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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.

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.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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29 Responses

  1. W.Jones on September 8, 2014, 12:38 am

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

  2. seafoid on September 8, 2014, 9:03 am

    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.

  3. seafoid on September 8, 2014, 9:25 am

    “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.

    “The aggressive criticism in Europe of Israeli policy is neither anti-Semitism, nor is it a natural political reaction of people of conscience and sound morality. It is mainly a platform for people who are a good deal more interested in showing themselves than they are in showing the evils of the occupation. ”

    Wrong wa nuss

    The occupation and the blood required to feed it are abominable.

    • Mooser on September 8, 2014, 12:53 pm

      “The occupation and the blood required to feed it are abominable”

      The Occupation requires blood, but Zionism itself gets along on reconstituted plasma?

      • seafoid on September 8, 2014, 2:46 pm

        It’s complicated because Zionism is heartless, Mooser. The clean blood has to come from somewhere else.

      • Mooser on September 9, 2014, 10:54 am

        “The clean blood has to come from somewhere else.”

        You must be referring to the American two-staters, who will go to Israel and risk arrest and expulsion to straighten Israel out. A regular transfusion of the life-giving ichor!

    • MRW on September 8, 2014, 6:54 pm

      Corey Robin’s words come to mind:

      But today we see three developments: first, Israel and many of its defenders claim that Israel is coterminous with Jewishness — indeed, sometimes, that Israel exhausts the definition of Jewishness; second, Israel has come to be associated, in the eyes of many, with colonization, racism, occupation, population transfer/ethnic cleansing; and, third, movements against colonization, racism, occupation, and the like are considered to be honorable because those things are thought to be, like anti-Semitism itself, among the great sins of the 20th century.

      Because of these three developments, Israel has perversely made anti-Semitism into something honorable: i.e., a discourse that is not about animus toward Jews but rather about opposition to colonization, population transfer, occupation, and the like.

      Phil noted on September 3, 2014, “(No wonder The New York Times lately published a piece calling Robin one of the two best on-line journalists.)”

      Too bad that put-up punk who called for Shipman’s resignation hadn’t read Robin’s piece. The comments weren’t incendiary. What Israel did to Gaza was.

  4. just on September 8, 2014, 9:28 am

    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, not in his classroom. He lost his tenured position. Reverend Shipman wrote a letter in the NYT and the board felt it was too much for their delicate sensibilities. Rabbi Rosen had a rabble opposing him and his concern for Israel’s victims. He’s leaving.

    So while congregants and students have bonafide 1st amendment rights, these men do not– not in their personal lives, either. I am cautiously optimistic that you are correct when you wrote:

    “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.”

    A pattern of blacklisting/corruption that has long infected our government as well. I hope that these events are being observed from the halls of congress by the very people that purport to defend and uphold our Constitution.

    Meanwhile, I am glad to know that our ranks are filled with people of this caliber and character.

    • just on September 8, 2014, 9:35 am

      Katz is a Yale alumnus and his letter is a travesty, imho. It’s terrible and telling that the board sided with him and his “pain”.

      Ironic that it was posted under another letter about “free speech”.

      • Rusty Pipes on September 8, 2014, 6:17 pm

        Two Jews, three opinions — yet an alum who graduated over 40 years ago presumes to represent the feelings of the variety of Jewish Yale undergraduates (who comprise a larger percentage of students than 40 years ago).

      • Mooser on September 9, 2014, 10:59 am

        Rusty, for American Jews, there are no limits to self-conception. You’ve got it all! You can be both successful and persecuted. Both completely integrated, even to possibly forming some kind of elite, but still trapped in a ghetto. You get Reconstructed, but never, ever deconstructed.

      • Mooser on September 9, 2014, 11:00 am

        Okay, there is one limit. You can’t correct faulty italics tags at Mondoweiss.

    • gracie fr on September 8, 2014, 1:35 pm

      “I have not heard that these good men preached their Palestinian activism from their pulpits”

      How WRONG you are….!!!

