.10 at 11:23 pm

Beth, David H., and Earl are three very different kinds of Christian (if Beth still considers herself a Christian!), but you can see here one big thing they have in common: thin ecclesiologies captive to individualism, accommodated to the secular, and finally submissive to the state.

But then, to speak more broadly and paradigmatically, not only liberal Christianity but also both progressive evangelicalism and the religious right all have thin ecclesiologies with, again, one thing in common: they understand the church’s fundamental political witness to be “getting involved” in the political processes of the state and international relations in order to Christianize the nation and the world. And in all three versions the Lordship of the Crucified is negotiable (and always trumped by the power of Caesar) and the teachings of Christ (particularly the Sermon on the Mounts) are honoured by a gilded dismissal as “unrealisitc”.

22

Richard 10.04.10 at 11:50 pm

Beth - As Pam has said, the Methodist Church is not ‘boycotting Israel’. The Conference called on “the Methodist people to support and engage with this [WCC] boycott of Israeli goods emanating from illegal settlements”. But it must be nonsense to say that the church (or any other body) has no right to express a view about one situation if it fails to address other similar situations. Wouldn’t that be a recipe for never saying or doing anything about anything?

23

Earl 10.05.10 at 2:08 am

The Apostle Paul understood that believers would not always agree. When necessary he engaged in disputes with ecclesiastical opponents. When necessary, he made full and complete use, as a citizen of Rome, of the pagan Roman legal system which he used to his advantage to protect his personal rights and to further the message of Christ.

In this case, reality is that in this particular matter the Church must conduct itself within and cannot set itself apart from or above the dominant secular framework. In the United States (and I would expect Britain) individual believers, churches and even denominations have worked together through the mechanism of the courts to effect significant social change. In a dispute involving property, finances, etc., the Church would certainly seek relief in the court. In this dispute, those seeking a resolution of the issue have turned to that exact same mechanism for exactly the same reason. If the process is odious or considered to expensive, etc., it is wise to seek a resolution before the case goes to trial. Such a resolution is especially advisable if it is reasonably anticipated that the case may be lost or else that the attendant consequences will be broadly negative.

24

Richard 10.05.10 at 7:57 am

Earl, you might be right. Maybe there are times when it would be right to take your church to the law.

But in this instance, the threat of legal action is clearly vexatious.

25

Kim 10.05.10 at 8:23 am

Sure, Earl, Paul made use of the Roman legal system - when he was arrested. He didn’t initiate judicial proceedings. As a Roman citizen he might have done - perhaps bringing a counter-charge of GBH against the mob that kicked the crap out of him in Jerusalem? - but he didn’t, he simply defended himself against his accusers, and then used his “court” appearances to bear witness to Christ. So Paul’s behaviour in Acts is, in fact, a counter-model to the litigiousness of Mr. Hallam.

Also, before Felix, it is significant that Paul’s witness included a discussion of justice and self-control (dikaiosunes kai engkrateias) (Acts 24:25), virtues hardly highlighted in the fraught and vindictive behaviour of Mr. Hallam. Paul’s conduct reflected well on the church; Mr. Hallam’s, to the contrary, brings it into disrepute.

26

DaveW 10.05.10 at 8:57 am

Earl,

Again you misdirect. I asked about the Gospels & following Jesus and you respond with Paul. I have nothing against Paul but there are 4 gospels in our Bibles and he is not mentioned in any of them.

Kim has totally demolished your points about this situation being like Paul.

I want to challenge your point

“If the process is odious or considered to expensive, etc., it is wise to seek a resolution before the case goes to trial. Such a resolution is especially advisable if it is reasonably anticipated that the case may be lost or else that the attendant consequences will be broadly negative.”.

Consider for a moment that the Methodist Conference might be right about this. That conference carefully debated a report that had been carefully prepared report and had been reviewed at least twice by people with a wide variety of views on the subject. That conference democratically decided what the policy of the Church should be. That the policy is consistent with our beliefs, practice and history.

Now with that mindset imagine that someone decides to subvert the democratic processes of the Church (notice they are not subverting a corrupt dictatorial system but the democratic will of the elected representatives) by attacking it through the media and the courts.

