Archbishop apologizes for divestment

Says church has been misunderstood and had "not resolved to disinvest."

archbishop of canterbury (photo credit: AP [file])
archbishop of canterbury
(photo credit: AP [file])
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has written to British Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks to apologize for the Church of England's vote last week to divest from companies whose products are used by the Israeli government in the territories. This despite the fact that Williams himself backed the anti-Israel vote. The vote on Monday by the General Synod, the church's parliament, to "disinvest from companies profiting from the illegal occupation," prompted widespread opprobrium and severely tested Jewish-Christian relations in the UK. Williams' predecessor, Lord Carey, told The Jerusalem Post he was "ashamed to be an Anglican when I see this kind of thing," while Britain's Council of Christians and Jews said it was "wholly regrettable" and "will have little consequence for Israelis and Palestinians, and only further inflame the conflict at a very difficult time". Israeli Anglicans have distanced themselves from the vote, saying they were "in no way connected with the Church of England in sponsoring this initiative." Rev. Murray Dixon of Christ Church in Jerusalem has stated the "continuing preoccupation with Israel" by the Church of England, to the exclusion of other international conflicts, "points to anti-Semitism." Now, in a February 10 letter to Sacks, Williams has expressed his "deep regret" for the "deep distress" caused by the vote, and said the church has been misunderstood and had "not resolved to disinvest." Sacks, evidently prepared to try and downplay the dispute, welcomed the Williams clarification. Williams wrote that the church was seeking to register its "concern" over the "demolition of Palestinian homes" by the Israeli government and to "review whether we should or could continue with an investment policy which appeared to accept something with which we were deeply uneasy." Williams acknowledged that the timing of the Synod vote was "unfortunate," following closely upon the Hamas electoral victory, but stated that the church had "emphatically not" recommended a boycott or compromised its "commitment to oppose any form of anti-Semitism at home or abroad." The motion, passed with the support of Williams, asked in part for the church to "heed the call from our sister church, the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, for morally responsible investment in the Palestinian occupied territories and, in particular, to disinvest from companies profiting from the illegal occupation, such as Caterpillar Inc., until they change their policies."