      Shipman has a long history of service to the Diocese of Connecticut, in the parishes of Westport and Roxbury for 26 years before moving to Groton and taking early retirement to reflect on the state of the world, the church, and his own soul in this time of war and profound change in the Episcopal Church. Retirement lasted eleven months, followed by an invitation to Ivoryton, where he served four years.
      His second “retirement” lasted less than a year, when he accepted a call to be Vicar at the Church of the Holy Advent in Clinton, where he served from 2006-2011, after which the Rev. Canon Peter Larom (Class of 1972) was called as Rector.
      Demonstration of Unity was Inspiring
      Reverend Shipman has been an unwavering advocate of The Tree of Life Community which has been operating in South Eastern CT since 2004 as an ecumenical forum to promote understanding of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The list of invited speakers to the autumn TOL conferences is long and impressive The Conference(s) has been converted into a multi-venue event lasting several days in 6 to 8 locations including Boston and New York. Spring trips to Israel Palestine are also an annual event with participants attending daily meetings with activists on the front lines of protest and non-violent actions across the West Bank.. Reverened Shipman has been an active participant on at least one these journeys.
      The result of Shipman’s heartfelt beliefs has been virulent hate mail….

      • just on September 8, 2014, 2:39 pm

        First link didn’t work.

        I know that he was an active activist and am grateful for his work and his voice.

        Did he preach it from his pulpit at Yale? It was only when his letter was published by the NYT and the resultant “outraged” voices objected, that he resigned.

      • gracie fr on September 8, 2014, 3:04 pm


        I don’t know without a doubt what Reverend Shipman sermonized from his episcopal pulpit at Yale, but given the NYTs piece and the similar editorial in The Day, the Gaza tragedy was very much on his mind……

        (missing link)
        New Haven Register 10/17/13

        Demonstration of unity was inspiring

        I was inspired by the “I Wage Peace Walk” in New Haven this past Sunday afternoon. As a participant and co-sponsor, I want to thank Bruce Barrett and the many others who organized this event, not least the four “combatants for peace” who came to New Haven from Israel/Palestine to witness to the possibility of peace and reconciliation in that wartorn land. The three representatives of Judaism, Christianity and Islam — Rabbi Joshua Ratner, Father David Cobb and Imam Hafiz Abdul Hannan — spoke to the crowd with words of hope. All three invited everyone to “walk with us and work with us today and every day, waging peace and healing for all Americans, all Israelis, all Palestinians, and all people; for our children, and for the children of New Haven, Israel, Palestine and the children of the world.”

        Symbols matter. Vision matters. This united witness was a blessing and a reminder of how things might be, how things ought to be, in the Holy Land as peace talks there resume with the goal of establishing a viable Palestinian state alongside the state of Israel.

        — The Rev. Bruce M. Shipman, The Episcopal Church at Yale New Haven

  5. American on September 8, 2014, 12:27 pm

    ‘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, shout, whine, demand, condemn and spin.
    Zionism will never last.

  6. arobertsccl on September 8, 2014, 12:45 pm

    I joined the Episcopalian Church because unlike my Evangelical home they seemed to have read and were applying the New Testament principled of love and charity. I also remember the difference the Ivy League chaplains made in the anti-war movement. This is a good and brave man whom we should celebrate. Slaughter of civilians is slaughter of civilians. Decent people know this.

  7. James Canning on September 8, 2014, 1:33 pm

    The relentless campaign in the US to suppress free speech, to enable further Israeli oppression of the Palestinians, continues. Sad and dangerous. And pathetic.

  8. michelle on September 8, 2014, 1:59 pm

    time and time again this life proves how truly challening it is to choose right over wrong
    i am unkind unjust a thief and murderer
    i have a dollar i don’t need today
    whilst my neighbor will die today for the lack of a dollar
    Lord I beg you grant me the faith to truly depend on you
    G-d Bless

    • ritzl on September 8, 2014, 3:11 pm

      Good one, michelle. That last line is a toughie.