Imagine that this person has ignored the processes to challenge the Church that it makes freely available to all members and that they accepted as they signed up to the constitution, practice and discipline of the Methodist Church through membership, holding office and accepting the honour of being a Local Preacher within the Church.

Now consider what choices the Church has.

Should it give up on the the democratic rights of the whole membership whose elected representatives voted for this policy?

Should it surrender to an attack on a policy the membership has decided is right and proper?

Should it surrender knowing that the attacker is claiming that this will stop Churches from responding to any future humanitarian issue (because you so often need to stand up to legitimate governments and you can never make public battles on every issue)?

David Hallam is not giving the Church a chance to avoid the expense of a court battle without betraying our conference. One person is trying to deny the democratic rights of every other member of the Methodist Church and take our money away from the work of the Church.

27

Richard 10.05.10 at 9:11 am

And, just to repeat myself, there is no ongoing “political campaign against the Jewish nation” by the Methodist Church. As far as I’m aware, neither David Hallam’s offerings nor anyone else are being used in that way. What there is was a Conference Report and a resolution which included an invitation to the Methodist people to join in an existing boycott of Israeli goods produced in the illegal settlements. That’s hardly the sort of ‘campaign’ which David is trying to portray.

28

Paul Martin 10.05.10 at 12:25 pm

Re illegal settlements these are the major obstacle to the peace process in the dispute. Therefore I see it as a duty for Christians to stand against them. It’s about the lordship of Christ!

29

Earl 10.05.10 at 3:45 pm

Vexatious? No. Unwelcomed? Yes. According to posted responses, effort was made to resolve this situation according to Scripture. That effort failed.

Paul was born and raised a Jew. As a strict observant Pharisee with an insider’s knowledge of Jewish legal procedure and personal experience in its conduct, he could have trusted himself to the tender mercies of his fellow Pharisees. The record in Acts indicates that he was not popular with his fellow Pharisees whose exercise of justice was uneven. Perhaps that explains why as a Roman citizen, Paul turned to the pagan Roman legal system. Talk of counter-models, subversion, cost etc. is a rabbit chase.

The current matter at issue focuses on justice. Much vitriol has been expressed regarding motivation, etc., for bringing this matter to court. It is not unlike the scene recounted in Acts 21.30-40. There has been no evidence of the initiating party being out of control.

Paul is not mentioned in the Gospels. In the entirety of the New Testament Jesus is primary. That is the case in the writings of the Apostle Paul. Given that he was such a sharp young man there is every reason to expect that Paul heard Jesus speak. His insight into Christ was unique… and some would even use the word “inspired.” Apart from Paul, we would know nothing of what some have styled “the lost beatitude.” (Acts 20:35). Paul challenged his readers to imitate him as he imitated Christ. In this matter Paul’s actions demonstrate the practical living out of Christian faith in the midst of competing partisan claims.

In this instance, Israel is singled out for boycott. That this only applied to production sourced in “illegal settlements” is a screen devoid of merit. It rest on the supposition that Israel’s inherent rights as a nation are mediated by and subject to the convenience of the international community in a manner not consistent to any other nation. It should come as no surprise that many persons of Christian conscience are not in agreement on this matter. It should come as no surprise that many persons of Christian conscience, acting under the lordship of Christ, consider it their duty to stand with Israel.

30

Richard 10.05.10 at 4:32 pm

vex·a·tious / Adjective
1. Causing or tending to cause annoyance, frustration, or worry.
2. Denoting an action or the bringer of an action that is brought without sufficient grounds for winning, purely to cause annoyance to the defendant.

Since I believe that both of these definitions fit the bill, I’ll stick with vexatious if you don’t mind. Though you are right: it is also unwelcome. You’re as entitled to an opinion about this as anyone Earl, but here’s no reason why you should be au fait with the way British Methodism works. If David Hallam is claiming to have done all that he could to resolve this without going to court (I don’t remember him saying that, but my forgettory sometimes functions too well), he is mistaken. If there has been vitriol about David’s motivation, there has been a hundred times more bewilderment: I simply don’t know what this is about, and he hasn’t really explained himself.

