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November 22, 2019 10:36 am

Church of England Acknowledges Role Christianity Played in Holocaust

avatar by Karys Rhea

The Canterbury Cathedral in Kent, England. Photo: Antony McCallum via Wikimedia Commons.

In a newly-published document, the Church of England formally acknowledged that Christian theology prompted the Holocaust and called on Christians to repent for fostering antisemitism.

The 144-page report, published by the Church of England’s Faith and Order Commission under the title “God’s Unfailing World; Theological and Practical Perspectives on Christian-Jewish relations,” is the first definitive statement by the church on the matter.

It opens with a foreword written by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who called the church “less than its true self when it refuses the gift of Christian-Jewish encounter.”

“Only by looking back and recognizing our failures as Christians can we begin to move forward with authenticity,” he added.

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The document refers to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism, saying it “makes it clear that it is not antisemitic to apply to the State of Israel the same standards of justice that are used with regard to other democratic nations,” but that “it is the case that some of the approaches and language used by pro-Palestinian advocates are indeed reminiscent of what could be called traditional antisemitism, including its Christian forms.”

The report also notes that “the vast majority of Jews support the existence of the State of Israel,” and and that while not all Jews considered themselves Zionists, the majority in the UK did, as they were “tied spiritually and emotionally to the land.”

“Zionism,” the text states, is “an important and legitimate aspect of Jewish identity.”

The church’s position on Israel in this document stands in contrast to its past critical stance. Anglican Bishop Julian M. Dobbs in 2015 accused the church of having a “consistent theological , social, and political hostility towards Israel, the Jewish people, their religion and state.”

In 2012, the Church of England’s Board for Social Responsibility released an anti-Israel report that was criticized.

The church’s reversal in doctrine is substantive; the new text is meant to be a policy guide and a teaching tool for the future “so that the Church of England is able to refer to a single document setting out a theology of Christian-Jewish relations that accords with its doctrine,” according to the report.

“We hope it will encourage Christians to be confident in venturing into dialogue with Jewish people about God’s purposes for us, in challenging antisemitism, and in working together for the common good of our society,” the church said.

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