No? Well, Once upon a time there was a priest much loved by his congregation because he loved them and served them faithfully. So when he asked their permission to spend some of his time serving oppressed and persecuted people in another part of the world they were happy to support him. Our priest became friends with the oppressed people, (we’ll call them ‘Pals’), but they had a very powerful enemy. This enemy had powerful, wealthy friends in our priests own land ( we’ll call them ‘Bods’).
Our priest was good at what he did and that made the Enemy and the Bods very angry, so angry they set about doing everything they could to damage and destroy our priest. They trumped up charges for the authorities to investigate but, try as they might, they couldn’t make the charges stick. So they went to the bishop with cries of ‘racism’ (or worse). The bishop examined the case carefully and sought to mediate. This did not please the Bods but there was nothing they could do except wait.
One day our priest made a mistake. He didn’t do anything wrong, all he did was ask a question that lots of others had been asking, but it probably wasn’t wise for him to ask it. Using their powerful friends in the media the Bods turned the quite reasonable question into a rather unpleasant statement and called the bishop. But the wise old bishop had now retired, and the new bishop had barely time to adjust his throne before the Bods were all atwitter on the phone, the email and in the papers.
Precisely what happened next I cannot say for certain except that the new bishop seems to have been taken off balance and he was swept away. Sadly, his Archbishop, instead of carefully examining the situation, went public with condemnation – of his priest. He too was swept away leaving our priest to face the Bods alone. And the Pals? They’d been facing the Enemy pretty much alone for generations.
This is not, strange as it may seem, an updated parable of events 2000 years ago, although, like that story, this one too is unfinished. This is the story of a British bishop, a British archbishop, a British priest, The Board of deputies of (some) British Jews. It is a story of the power of Zionism and the weakness of the church. And our priest is not quite alone. He did and does have a few, not very powerful, and not wealthy, friends who were left puzzled, worried and, if truth be told, a little afraid. (And one friend who will ultimately judge us all).
As a fellow disciple of Jesus the Jewish Messiah I am proud to call Stephen Sizer my friend and with him I continue to pray for the church we both serve.