A controversial church leader has once again heightened divisions among the people of Britain about the place of Israel in God’s purposes.
Rev Stephen Sizer, a Church of England vicar from a wealthy part of Surrey, reportedly posted a link to an article on Facebook blaming Israel for the 9/11 attacks on the United States.
Fortunately, it seems that the Church is for once taking action by investigating the issue, with a spokesman saying it was a matter of “deep sorrow and shame” that the posts appeared in the same week as the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Rev Sizer, who is certainly not representative of all Brits, later removed the link and apologized for his “ill-considered and misguided” actions. But the real mystery of his position, which many UK churchgoers find so hard to understand, is that he is widely described as an ‘Evangelical Christian’ (those who see the Bible as the final authority on all matters).
For while the history of Britain’s dealings with the Jewish people over the centuries is by no means covered in glory, the truth is that its Evangelical Christian community, who have had an influence on the world out of all proportion to their numbers, have been consistent friends of Israel – seeing clearly from the plain meaning of the written Word of God that those who bless them will themselves be blessed (Genesis 12.3) and that those who curse them will face judgment.
Evangelicalism produced such spiritual giants as John and Charles Wesley, William Wilberforce, Charles Simeon and Bishop J. C. Ryle (all of whom were members of the C of E – the established church). Their influence on changing hearts and lives, both practically and spiritually, over the centuries is incalculable as they helped restore kindness, godliness and gentleness to a nation that might otherwise have gone down the same route as France under the 1789 Revolution.
Not far away from where I live is the ancient city of York, which witnessed the massacre of its entire Jewish community (estimated at 150) on March 16 1190 as part of a wave of anti-Semitism across Europe, paving the way for the expulsion of Jews from Britain altogether 100 years later.
But it was thanks in part to the rise of Evangelicals in the 17th century that Jews were invited back, and they have been blessing Britain ever since with their unique blend of innovation, ingenuity and entrepreneurial skills. The so-called ‘Pilgrim Fathers’, who went out from this area of England to help found the United States of America, apparently persuaded Oliver Cromwell (leader of the short-lived republic) to re-open its doors to the Jewish people.
Wilberforce, who was also from Yorkshire and who is most famously known for the passing in 1807 of the Abolition of Slavery Bill following a lifelong campaign in the British Parliament, was one of the founders of the Church’s Ministry among the Jews (CMJ) which still exists today as a global society dedicated to the spiritual renewal of God’s people.
CMJ were initially responding to the need of thousands of Jewish immigrants from the pogroms of Russia, reaching out to them with the love of God – as the Bible tells us to do. And the society was subsequently at the forefront of efforts to persuade the British Government to facilitate the establishment of a homeland in the Middle East for the Jewish people. This resulted in the so-called Balfour Declaration of 1917 and became a practical possibility just weeks later when General Allenby’s forces took Jerusalem from the Turks.
Britain was to betray the Jews yet again as they sought to appease Arab demands but, in the end, God’s precious people got their land back (or some of it, at least) – more than partly thanks to the Evangelicals of England, who were convinced that the Bible means what it says. For Holy Writ had clearly stated that, after a period of dispersal throughout the nations, Jewish people would return to their ancient land from every corner of the globe.
I was so thrilled when I read that the Israeli government has launched what amounts to a national Bible Study. A return to the Scriptures always brought revival to the land in ancient times, and will do so again. The Word of God has all the answers to the elusive peace for which politicians seek.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Britain and other nations followed your lead, ceased their pathetic idolatry of a mish-mash of religions and ideologies, and returned to the God is Israel, who alone is God!
And the great “I am” has spoken through the Bible!