That the boycott is focussed on goods and services from the illegal settlements is no screen. Any more than is the explicit affirmation of the state of Israel. If you regard these as falsehoods, there’s nothing to discuss and you add lying to the charges that have been laid against the Conference.

David has not responded publicly to my questions inviting clarification about his threatened lawsuit (and it remains, as far as I know, just a threat). He hasn’t explained how it is he thinks Methodist money is being wasted in an ongoing political campaign — and he can’t, because there isn’t one. He hasn’t explained exactly which human rights laws or directives on racism are being broken — and again, I believe he can’t, because they aren’t.

31

tompen 10.05.10 at 4:56 pm

I thought the Methodist church had supported other boycotts in the past? My local church certainly has! I know of a few members who need to keep a list of the various products they’re meant to be boycotting at any one moment. I think that’s a bit silly personally and I’m not really a fan of boycotts in general but I don’t think Israel has been singled out unless you also think Nestle (baby’s milk), Coca Cola (union rights) South Africa, etc. have been singled out as well.

People keep asking about the context of the letter from Paul and what it means/doesn’t mean. Can I ask what might be a slightly stupid question which may have an impact on the issue…
At any point in the New Testament do two leaders sue each other? Does Paul ever in his arguments with Peter say “how dare you! I must take you to court!”. Of course not, he only ever deals in court when he has been falsely accused by those outside the faith in order to defend himself and the Way. Seeing as that is the only positive example we have of Christians going to court in the New Testament where does methodist preacher or others get the idea that what he is doing is in anyway Biblical. Lawsuits within the body of Christ are a disgrace.

32

tompen 10.05.10 at 5:03 pm

” It rest on the supposition that Israel’s inherent rights as a nation are mediated by and subject to the convenience of the international community in a manner not consistent to any other nation.”

It rests on the supposition that international law should be respected and that Palestinian Christians need our support. The day those who see themselves as pro-Israel show the slightest bit of concern for Palestinian Christians and offer any way of practically supporting them as an alternative to the ways that Palestinian Christians themselves have requested, is the day this debate can move forwards.

33

Richard 10.05.10 at 5:15 pm

Amen to that, tompen.

I feel obliged to point out (in the interest of balance and such) that afaik, Paul & Peter would have had no recourse to law in the way that a member of a church does today. But I agree absolutely with the general thrust of your comments of course.

34

Kim 10.05.10 at 5:27 pm

… as a Roman citizen, Paul turned to the pagan Roman legal system.

Earl, what the hell are you talking about? Paul did no such thing. He was arrested and thrown into the system. Once there, wise as a serpent, he used it, finally playing the Emperor card. But “turned to the Roman legal system”? The next thing you’ll be telling us, dead-pan as a judge, is that Jesus himself turned to the Roman legal system. Indeed, Given that he was such a sharp young man there is every reason to expect that Paul heard Jesus speak - another one you’ve conjured from exegetical Wonderland - perhaps that’s where the apostle got his precedent.

35

Earl 10.05.10 at 5:52 pm

Vexatious? Not unexpectedly, opinions vary. In the posted response of 10:03:10 at 4:27 pm it is clearly stated that effort to resolve this matter had been made to no avail. One sided expressions of vitriol have been accompanied by disparagement and discounting directed at any not in agreement with the boycott. The faulty basis of this boycott lies in failure of its proponents to addresses themselves in precisely the same manner to others any reasonable man would just far more egregious. The settlements concerned are in the estimate of Israel legal. The estimate of these settlements by the international community cannot be considered unbiased. The boycott directed at the economic production sourced in these settlements touches upon the nation of Israel. It seeks to advance the agenda of Israel’s enemies with Israel being expected to foot the bill. That some describe the land as Palestinian is not unlike those who once spoke of the Malvinas. That Israel should surrender its territory is as irrational as to have expected Britain to surrender the Falklands. The initiator of this case has posted response to this matter. The precise points of law involved will require the attention of those with expertise in that area. If it is not possible to resolve this matter amicably, then it will be necessary for the court as a disinterested third party to make a decision.

36

DaveW 10.05.10 at 6:51 pm

earl,

“In the posted response of 10:03:10 at 4:27 pm it is clearly stated that effort to resolve this matter had been made to no avail. “

The Methodist Church has clearly written procedures and policies for complaints, disciple and for making and changing conference decisions.

