The Church of Scotland yesterday issued a revised version of the report titled “The Inheritance of Abraham? A Report on the Promised Land,” after it was harshly, and in my opinion, unfairly criticized by Jewish groups from the United Kingdom, the Israeli government and various opinion columnists in Israel, the US and in Great Britain. (Our site reported on this here, here and here.)
“The Inheritance of Abraham?” was scheduled to be presented to the General Assembly of the church today (May 18), but it has now been postponed until next week, according to the church website.
The central thesis of the document remains unchanged. It states that promises in the bible should not be used to support Israeli “claims of exclusivity or privileged divine right to possess particular territory.”
After the church withdrew the report, it stated that a new introduction would be added which would explain, contextualize and answer the objections that were raised. However, in addition to the introductory remarks, the new report does include significant changes to the body of the document.
Despite the revisions, my cursory initial review leads me to the conclusion that the basic content and purpose of the report have not been substantially altered. However, there has been a clear attempt to remove controversial parts of the report in order to placate the critics.
Also, the revision includes the addition of an excerpt from columnist Marc Ellis (see below).
There are many reasons why this report may be rejected by the General Assembly. Many church members are pro-Zionist and others may just want to avoid conflict with their Jewish opponents. But one can hope that the unfair criticism, which included charges of church anti-Semitism and opposition to Christian theology, will cause a backlash, and the passage of the report.
I compared a number of excerpts I had previously marked as possibly objectionable to the pro-Israel critics with the revised edition. What follows are a few changes I found.
The conclusion in the revised version reads:
… Christians should not be supporting any claims by any people … [to Palestine]
In the Bible, God’s promises extend in hope to all land and people. p. 12
It seems late in the Israel/Palestine political game – and it is late indeed – but the mainstream Churches are breaking what I have called the interfaith ecumenical deal. That deal is usually referred to as the interfaith ecumenical dialogue, the post-Holocaust place where Jews and Christians have mended their relationship. Israel was huge in this dialogue. Then as Israel became more controversial with their abuse of Palestinians, Christians remained silent. Nonsupport and, worse, criticism of Israeli policies, was seen by the Jewish dialoguers as backtracking to anti-Semitism. That’s where the dialogue became a deal: Silence on the Christian side brings no criticism of anti-Semitism from the Jewish side. p. 8