I never expected the recent conversation here about free speech to have an urgent relevance to the little world of British Methodist blogging. But it does.
Self-styled controversialist David Hallam (aka Methodist Preacher) has been pursuing a campaign against what he sees as anti-semitism in the Methodist Church since the Conference last summer. He has even threatened a lawsuit against the church, though there is still no sign of it 5 months after the threat was made. Many of his posts have, to my mind, been distortions of reality. However, a post today goes further than anything he has written before and has “crossed the line”.
Writing about a recent visit of our President and Vice-President to Israel/Palestine, he suggests
…this was not a visit designed to encourage peace and reconciliation. It was clearly intended to generate yet more anti-Jewish sentiment within the Connexion.
I’ve tried hard to find some way of reading that statement that isn’t grossly offensive, but I can’t. I’ve left comments at his blog asking that he modify the statement, since I can’t quite believe that he means it, but this has only led to a repetition. David Hallam is saying that someone in our headquarters has organised a Presidential visit to Israel for the purpose of stirring up anti-semitism. That seems to me to go well beyond what should be acceptable. If it were true, it would be grounds for a formal complaint and disciplinary action against any staff involved.
By his own admission, he has no evidence of that intention. His only ‘proof’ is a single blogpost reporting the visit. He doesn’t know who organised the trip (though if he had read the President’s blog a bit more carefully, he would’ve - it’s in the first paragraph), still less have any knowledge of their intentions. Foolish and careless rhetoric like this should not come from any Methodist. Let alone a preacher.
The Methodist Church rejects anti-semitism. David knows that. But if he really believes what he is saying here he really has to bring a formal complaint.
I rather suspect that he won’t.