Church of England urges Christians to 'repent' for 'anti-Judaism', anti-Semitism

Canterbury Cathedral, England.
Canterbury Cathedral, England. | Getty Images

The Church of England is calling for Christians worldwide to “repent” for what it calls centuries of “anti-Judaism” and anti-Semitism.

A special service held Sunday at Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford marked the 800th anniversary of the Synod of Oxford, which forbade interactions between Christians and Jews in England, along with imposing tithes and requiring Jews to wear special identifying badges.

Archbishop Justin Welby wrote on Twitter the service was “an opportunity to remember, repent and rebuild.”

“Let us pray it inspires Christians today to reject contemporary forms of anti-Judaism and antisemitism, and to appreciate and receive the gift of our Jewish neighbours," Welby stated. 

During his remarks at the service, Bishop Michael Ipgrave of Lichfield spoke of how some have questioned why the church should apologize for something that happened before it existed. 

"This is not really a question of apologizing, it is a matter of repentance," he said. "And repentance is described by the Church of England in its most recent report [as] ... 'Where the continuing effects of past sins by members of the one Body of Christ continue to be felt and where those sins have not come to an end, then members of Christ's body here and now are bound to seek God's mercy." 

"That is where we are as Christians today, needing to recognize how our history has contributed to the teaching of contempt which generated hostility towards and suffering for our Jewish brothers and sisters," he added. 

In addition to Welby and a Roman Catholic bishop, the special service drew the presence of Orthodox rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, the chief rabbi for the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth.

Mirvis reportedly did not enter the Oxford Cathedral for the service but told a crowd gathered outside he was hopeful Christians and Jews could work together to fight “hatred, racism and bigotry.”

“Let us not forget that we are still on a journey. There is still so much that needs to be done,” Mirvis said at the event.

"Let us ensure that we will strengthen Jewish-Christian understanding, that we will celebrate what we have in common," he added, according to a video shared by . 

Around 3,000 Jews were expelled from England by King Edward I in 1290 and were not permitted to return for nearly 400 years later. The Church of England was established in the 1530s, centuries after the 1222 Synod of Oxford. 

A request for comment from Welby’s office was not immediately returned.

A 2019 document issued by the Church of England says that “Anglicans should reject any view of Judaism which sees it as ‘a living fossil, simply superseded by Christianity’.”

Titled “God’s Unfailing Word,” the document said: “Christians have in the past repeated and promoted negative stereotypes of Jewish people, thereby contributing to grave suffering and injustice. They have used Christian doctrine in order to justify and perpetuate Jewish suffering, for instance teaching that Jewish people are suffering and should suffer because they are guilty of the murder of Christ, the divine Son of God, or because they have refused to welcome the Messiah."

The document calls for Christians’ “[r]epentance for the sins of the past” and “to reject such misuses of Christian doctrine.”

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