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Church Leader Explains Why He Caved in to Zionists

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What can we make of Christian ‘leaders’ like the Very Reverend J. Mark Goodman, dean and rector of the Cathedral Church of St. John in Albuquerque, New Mexico? Do they simply have no feeling for, no sense of obligation to, their fellow Christians in Palestine who suffer under Israeli occupation?

Last week I wrote an article entitled New Mexico Jews Scream ‘Anti-Semitism!’ Over Sabeel Conference, about an Albuquerque event sponsored by the Friends of Sabeel-North America. Sabeel is an ecumenical organization founded by Palestinian Christians, and the conference, which included a number of speakers, was entitled “Justice: The Path to Peace in Palestine/Israel.” Since I posted my article last week, the conference has come and gone, and reportedly it went off without a hitch—thanks to the speakers, the organizers, and perhaps most of all thanks to the folks at Albuquerque’s Immanuel Presbyterian Church, where the event was held.

But as I noted in last week’s article, the conference was originally to have taken place not at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church, but at an Episcopal church, the Cathedral Church of St. John—and FOSNA organizers even at one point paid that church a $1,000 deposit to secure permission to use their premises. But then the Zionists got organized, and you can pretty much guess what happened next. The Zionists trotted out some rancid charges, accusing Sabeel of portraying Jews as Christ killers, and “vilifying” Israel through the spreading of “vicious propaganda,” etc.; church leaders got edgy and nervous; they backed out of the deal, and refunded the money.

The following article is by Ali Abunimah, of the Electronic Intifada, who was one of the speakers at this past weekend’s event. Abunimah discusses a recent statement in which the Very Reverend Goodman explains his reasoning for closing his church’s doors to Sabeel. Posted on the church website this past Sunday, the statement is entitled “Cathedral News—From the Dean,” although perhaps instead the title rightfully should have been, “Why I Caved in to the Zionists.” Goodman’s manifesto runs a total of eight paragraphs, four of which deal specifically with the Sabeel conference. That portion is quoted below by Abunimah, but I will offer a brief snippet of it here: “What is helpful in the Body of Christ is conversation and dialogue,” says Goodman, “not assumptions or judgments based on misinformation.” Wrong, Dean! What the Body of Christ needs now, more so than anything else, is leaders with the courage to make a stand for justice.

H/T to msa.

 

“Seeking Balance”: How Albuquerque Cathedral that slammed its doors to Sabeel helps Israeli oppression

By Ali Abunimah

I just returned from the Friends of Sabeel – North America conference in Albuquerque. It was held at the very welcoming Imanuel Presbyterian Church, because the original venue, the Episcopal Cathedral Church of St. John, disinvited the conference after pressure from the local Israel lobby.

Rev. Don Wagner, National Program Director of Friends of Sabeel – North America, an ecumenical Christian organization that supports Palestinian rights, called the pressure on the Catherdral “interfaith bullying” in a recent article.

“Divisive”

Now, the Dean of the Cathedral, The Very Rev. J. Mark Goodman, has responded to Wagner’s charges with a statement that appears on the Cathedral’s website.

It offers weak and evasive justifications and alludes to – without substantiating them in any way – repeated Zionist smears against Sabeel:

Our decision was based upon the conclusion that it [the conference] dealt with a political issue that has polarized people in ways that we felt were unhelpful. We did not want to introduce a polarized issue into the life of the Cathedral that would have the potential to divide rather than unite. Our decision was not based upon anti-Palestinian positions. In fact, many on the Vestry are very sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people, yet they were concerned about the rhetoric of the literature from Sabeel. The decision was not influenced by pressure or threats from any group or individual.

In his presentation at this weekend’s conference, Miko Peled, the Israeli-born anti-Zionist and advocate of equal rights and decolonization in a single state, made the observation that every cause of social justice in history that has been worth fighting for was divisive in its time. The Civil Rights struggle in the United States was one such cause, but even more divisive than that, Peled reminded us, was slavery. So divisive, it led to Civil War in which hundreds of thousands died.

Seeking “balance” between oppressor and oppressed

After denying that the Cathedral acted under pressure, the Dean states:

This summer at General Convention, I served on a committee that dealt in a focused way with resolutions about the conflict between Israel and Palestinians. It was my personal prayer that we would craft resolutions that were balanced and offered a way forward with positive engagement with each side, seeking a way forward that would bring security, dignity and peace to a region that has known strife for too long.

This seeking of “balance” between oppressor and oppressed, and “positive engagement” as a way to avoid the “divisiveness” that inevitably must come with taking a righteous stance against injustice, indicates that despite the Dean’s protestations, the Cathedral does indeed feel the pressure.

Notably, the Dean’s statement refers to “security” – Israel’s euphemism for its ability to colonize and occupy Palestinians in tranquility – but says absolutely nothing about Palestinian rights.

Tutu says take sides

The refusal to take sides between oppressor and oppressed is, in effect, siding with the oppressor. Desmond Tutu, the former Anglican (Episcopalian) Archbishop of Cape Town, has not been shy to tell the world that it is time to take sides.

Writing last May in the Tampa Bay Times, Tutu urged delegates of the Presbyterian Church USA to vote to divest from companies profiting from Israeli occupation:

My voice will always be raised in support of Christian-Jewish ties and against the anti-Semitism that all sensible people fear and detest. But this cannot be an excuse for doing nothing and for standing aside as successive Israeli governments colonize the West Bank and advance racist laws.