  9. ritzl on September 8, 2014, 2:57 pm

    It’s good to know that the Episcopal version of “God’s mission” at Yale includes condoning (through silence) the slaughter of children in Gaza compounded by the adamant denial of any effort to help them in the aftermath.

  10. Pippilin on September 8, 2014, 4:56 pm

    I have read–don’t remember where– that, unlike the United Methodists and the Presbyterians– the Episcopalian Church is one of the Protestant denominations that has failed to come out in favor of BDS. I am hoping that former Chaplain Shipman’s words will add to the growing number of voices speaking truth about the I/P conflict. If there is any thing that we who consider ourselves independent-thinking Americans don’t tolerate , it’s another sovereign state telling us what we should think and do.

  11. belewlaw on September 8, 2014, 5:48 pm

    Unfortunately, the Episcopal Church is lagging far behind on Israel/Palestine compared to other mainline churches. That’s not saying that there is not activism, awareness and organizing going on, it’s just that we don’t have the votes yet. In my area, the Washington National Cathedral is doing great work in partnership with Palestinian Anglicans.

  12. PilgrimSoul on September 8, 2014, 5:54 pm

    Of course, there’s always been a baseline form of antisemitism in Europe and the US, and it would be there regardless of whether Israel existed or not. But the anger at Israeli apartheid that is being felt here in the US is completely justified, because it is the result of systemic evil practiced by a state–one that we are forced to support with our tax dollars. And all the “leaders” that have gotten power in the organized Jewish community, most of whom are neo-cons in all but name, tend to uncritically support the slaughter in Gaza.

    It is natural, then, that people are starting to get angry at the Jewish organizations, especially AIPAC, and the billionaire donors that have a certain veto power over our politics. And since not everybody has a degree in comparative religion, it is natural that some of that dislike will spill over and end up being directed at ordinary Jews that have nothing to do with public advocacy, or whose beliefs are progressive.

    The unwillingness of Zionists in the US to understand that there is a relationship between what they do and say, and the behavior and attitudes of others, is pathological. What they are really saying is that they are beyond good and evil, and are always right, and everybody that opposes them are wrong and should be driven from their jobs. This is the classic pose of the sociopath, who is never at fault, who is always a victim, whereas everybody else is wrong.

    • just on September 8, 2014, 7:23 pm

      “Of course, there’s always been a baseline form of antisemitism in Europe and the US, and it would be there regardless of whether Israel existed or not.”

      I do not think that this part of your comment is verifiable truth at this point.

    • Boomer on September 8, 2014, 8:01 pm

      The “baseline of antisemitism” in the U.S. is a tiny fringe; Americans as a whole have positive feelings about Jews, as was reported by a recent Pew poll, described below by Emma Green, writing in The Atlantic:

      “Or at least, that’s how I read the latest poll from Pew on American attitudes toward other faiths. The researchers asked a panel of more than 3,200 nationally representative adults to take a “feeling thermometer” about religious groups in America, rating their level of “warmth” or “coolness” toward Jews, Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, evangelicals, atheists, and more. Here, the researchers used “cool” to mean “chilly”—the opposite of “cool” as in “you’re awesome.” Despite making up only two percent of the country’s population, despite having only 100 representatives in this 3,000-person poll, Jews were at the top. For Jews like me, this feels like the statistically impossible triumph of Hanukkah, only better.”

  13. on September 8, 2014, 6:36 pm

    Yes, Yale has a history of the Chaplain calling the spade a spade and being right. He is right this time as well. His resignation only draws more attention to the pathology of the Israel partisans who exercise such irrational pressure to support Israel in the major universities.

    • Reds on September 9, 2014, 12:07 pm

      I noticed that Michael Katz happen to oddly similar to NL Katz who is a paid Hasbara promotors. NL Katz can be found on all U.S. MSM website comment boards.

      Interesting to find if Mr. Katz now resides in Israel .

  14. Exchequer on September 11, 2014, 3:59 am

    Three consecutive truthful sentences is more than enough to get you fired (sorry, ‘suddenly resigned’) from a place like Yale these days.

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