Archbishop reassures Jewish community

Published May 1, 2006

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison recently told Toronto’s Jewish community that disinvestment from companies with ties to Israel is “not on the agenda for consideration” in the Canadian church. He made the statement at an interfaith dinner, where he was given a portrait of himself.

Archbishop Andrew Hutchison recently assured Toronto’s Jewish community that no proposal for disinvestment from companies with ties to Israel has come before the Anglican Church of Canada, “nor is such a proposal on the agenda for consideration.”

Speaking at the 20th annual neighbourhood interfaith dinner held in the Beth Tzedec Synagogue in Toronto, the primate of the Canadian Anglican church said he was “pleased” to know that the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) is reconsidering its decision, approved in 2004, for “selective divestment” of its holdings in corporations doing business with Israel as a strategy for pursuing peace in the Middle East.

“In June (PCUSA’s) General Assembly will receive a motion to suspend the offending resolution,” said Archbishop Hutchison.

Archbishop Hutchison also clarified reports that the Anglican Communion has voted to disinvest in Israel. “May I say right away, on the authority of the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, the reports are not correct,” he said.

He explained, however, that there were calls for divestment from various groups following a plea made by the Anglican bishop in Jerusalem, Riah Abu El-Assal, who is Palestinian, to disinvest from Caterpillar Inc., since its bulldozers are used by Israeli soldiers to destroy Palestinian homes in the occupied territories.

The call “was given serious attention” by an Anglican network of justice and peace co-ordinators last year and, recently, by a meeting of the Church of England’s General Synod, said Archbishop Hutchison.

(An advisory group recommended March 7 that the Church of England hold on to its $4.4 million stake in Caterpillar because “there are no current or projected sales by Caterpillar equipment for use by the Israeli government.” However, it said it would “revisit” this decision if direct sales began.)

The primate also said that criticisms of Israel are likely to emerge from time to time since the Anglican Communion “is not a monolithic institution. It is a family of 38 independent churches in communion with each other.”

Nevertheless, he said, “we must be clear in saying that criticism of a policy or action of the State of Israel is not a criticism of Judaism, or of the Jewish people. It is criticism of a political decision and only that.” At the same time, he added, “given the legacy of Christian anti-Semitism, churches must be particularly sensitive about the perception of their stances.”

Jewish leaders in Canada and around the world have condemned calls for divestment as “one-sided” and harmful to the Middle East peace process.

The Anglican Church of Canada has stated that it would engage in an “education process” before arriving at any decision. Last fall, the Council of General Synod, the church’s governing body, passed a resolution urging its eco-justice committee to request Kairos, a Canadian ecumenical justice group to which it belongs, to research the activities of companies “believed to be contributing to ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine,” as well as those “contributing to ongoing peace and economic stability” in that region. The resolution also issued a call to “explore a range of socially responsible investment strategies, including corporate engagement and positive investment or divestment.”


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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