Friday, June 06, 2014

6-Jun-14: Fear and loathing at the World Council of Churches

Christian and Muslim leaders at a WCC
Geneva Conference [
Image Source]
Had we read the celebrated British columnist Melanie Phillips' lucid and essential analysis of Christian anti-semitism in our day, with some focus on the role of the WCC in particular (published in Commentary Magazine a few days ago and highly recommended), we might have gotten smart enough to skip the following rather vexing chapter in our lives. Here's what we mean.

During April 2014, the World Council of Churches came out with a public call to its faithful that involved praying for the freedom and dignity of Palestinian Arab prisoners. It's in our opinion a deeply troubling and fairly ugly chapter, and one for which a strong push-back is called. 

We blogged about the WCC's campaign twice in the days that followed: "17-Apr-14: Christian solidarity with unrepentant murderers: where's the outrage?and "22-Apr-14: Attention World Council of Churches: Will you now follow your own advice and speak up for the Arabs tortured and imprisoned by the PA?" If you have time, please take a look; we make some points that seem to have slipped past many other people.

We sent a letter to the WCC secretary general, Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, on April 24, 2014, with links to what we had blogged in the previous few days. We were ignored. This quite bothered us since, as we see it, our standpoint is not political or organizational. We speak only for ourselves, and our interest in the matter of the Palestinian Arab prisoners is pure and passionate. We felt sure the world's largest church organization would want to hear and comment.

So we sent the same again, along with copies to a number of WCC insiders, a few days later. Still ignored. 

We fired off one additional round, and this time we got a response from the WCC's Director of Communications. That correspondence, with some personal details left out to avoid unintended embarrassment to any WCC officials, eventually became part of another post of ours: "15-May-14: Knocking at the church door; not getting much response or understanding"

The Communications man at the WCC seemed to be sensitive to what was on our chests, and responded to us in a humane sort of way. You can see our exchange in the link we included in the previous paragraph. Then he explained that he was heading for 
"a week-long absence from the office [and] should be able to access email later on Monday, however, that depends on access to the Internet. Best wishes to you and your family."  
We got that on May 11, 2014. We interpreted it to mean he would be back in touch with us after the week-long absence, and perhaps sooner. The issues we had raised, after all, were non-trivial and we had some heavy points to make based on first-hand experience of terror and terrorists. The WCC's secretary-general had not himself responded at any stage, so it seemed to us that we were speaking with his proxy. 

So here's what happened next: Nothing.

Yesterday (Thursday June 5, 2014), having gotten no further WCC emails for nearly four weeks, we wrote again:
"To be sure there is no misunderstanding between us, we received nothing further from you or anyone else in the WCC after your note of May 11, below."
Here's the full text of the response from the man in charge of communications with the world on behalf of the World Council of Churches:
Dear Mr. Roth, Yes, I believe we would have nothing further to say.  Best wishes to you and your family. Mark Beach, WCC Director of Communication
It took us no more than a few minutes to compose and send a brief response, thanking Mr Beach for his candor which we said was "refreshing, and puts a clear interpretation - different from the plain meaning of the words you used - on what you wrote" the previous month when he had spoken about planning to respond, and wishing the best to us and our family. 

That's how we arrived at the insight that this is how the World Council of Churches' leadership relates to people who disagree with what we regard as disgraceful fawning over convicted and determined murderers.

Here's a very small part of what Melanie Phillips has to say in her fine analysis, the one published a few days ago at Commentary, about a certain flavour of Christian hostility towards Israel in the 21st Century:
This hostility has been heavily influenced by the World Council of Churches (WCC), which was founded in 1948, within months of Israel’s own founding. The Middle Eastern churches that belonged to the WCC had learned to adapt their message over the years to placate the Islamic rulers of the Arab countries where they were situated. As a result, the WCC hardly ever mentions the persecution of Christians around the world. Instead, it displays an institutionalized obsession with demonizing Israel... The WCC played a key role in bringing about the UN Conference on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance—the anti-Israel, anti-Jewish meeting convened in Durban, South Africa, a few days before 9/11. WCC representatives demanded that the UN denounce Israel for “systematic perpetration of racist crimes including war crimes, acts of genocide, and ethnic cleansing...” The WCC is particularly influential over progressive Western churches, which subscribe to its advocacy for the world’s poor and dispossessed and which have therefore also absorbed its narrative about Israel. [Commentary Magazine | 'Jesus Was a Palestinian': The Return of Christian Anti-Semitism, Melanie Phillips, June 1, 2014]
We know from experience that the world has many, many Christian believers whose abhorrence of terrorism, rejection of cries for the murder of innocent children, and belief in the central role of justice and morality in 21st century life differ hugely from the messages being advanced by the WCC. We don't share their theological outlook but we feel we have a great deal of common ground with their humanity.

But finding common ground with church leaders for whom calls to prayer and "acts of solidarity" that "restore" to the convicted, unrepentant murderers of innocent children "their freedom with justice and dignity” - that truly feels like mission impossible.

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