Some of the ‘debate’ that’s come out of the Methodist Conference report ‘Justice for Palestine and Israel’ has become very heated (the phrase ‘more heat than light’ springs to mind). The comment has become very personal. And in the process, the central point is being lost. I’d like to return to it if I may. Because it is really very simple.
This summer, the Methodist Conference received a report and passed resolutions as a result. Methodists and others can argue that the wrong decision was reached. That’s always possible. A conversation can be had. And if Methodists feel strong enough, there are mechanisms by which Conference can be asked to re-visit its decisions. Broadly speaking, they work.
I have no beef with anyone who wants to argue that the church has come to the wrong mind, no matter how robustly they want to do that. But that isn’t what is going on here.
In this case, the argument being put is that Methodism was driven by anti-semitism. The argument is not so much about the decision that the church has reached - though it was a decision that I approve of - so much as it is about what is being claimed about the motivation of the church in reaching it.
What’s worse, to support this claim resort is being made to the very lowest tactics of political debate. Deliberate misrepresentation of others. Falsehood. Smears. In that sort of atmosphere, there is no room for debate. So I’d just like to re-iterate three very simple points:
1. There was no anti-semitism in the preparation of the Conference Report nor in the debate that came from it at Conference. There is no room for any sort of racism in the Methodist Church.
2. Criticism of the state of Israel is not anti-semitism. You don’t have to agree with the criticisms to acknowledge that.
3. The legal challenge that continues to be threatened towards the church is completely baseless and unjustified. I haven’t found any Methodist, even those uncomfortable with the Conference decision, who thinks that the courts are the appropriate place to address this.