So far as I understand it no Officer of the Church can change a decision of conference as conference is our highest level decision making body.

All David Hallam can have done is talk to Church Officers who cannot themselves change the policy set by conference.

So as I have said before, David Hallam has not followed the mechanisms set out buy the Church for challenging its decisions. Therefore it has to be false to say that all options other than secular courts have been exhausted.

37

Richard 10.05.10 at 7:01 pm

OK, Earl. David did say that he had exhausted all the possibilities before going to law. But that isn’t so. There are all sorts of things he might have done that I’m as sure as I can be he hasn’t. In any case, it isn’t at all clear to me what David might have been looking for to resolve this. He hasn’t said.

I accept that it’s possible that what the Methodist Church concluded at its Conference was entirely wrong. (I don’t think so, but it’s possible) Every Circuit and Synod in Methodism has the option to ask the Conference to think again. It’s a well-used procedure. The Conference decision doesn’t place any obligation on any Methodist Church or Methodist individual and it certainly hasn’t resulted in any ongoing campaign and subsequent expense. So for David to claim that what the Conference decided has resulted in a misuse of the offerings given in churches is simply wrong.

Let’s not get in to the Falklands/Malvinas…

38

Kim 10.05.10 at 7:02 pm

That Israel should surrender its territory is as irrational as to have expected Britain to surrender the Falklands.

So, Earl, the equations are: Israel + the West Bank = Britain, and the Palestinians = Argentina? Thus the Palestinians on the West Bank are invaders who must be forcibly repulsed? And therefore you are against a two-state solution to the conflict? Or the UN being involved in its resolution (oops, of course, not - the UN is biased)? So Israel gets carte blanche (cue Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”)? I guess rather like your vision of imperial Amerika?

After that horror scenario a further consistency problem seems insignificant, viz. that you obviously have little respect for international law, yet you support Mr. Hallam whose barrister intends to argue his case on the basis of European human rights law. That would be because it is in his own interests?

Machiavelli is Lord!

39

Beth 10.05.10 at 7:17 pm

But it must be nonsense to say that the church (or any other body) has no right to express a view about one situation if it fails to address other similar situations. Wouldn’t that be a recipe for never saying or doing anything about anything?

I said “similar and worse” - the issue here, for me, isn’t that there are alternative places to protest against, it’s that there are places that are much, much worse, and by focusing on this one tiny geographical area, where the actions of both sides are contentious, the church suggests that this should somehow be a priority.

I understand that you feel that a boycott is justified, and I don’t necessarily disagree. But I have a limited salary, so I put aside for the rent and food first, and spend on books if I can afford it. Why is the church using its resources on this and not on areas with far worse problems?

Boycotting these settlements can have absolutely no effect except to make the boycotters feel that lovely glow of middle-class righteousness - I can just see them all now, extravagantly examining the labels on persimmons to see whether they come from one tiny corner of disputed land (”Oh, excuse me, I’m wondering whether you have anything that doesn’t come from an Israeli settlement, please? You see, we don’t buy from places that abuse human rights.”) while they drink their Diet Coke and Nescafe, shop at ASDA, dress from Abercrombie and Fitch, and Gap, drive their Nike-wearing kids around in Ford SUVs, and own a ton of electronics all made in China. And, of course, they’ll never boycott any of this stuff, because it would actually be inconvenient. As soon as these settlements manage to get a factory that produces iPods or Reeboks, you’ll see a dramatic decline in boycotts.

So that’s my problem. These boycotts are hypocritical, self-serving, and steal attention and resources that could be so much better spent elsewhere.

40

PamBG 10.05.10 at 7:58 pm

Why is the church using its resources on this and not on areas with far worse problems?

The Church has and is using far, far, far greater resources for other problems. The Methodist Relief and Development Fund contributes millions of pounds to relief in those who need it and the World Church Office also offers practical mission amongst its other more traditionally “churchy” functions. (e.g. one missionary whose husband was a contractor who helped a poor family with a physically handicapped son adapt their home for the son’s needs).

As I understand it, the resources involved in this were bringing volunteers to London which, in my experience with the Minister’s Pension Fund involved a reimbursement for the lowest train fair I could get (which was £35 return in my case) and a sandwich lunch. And then it was put to resolution at the conference.