I recall well the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail in which he confesses to his “Christian and Jewish brothers” that he has been “gravely disappointed with the white moderate … who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action;’ who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom. …”

What is Dean Goodman’s desire to avoid “divisive” issues and seek “balance” other than refuge in just such an “absense of tension”?

In my own talk at the conference this weekend, I reminded fellow participants that the struggle against apartheid in South Africa was also long and difficult – such as when, in 1987, the Church of England voted against divestment from South Africa.

Dean Goodman and his colleagues were not asked to divest from anything but simply to host a conference, something they did not have the courage to do. But would they look back at that 1987 vote today and say that it was the right and ethical decision? It must have been “divisive” too.

Full statement of Dean of Cathedral of St. John

This statement appeared on the website of the Cathedral Church of St. John in Albuquerque as part of its Announcements for the week of 30 September 2012:

This summer, the Vestry and I decided not to host the Sabeel Conference that is taking place in Albuquerque. We sought out various perspectives, we considered the stated positions of the organization, we said our prayers and deliberated thoughtfully and purposefully. Ultimately, the decision was made not to host the conference. Bishop Vono, in his own prayerful deliberations, made the same decision not to be a sponsor of the conference. Likewise, the New Mexico Council of Churches opted not to sponsor this gathering.

Our decision was based upon the conclusion that it dealt with a political issue that has polarized people in ways that we felt were unhelpful. We did not want to introduce a polarized issue into the life of the Cathedral that would have the potential to divide rather than unite. Our decision was not based upon anti-Palestinian positions. In fact, many on the Vestry are very sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinian people, yet they were concerned about the rhetoric of the literature from Sabeel. The decision was not influenced by pressure or threats from any group or individual. We extended an invitation to a local rabbi to come and speak to the Vestry, whose visit was quite brief and consisted primarily in urging us to read carefully the positions held by the organization. Vestry members also attended the Dean’s Forum classes that were offered in the Spring of this year, after which they had misgivings about serving as hosts. In short, the decision was not made lightly or in a vacuum.

The Vestry and I realize that there are those who disagree with the decision that we made. That is the reality of any group of people: some will agree and some will disagree. We would only ask that the disagreement be based upon fact and not upon mischaracterization of either the motives or basis of the action taken, and that it be done in a respectful way. If you have questions or concerns, please seek out a member of the Vestry or clergy. What is helpful in the Body of Christ is conversation and dialogue, not assumptions or judgments based on misinformation.

This summer at General Convention, I served on a committee that dealt in a focused way with resolutions about the conflict between Israel and Palestinians. It was my personal prayer that we would craft resolutions that were balanced and offered a way forward with positive engagement with each side, seeking a way forward that would bring security, dignity and peace to a region that has known strife for too long. I believe we succeeded. It is my hope that we, at the Cathedral, will find ways to support the work of our Presiding Bishop and the Episcopal Church to seek a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. As the Psalmist urges us, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

 

***

The above is actually not the “full statement” of Goodman, but only that portion dealing with the Sabeel conference. The entire full statement, as I said above, can be found here. If you read it you’ll see that before getting into his comments about Sabeel, Goodman discusses a clergy conference he attended the previous week, commenting at one point that his purpose as a Christian is “proclaiming the Good News of God in Christ to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Let us, by way of comparison, see if we can find some unfolding insight into how one best goes about such a worthwhile endeavor—for making a difference in people’s lives is indeed a noble goal.

Goodman: This summer, the Vestry and I decided not to host the Sabeel Conference that is taking place in Albuquerque. We sought out various perspectives, we considered the stated positions of the organization, we said our prayers and deliberated thoughtfully and purposefully.

Jesus (to his disciples): If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. This is why the world hates you.

Goodman: Our decision was based upon the conclusion that it dealt with a political issue that has polarized people in ways that we felt were unhelpful.

Jesus: Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.

Goodman: We did not want to introduce a polarized issue into the life of the Cathedral that would have to potential to divide rather than unite.

Jesus: Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’
(shades of Kol Nidre in Jesus’ time?)
Goodman: This summer at General Convention, I served on a committee that dealt in a focused way with resolutions about the conflict between Israel and Palestinians. It was my personal prayer that we would craft resolutions that were balanced and offered a way forward with positive engagement with each side, seeking a way forward that would bring security, dignity and peace to a region that has known strife for too long. I believe we succeeded. It is my hope that we, at the Cathedral, will find ways to support the work of our Presiding Bishop and the Episcopal Church to seek a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. As the Psalmist urges us, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

John the Baptist: You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
(Israel has produced much bad fruit in 64 years, and the “brood of vipers” presently running its government are not likely to change. So is the Judeo-Zionist state about to be cut down and thrown into the fire?)
Jesus: Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. And as he taught them, he said, ‘Is it not written: “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations”? But you have made it a “den of robbers.”’ The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching. When evening came, they went out of the city. In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots.
(Israelis cut down trees that bear good fruit—the olive trees of the Palestinians—while their own trees produce no fruit.)

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2 Responses to Church Leader Explains Why He Caved in to Zionists

  1. who_me October 3, 2012 at 3:47 am #

    i wonder if this preacher j mark goodman is related to media sayanim amy goodman and what the “j” stands for in his name? ;)

  2. Blake October 3, 2012 at 3:56 am #

    Goodman? Goldman more like it

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