SA Methodist Church formally adopts BDS

Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa Zipho Siwa.(PHOTO: mvubukazicircuit.org.za).

Originally published in South African Jewish Report

The Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA) formally adopted Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) principles against Israel at its annual conference in September 2019, closely following the Anglican Church of South Africa’s decision to do so in September.

The Methodist Church has more than 66 000 members across southern Africa and 40 million followers globally, while the Anglican Church has about three million members across southern Africa and 80 million followers around the world.

“It’s no coincidence that the Methodist resolution comes so soon after the Anglican Church’s recent synod resolution. Taken together, they are clearly evidence of a BDS campaign to infiltrate churches and use them as pawns in its anti-Semitic political campaign to undermine Israel through a deliberate campaign of distortion and misinformation,” says Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein.

“The Methodist Church’s stance on this is immoral. The church has been brought into disrepute by supporting BDS, which is acknowledged globally as an anti-Semitic organisation. It’s disgraceful behaviour.”

MCSA’s formal statement directs its members to “boycott, disinvest, and sanction all businesses that benefit the Israeli economy; that all future holy land tours organised by Methodist clergy or persons affiliated to the MCSA [are] to boycott all Israeli operators and tours and deliberately seek out tours that offer an alternative Palestinian perspective”.

The South African Friends of Israel (SAFI), which engages with thousands of Christian supporters of the Jewish State, also condemned the move, calling it an “unholy resolution of hate against the Jewish state of Israel”.

Says SAFI National Chairperson Rowan Polovin: “It appears that the MCSA has been wilfully blinded by the medieval doctrine of ‘replacement theology’. This anti-Semitic doctrine attempts to deny the Jewish covenant with G-d and the Jewish people’s unbreakable connection with the Bible.

“The modern manifestation of replacement theology is to use the weapons of BDS against Israel in the knowledge that this could undermine the Jewish state and speed up the manifestation of this theology. Those who engage in such nefarious antics, however, ought to re-read the Bible, particularly Genesis 12:3, which warns against cursing the Jewish nation. We call upon all Methodist Church members who wish to see genuine peace in the Middle East to voice their opposition to this resolution which has politicised the church,” says Polovin.

“It is important to note that there is consternation and disagreement within the churches (both Anglican and Methodist) on this BDS resolution,” he says. “We are engaging both churches at all levels and there is likely to be pushback from church leaders and members on this issue.”

The Methodist statement goes on to say that the decision to support BDS was made after “noting Israel’s ongoing ill-treatment and oppression of the Palestinian people; the historic prophetic role played by the church and international community in fighting apartheid and any form of discrimination and injustice; and as an act of solidarity with the people of Palestine”.

When the Anglican Church also formally adopted BDS some weeks ago, the chief rabbi said it was “morally offensive and based on a complete distortion of history”. He said BDS had been declared anti-Semitic by the United Nations, and therefore support for BDS is anti-Semitic in terms of international law.

The official leadership of the South African Muslim community welcomed the move, saying it “extends its heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the churches…”

A member of the interfaith movement in South Africa, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the MCSA’s adoption of BDS came as no surprise as some of its leaders have been outspokenly anti-Israel and have hosted pro-Palestinian events at their churches.

However, on social media, some Christian South Africans expressed their disappointment. Kevin M Joubert wrote on the MCSA Facebook page, “Disgusted in my church for supporting the terrorist-aligned BDS movement.”

“The Methodist and Anglican Church then can boycott the Bible too because the Bible was made in Israel too. Let them keep their BDS while we keep our Bible with all its prophesy about Israel, yesterday, now, and in the future,” wrote Tumelo Thom.

Pierre De Jager agreed, “The Bible is our highest authority and not the politics in the so-called churches. The Bible commands us to stand with Israel. The Israel-haters in the church brought the curse of G-d on our country, and we can see it every day.”

A member of the Anglican Church and a respected policy fellow at the Institute for Race Relations, John Kane-Berman, wrote on politicsweb.co.za that he rejected his church’s embracing of the global BDS movement, “which is dedicated to the stigmatisation, isolation, and ultimate destruction of the state of Israel”.

“To this end, it has embarked on a campaign to capture governments, international agencies, newspapers, non-governmental organisations, and academic institutions around the world,” Kane-Berman wrote. “One thing is certain, the BDS campaign, whether or not endorsed by the Anglican Communion, will not bring peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”

8 Comments

  1. Melody Emmett

    The non-violent stand taken by the Methodist and Anglican Churches against the state of Israel can be paralleled to the actions of Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King Junior – actions in the true spirit of Christ. “Blessed are the Peacemakers…”
    John Kane-Berman writing on politicsweb.co.za says: “One thing is certain, the BDS campaign, whether or not endorsed by the Anglican Communion, will not bring peace between Palestinians and Israelis.”

    Will turning a blind eye to the relentless genocide perpetrated by the Israeli regime bring peace?

    • @Melody Emmett. Have you been to Israel??? I have been MANY TIMES and there is NO genocide in Israel. Only the fakastinians, a people full of hatred committing war crimes with consistant rocket attacks on innocent civilians. Have you spent time in a bomb shelter??? Have you seen the children’s textbooks(funded by the UN) which is filled with hatred towards the jews??? If you are a Christian, then choose God’s side in this conflict. Not condoning the wrongs perpetrated by both sides but rather looking through a biblical lens and understanding what is going on. BDS is wrong because it’s based on lies, which you have sadly embraced. Either you are for the God of Israel or against. Your job if you are a believer is to pray for the peace of Jerusalem which is Jesus the Messiah, the only One which is able to produce PEACE!.

  2. Hugh G Wetmore

    Dragging the whole Jewish-Palestinian conflict into the Church creates these political divisions in the Church, which is sad. Half the Church glorifies the Palestinian cause, and the other half glorifies the israeli cause. The church must name the sins of the Palestinians and the sins of the Jews in specific terms, and then call on both Palestinians and Israelis to repent and believe in Jesus, as the Gospel commands. The Church must prioritise the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and adopt the apostles’ stance: “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation ofeveryone who believes, first for the Jew then for the Gentile (Palestinian)” Romans 1:16.

    It distresses me that not once in this article is the Gospel mentioned, nor is the name of Jesus Christ to be found. It seems our thinking has been captured by the political views of each side, and we have strayed from Jesus and His Gospel.

  3. A sad day for the Church when it distances itself from its Jewish roots. What are you going to do when Jesus the Jewish King of Kong’s comes back to rule and reign?

  4. How utterly shameful of both denominational churches. This is where congregants need to stand up and speak out against this ignorant decision. Political correctness at it’s worst.

  5. Philip Paul DeVries

    The prophet Zechariah spoke a time when “Jerusalem would be a burdensome stone among the nations” (Zechariah 12:3) and surely we are living in that era as we currently observe when even church bodies who should be supporting the existence of a people who have prophetically returned to their land are now demonstrating racist hatred because of an isolation policy which is perpetrated in the United Nations. How does this make sense, especially when we consider that Palestinians occupy seats in the Knesset which they would never be given in most Middle Eastern dictatorships. Racism deliberately discriminates against a peoples group and this is precisely what the BDS campaign is designed to do. May God have mercy on these dried up souls.

  6. Tragically ironic that these denominations condemn the only place in the Middle East where Christians are safe and can freely practice their faith. The real enemy of the Palestinians is Hamas.

  7. I just wonder how many Methodist congregants actually know that their oversite has made this ungodly decision.

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