So the Church responded to a request that came directly from Palestinian Christians, spent - say - £2000 (which is probably a very high estimate), and people got up to speak at Conference for 15 minutes.

So the proper, ethical, response to this egregious waste of funds is NOT to use the procedures for next year’s Conference to launch a challenge but rather to sue the Church in court so that they can now spend - I have no idea what - tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds?

Clearly, whatever this is about, it most certainly cannot be about the Church being a good financial steward.

41

Beth 10.05.10 at 8:10 pm

Yes, fair enough. I take your point. I suppose the church can’t be blamed for not passing a resolution against any other area if such a resolution has never been brought. I still find the boycott itself problematic, but perhaps I’ve been too hasty here.

42

PamBG 10.05.10 at 9:13 pm

Yes, fair enough. I take your point. I suppose the church can’t be blamed for not passing a resolution against any other area if such a resolution has never been brought. I still find the boycott itself problematic, but perhaps I’ve been too hasty here.

OK, thank you. And I would point out that other boycotts and other “condemnations” - e.g. of the Mugabe regime in Zimbabwe - have been passed. It just seems that they have a wider consensus.

And I honestly don’t mind people disagreeing on the issue of Israel. It think it’s certainly a complex and emotional issue and I can understand why folk would disagree.

But I’m extremely angry at David’s painting this as some kind of expensive on-going political campaign against the State of Israel, which has been picked up by the wider media.

And the whole “What do you mean you don’t beat your wife?” tone is frustrating.

43

Richard 10.05.10 at 9:38 pm

>> “But I’m extremely angry at David’s painting this as some kind of expensive on-going political campaign against the State of Israel…”

Exactly.

>> “…which has been picked up by the wider media”

One of the surprises to me is that it hasn’t been picked up more widely: so far the only British media source I’ve found that’s covered it is the Sunday Telegraph. To be honest, I’m starting to think that the Telegraph might have run with this before it is a real story. We’ll see.

What I’m encouraged by is that so far, all the Methodists in the ’social media’ that I’ve come across seem to be appalled by David’s threat. Maybe I’m misreading the situation, but I don’t see Mr Hallam getting the support of grass roots Methodism if this action goes ahead.

44

dh 10.05.10 at 9:56 pm

Beth, why don’t you stand your ground? and no you have not been hasty here. I fault the fact that no one is bringing up a resolutions on all ofthe other countries where there are greater problems. What is truly problematic is the greater amount of condemnation on Israel as opposed to the amount of condemnation toward Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Syria, etc. If one kept count of the amount of times those groups are condemned as compared with Israel then one can see how Israel gets a bad rap.

45

Richard 10.05.10 at 10:26 pm

Please listen DH. I know you don’t approve of the resolution passed at the Methodist Conference. That’s a legitimate position, but it isn’t the issue here. What David Hallam appears to be claiming is that
1. The Methodist Conference was motivated by racism
2. Church funds are being (mis)used to pursue a campaign against Israel.

That’s what I and others are objecting to.

When we believe that Conference has made a bad decision, there are well-worn procedures to take up the issue. David has chosen to ignore that process for reasons that I don’t understand, but no doubt make sense to him.

46

PamBG 10.05.10 at 11:39 pm

Richard: “wider media” has been on the internet and seems to be either “publications” (I’m not clear which are print media and which aren’t) that are either mainly dedicated to being pro- or anti- Israel. But they have been talking about “on-going political campaign”.

“Israel National News” quotes David and thus includes the accusation about the “political campaign”. They have, at least, got their facts right and have not incorrectly said that the boycott is against the State of Israel but rather against the disputed areas. It’s actually far more balanced than The Telegraph article was, I think.

I note from that article that they are going to argue that the motivation was racist. I wonder how that’s going to stand up given that the same Resolution states explicitly We continue to affirm the right of the
State of Israel to exist and that all the inhabitants of Israel/Palestine
are entitled to their full human rights, including the right to live in peace and security and without the threat of violence.

47

Richard 10.06.10 at 12:07 am

Fair enough Pam, I should have been clearer. What surprised me was that the British traditional media don’t seem to have picked this up.

