Three-sentence letter to the ‘NYT’ results in Yale chaplain’s resignation

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We’ve covered the backlash against a Yale chaplain for his letter to the New York Times saying that Israel’s “carnage” in Gaza and its footdragging on the peace process were a factor in growing anti-Semitism in Europe. Well, that three-sentence letter to the Times has now produced the resignation of the chaplain, Father Bruce Shipman, from the Episcopal Church at Yale.

It happened three days ago. The statement from the Episcopal Church at Yale refers to “dynamics” between Shipman and his board of governors:

The Rev. Bruce M. Shipman, on his own initiative, has resigned as Priest-in-Charge of the Episcopal Church at Yale, effective immediately.

The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, President of the Board of Governors, and the Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, bishop with oversight of university and college chaplains in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, have accepted with sadness the resignation of the Rev. Bruce M. Shipman; and wish to thank him for his faithfulness, hard work, vision, and most especially his dedication to the students at Yale over the last fourteen months as Episcopal chaplain.

It is our belief that the dynamics between the Board of Governors and the Priest-in-Charge occasioned the resignation of the Rev. Shipman. Bishops Douglas and Ahrens are dedicated to working with the Board on matters of governance and process so that the Episcopal Church at Yale can continue faithfully to serve students and God’s mission at Yale University.

In addition, The Episcopal Church at Yale, its Board of Governors, the Bishops of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, and the Rev. Bruce Shipman are all committed to a civil dialogue on difficult issues that divide peoples of this world and pledge ourselves to the prayerful and humble work of reconciliation and peace in our hurting and divided world.

Here is Shipman’s letter to The New York Times on August 25 on Gaza, precipitating the controversy:

Deborah E. Lipstadt makes far too little of the relationship between Israel’s policies in the West Bank and Gaza and growing anti-Semitism in Europe and beyond.

The trend to which she alludes parallels the carnage in Gaza over the last five years, not to mention the perpetually stalled peace talks and the continuing occupation of the West Bank.

As hope for a two-state solution fades and Palestinian casualties continue to mount, the best antidote to anti-Semitism would be for Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question.

(Rev.) BRUCE M. SHIPMAN
Groton, Conn., Aug. 21, 2014

The writer is the Episcopal chaplain at Yale.

Here is Shipman’s letter to the Yale Daily News following up his letter to the Times, walking the letter back.

To all who have been offended by my August 26 letter published in the New York Times, I would like to say the following:

I believe that there is a correlation between the uptick in anti-Semitic violence in the world and the events taking place in Israel/Palestine and Gaza. That said, there is never any excuse for such violence and the crimes described by Professor Deborah Lipstadt are disgusting and repellant. There can be little doubt that many who engage in such behavior use the Israel/Palestine dispute as an excuse to mask a much deeper disorder known as anti-Semitism.

I ought to have said this in my letter.

I have been accused of anti-Americanism for my opposition to the Vietnam War in the ’60s and the Iraq War in the ’00s. In fact, my patriotism runs deep, as does my love for Israel and Palestine and for the two peoples locked in a tragic fight over the land. If I seemed to suggest in my letter that only Jews who actively oppose present Israeli policies have a right to feel safe, that was not my intention nor is it my belief. Personal safety and protection by the rule of law is a fundamental right. Nothing done in Israel or Palestine justifies the disturbing rise in anti-Semitism in Europe or elsewhere. Persons of good will must be concerned as well by the rise of Islamophobia that is now being justified in terms of national security.

This has been a painful time for many of us, but I am a hopeful person and I believe that good will come of it. I have received many letters that offer opportunities for dialogue and understanding, and I trust that I am humble enough to still be taught.

Bruce M. Shipman

Aug. 28

This seems another instance of the intense pressure to support Israel inside elite institutions, because that’s all the Israel lobby has now in the wake of Gaza. This Yale student called on the church to dismiss Shipman for “incendiary comments” demonstrating “profoundly poor judgment and insensitivity,” and the church’s board of governors evidently sided with that student. Rabbi Brant Rosen resigned from his synagogue in the Chicago area because “I gradually became a Palestine solidarity activist rather than liberal Zionist,” as he told Haaretz. His synagogue was riven by the controversy, as Yale must be, too. Rosen will surely have more freedom now, and Father Shipman will too. I think good things will come of this. The resignation demonstrates the pattern of blacklisting/corruption in prestige institutions that is bound to crack at some point, and it opens up more space at the grassroots for free discussion of these important questions. 

Many have pointed out that William Sloane Coffin Jr, a Yale chaplain, practiced civil disobedience in protest of the U.S. war in Vietnam. There are probably plaques for him in New Haven.

Thanks to Marc Ellis.

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I suppose that unfortunately M. Ellis and Rab. Rosen now have company in what M.Ellis calls “Exile.”

Shipman gnawed at one of the 4 legs of the table called Zionism.
The other 3 legs are American corruption , Arab weakness and European guilt .

Taking on the bot message over antisemitism is high treason.

“Profoundly poor judgement and insensitivity”- that would be Netanyahu Guess what? People are sick and tired of Israel’s split personality – “dual fantasy of helplessness and unlimited power” . That pig doesn’t fly any more. And Israelis just don’t get it. http://www.haaretz.com/news/features/.premium-1.612950 “The aggressive criticism in Europe of Israeli policy… Read more »

What have we become when this cause for justice is treated with such vehement opposition as though it was an unforgivable sin? Perhaps it had to come to this. I’ve not heard that these good men preached their Palestinian activism from their pulpits. Professor Salaita spoke out on social media,… Read more »

‘First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, and then you win.” The zionist are now transitioning from the ridiculing, or I should say the ‘deflaming’ , stage to the fighting stage. This is good……faster please, attack more people, use more dirty tricks and lies, scream,… Read more »