But you’re right — the idea that this Conference decision was motivated by racism is beyond ludicrous, and I really don’t believe this will get anywhere near a court.

48

Earl 10.06.10 at 1:01 am

Israel has every right to exercise sovereign self-determination in precisely the same way that Britain has exercised that right. In control of its territory Israel’s actions are no more subject to review than the actions of Britain… or any other sovereign nation. Approximating the Munich Pact, a failed relic of appeasement, the tw0-state solution constitutes a plan advocated by the international community to buy a temporary peace in our time between Israel and those surrounding nations sworn to her destruction with Israel being required to pay the cost of that appeasement in the coin of lost territory. It echoes what was demanded of Czechoslovakia to placate a hostile Germany. It is understandable that Israel will not make such a sacrifice of its own national interest on behalf of the international community. The UN is not even a consideration. It has been almost uniformly ineffective throughout the region. On the whole international law is in a word underwhelming.

The posted response stated that effort had been made to resolve the matter. If effort has been made, then effort has been made. It is understandable that that effort may not satisfy all concerned. It is understandable that not all are willing to wait an indeterminate period of time for the matter to be resolved. Perhaps that is part of the rational for advancing to a different venue for a decision. Why this matter has been advanced to the court can best be answered by the person initiating that choice.

49

PamBG 10.06.10 at 2:28 am

Israel has every right to exercise sovereign self-determination in precisely the same way that Britain has exercised that right.

Who is disputing this, Earl?

The posted response stated that effort had been made to resolve the matter. If effort has been made, then effort has been made. It is understandable that that effort may not satisfy all concerned.

Conference meets once a year. The Conference that passed this resolution met last year in July. The only body in Methodism that can overturn this resolution is Conference which meets next July. Since it is not yet July 2011, we can know with absolute certainty that no Resolution was put before Conference 2011.

I have no idea who David went to demanding that someone assume power that they don’t have. David appears to believe that he should be able to circumvent all democratic procedures in the Church and then have the right to sue when he doesn’t get satisfaction.

Why does he think that he has this right to circumvent democratic procedure and why do you agree with him that he does?

50

Earl 10.06.10 at 3:53 am

For centuries Britain used its seapower to exercise its sovereign self-determination . That right is very much disputed by those who take issue with Israel doing the same thing with tanks and bulldozers.

In a different day and age, many institutions found bi-annual or annual meetings were adequate. In this point and click era, many of these same institutions have found it necessary to accommodate themselves to a greater degree of immediacy.

Democracy is a old and honored institution. Sadly it is all to often snarled by the hardscrabble of insider politics. In this matter had the decision been mine to make, it would not have been my choice to seek relief in the courts. But the decision was not mine to make. As a citizen of Britain, the pastor has decided to seek relief in the courts. Like unbreaking an egg, that decision cannot now easily be undone. At a minimum those who are at odds in this issue will have to stop talking at each other and start listening to each other. That may be harder than unbreaking an egg.

51

Tim Chesterton 10.06.10 at 6:22 am

It’s rather interesting that in this instance the conservative evangelicals are ignoring the plain meaning of scripture (1 Corinthians 6) and telling us that it needs all sorts of interpretation and can’t be applied literally to the situation we find ourselves in today.

We’re all selective literalists, aren’t we? I can’t wait for the next discussion of homosexuality…

52

Richard 10.06.10 at 8:03 am

Tim - yes indeed. We all pick and choose.

Earl - You aren’t really holding up imperial Britain as the model for a nation’s behaviour?
“…those who are at odds in this issue will have to stop talking at each other and start listening to each other.”
That’s always good advice of course. Sometimes easier said than done.

“In a different day and age, many institutions found bi-annual or annual meetings were adequate. In this point and click era, many of these same institutions have found it necessary to accommodate themselves to a greater degree of immediacy”

There’s been no suggestion from David that the fault lies in the structures of Methodism. I don’t think I’ve read him saying that the annual Conference needs to be got rid of or its powers reduced.

“Like unbreaking an egg, that decision cannot now easily be undone.”
It looks to me as though that decision has not actually been taken. So far, it seems, it is only a threat.

Felonious - “Even if David is wrong, this is an attempt to read his heart. Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
It’s an attempt to read his motivation, true. But since David is clearly ascribing a racist motivation to those who passed this Conference resolution it’s hardly an unfair one.

53

Will Fletcher 10.06.10 at 10:06 am

“In a different day and age, many institutions found bi-annual or annual meetings were adequate. In this point and click era, many of these same institutions have found it necessary to accommodate themselves to a greater degree of immediacy”

Surely on matters of this importance we need to get away from the immediacy of this point and click era and spend a serious amount of time in reflection and discussion to ensure the correct decision is reached, and having an annual conference promotes this.

54

PamBG 10.06.10 at 11:22 am

Earl:

I’m taking this to mean that “stopping a boycott of products from an area that no one is buying anyway is so important that democratic processes should be circumvented.” “Nulling and voiding a statement of solidarity with Palestinian Christians is so important that democratic processes should be circumvented.”

So if I think it’s important to get my brothers and sisters in the British Methodist Church to stop talking about gay people as paedophiles and to give them full inclusion in the life of the church, then I should go directly to Council and if I don’t instantly get satisfaction on the rightness and justice of my cause, I should sue the church?

Thank you.

55

tompen 10.06.10 at 11:33 am

As someone who might be be described as a ‘conservative evangelical’ can I point out that the Israel/Palestine issue (and support/disgust at the Methodist Preachers lawsuit threat) can not simply be split along evangelical/liberal lines. There are many, many evangelicals who disagree with Christian Zionist. Stephen Sizer (who is very much a conservative evangelical within the Anglican church) has been a leading campaigner and has argued that a correct understanding of scripture does not lead to the a Christan Zionist posistion.

In fact one of the criticisms (of many) of Christian Zionism is that it comes from the idea that there are two covenants - one for the Jewish people based on the law of Moses and the covenant by with Jesus with gentiles and Jews who choose to believe in him. The two are independent of each other and so both are still active. This leads to the idea that you can somehow come to God outside of Christ, an idea which horrifies the vast majority of evangelicals.

56

tompen 10.06.10 at 11:46 am

Can I recommend the new documentary film “With God on Our Side” on the issue of Israel/Palestine and Christianity?

It includes interviews with Christian Zionists and Palestinian Christians as well as others and presents all sides of the debate. However it also shows that we are talking about the lives of human beings when we talk about Israel/Palestine not just territories and who has what legal right. There are several good interviews on the films website as well. (www.withgodonourside.com)

The DVD is region free (so works in the UK) and works well with a small group as a start point of discussion.

(And no, i’m not on commission, I just thing it’s a very useful film for people to watch, whatever side of the debate you’re on.)

57

Earl 10.06.10 at 6:54 pm

The example demonstrates assumptions not particular to Britain when even in a post imperial era are the pattern followed, i.e., Malvinas/Falklands. Israel has no obligation to check its national interest at the desk of old Europe or the UN.

The observation regarding bi-annual/annual meetings points to the necessity of institutional adaptation to the realities of the modern environment. This does not mean that long slow deliberate reflection is rendered extinct. It does mean that a routine of long slow delay in making a decision is precluded.

“’Like unbreaking an egg, that decision cannot now easily be undone.’ It looks to me as though that decision has not actually been taken. So far, it seems, it is only a threat.” If this is just much ado about nothing, then someone is protesting too much.

The democratic process is not sacred. How that process is exercised is often debated. Issue protests that are in the eyes of some outrageous and extreme are described by others as an expression of Christian conscience. In this case, a different method of protest is exercised. Some do not well receive that protest.

58

philip lewis 10.06.10 at 7:27 pm

What wonderful news
Philip Lewis
Merthyr Tydfil

59

Richard 10.06.10 at 7:47 pm

Earl — “If this is just much ado about nothing, then someone is protesting too much.”

This began following the publication of an article in a serious newspaper. Since then, no other British media source I’m aware of has picked up the story, and I haven’t heard that any sort of legal action has begun. We’ll have to wait and see whether the Telegraph story was just a bit premature and a legal action does actually happen, or if there was some other motivation behind provoking the article. Meanwhile, all my questions to David remain unanswered.

60

PamBG 10.06.10 at 8:03 pm

Israel has no obligation to check its national interest at the desk of old Europe or the UN.

Again, who is saying that Israel does have to check it’s national interest at the deskf of old Europe or the UN? No one is saying that.

The observation regarding bi-annual/annual meetings points to the necessity of institutional adaptation to the realities of the modern environment. This does not mean that long slow deliberate reflection is rendered extinct. It does mean that a routine of long slow delay in making a decision is precluded.

Again, would you value that kind of process if the issue were LGBT inclusion in the church? And if you knew that the kind of forcing the issue policy that you approve of here would have resulted in LGBT rights a long time ago? Somehow I think not.

61

Beth 10.06.10 at 8:53 pm

Pam,

Good point, nicely made.

If I were still a member of the Anglican Church, I would gladly take it to court for its horrendous attitude towards homosexuality. Maybe it would be unChristian to do so, but when the church fails to act in a Christian manner by being so inhumanly hypocritical, it deserves to have secular weapons thrown at it. Perhaps MP feels the same about the Israel issue? I admit that I am rather persuaded by the arguments I’ve seen here that it would be wrong to call the church racist or even entirely anti-Israel on the basis of this resolution, but for those who feel otherwise, maybe a secular legal route is a way to combat what they see as a church failing to practice what it preaches? I don’t know. I confess that the theology of the relationship between the church and its members is way beyond me.

62

dh 10.06.10 at 10:33 pm

I personally have a problem with suing. I at the same time have a problem with accusing the church of being unchristian in its attitude toward homosexuality. A church should not be forced to have practicing homosexuals in leadership or for membership for that matter in the church. However if a church democratically has a different standard then one should either attempt to change the church or leave. At the same time if a church within a denomination has a differerent standard the same standard apllies. We shouldn’t fight if a church or individual needs to leave.

The Apostle Paul in the Epistles addresses the proper proceedures for those who are following false doctrine and false teaching. The same goes for members, churches, denominations, etc. My church happens to have decided to leave the PC(USA) and be part of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church for a myriad of reasons of theologies followed going against Scripture by the PC(USA). For years our church leadership and congregation has attempted to change and influence the denomination to no avail. After prayerful consideration our church leadership and congregation by vote decided to leave the denomination. Suing is not the Biblical model, leaving after following the proceedures for “those caught in sin” or “those who follow false doctrine or false teaching” is proper and should be respected.

63

Richard 10.06.10 at 10:39 pm

Thanks for the comment DH. We disagree fundamentally about homosexuality, but I think we’ll leave that conversation for another time - one controversy per thread is enough, I think!

64

Paul Martin 10.06.10 at 11:54 pm

You may be interested to know that the TUC also supports a boycott of goods emanating from illegal settlements on West Bank.

http://www.middleeastmonitor.org.uk/resources/commentary-and-analysis/1558-repositioning-labour-party-policies-on-the-middle-east

So we are in good company.

65

PamBG 10.07.10 at 2:16 am

Maybe it would be unChristian to do so, but when the church fails to act in a Christian manner by being so inhumanly hypocritical, it deserves to have secular weapons thrown at it. Perhaps MP feels the same about the Israel issue? I admit that I am rather persuaded by the arguments I’ve seen here that it would be wrong to call the church racist or even entirely anti-Israel on the basis of this resolution, but for those who feel otherwise, maybe a secular legal route is a way to combat what they see as a church failing to practice what it preaches?

Well, as a supporter of LGBT rights, I *don’t* actually think that this would be the correct process in the church, which is really part of the point of what I’m saying.

I do most certainly understand that it could be that David thinks he is right, that there can be no other legitimate point of view other than his and that anyone who thinks that there could possibly be another point of view should be pursued and sued as vigorously as possible. In fact, that’s what I think is happening. I also think that is a totally unreasonable stance. And people who believe that others should be crushed will always win when they decide to crush others. But that doesn’t make the crushing moral, no matter who does it.

66

Richard 10.07.10 at 6:43 am

Paul - thanks for that. There’s a TUC leaflet here (pdf). No doubt the TUC will be Mr Hallam’s next lawsuit.

Pam - Just so.

Leave a Comment

You can use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>