|Friday, March 4, 2005
|IsraPundit Interview with
Prof Paul Charles Merkley concerning the WCC divestment
|By Joseph Alexander Norland
| IsraPundit has had the privilege and honour of posting
several articles contributed by history professor emeritus Prof Paul Charles
Merkley (to see these article, enter the word "merkley" in our search engine,
at the middle of the right-hand column).
In this post, we bring to our
readers an e-interview centered on the WCC divestment decision. Prof Merkley,
my fellow-Ottawan, is eminently qualified to elucidate the issues involved,
since Prof Merkley is at one and the same time a professional historian, a
practising Lutheran, and an expert on Israel-Christian affairs.
who wish to pose additional questions are asked to post the questions as
comments, and I will ask Prof Merkley to respond.
Using a Canadian
understatement, I extend my heartfelt thanks to Prof Merkley for agreeing to
grant this interview to IsraPundit and for responding expeditiously.
E-interview with Prof Paul Charles Merkley, History Professor Emeritus,
Carleton University, Ottawa
Question: IsraPundit readers are
familiar with the formal description of the WCC, as given in such websites as
http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/who/mch-e.html. From your
personal perspective, however, as scholar and church-member, how would you
describe and characterize the WCC? How does the WCC keep out the Evangelical
Answer: A quick reminder: the WCC was founded in 1948
(a few weeks AFTER the State of Israel was founded!) as the inclusive voice of
all of what were in those days regarded as the mainstream
Protestant churches, including the Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc.
(All of these churches, incidentally, while still designated as
mainstream by lazy-minded journalists today, began almost
immediately to decline, not only proportionately but in terms of absolute
numbers of members, and in the 1980s and 1990s they went into a tailspin. It is
they who are now marginal, and the despised Evangelicals and Pentecostals
(non-members of the WCC) which, along with Roman Catholics, are truly
mainstream in America.)
The WCC eventually expanded to include 347
member denominations worldwide, including the Orthodox Churches and others, but
not the Roman Catholic Church; there is however close cooperation between the
WCC and the Roman Catholic Church when positions are taken on major issues
arising in world affairs. RC and WCC statements on the evils of U.S. policy, on
armaments and security issues, and notably on attitudes towards Israel, are
It is not correct to say that the WCC keeps
out the Evangelical and Pentecostal church bodies. The WCC still has its
heart set on becoming the One Big Church, but long ago it decided that the
conservative wing of the Church is so deplorably lacking in intellectual credit
and so anti-progressive on all the major social and moral issues (abortion,
same sex marriage, etcetera) that its presence in its own camp would discredit
the WCC as a liberal and progressive voice, capable of combining in the
world-political arena with other progressive forces. But WCC revulsion for
fundamentalists is more than matched by Evangelical and Pentecostal
revulsion over the betrayal, as they see it, of Christian witness by the WCC.
These theologically-orthodox churches recognize the incompatibility between the
liberal-relativist theology and philosophy pursued by the WCC and their own
Question: Why, in your opinion, did
the WCC come out now with the divestment decision? Israel has done nothing
special in the last year, other than improve her relations with the PA
so, why now?
Answer: On the face of it, the WCCs
pronouncement is behind the curve of recent events. It comes at the very moment
when, after four years of intifada and discontinued diplomacy, Israel and the
Palestinian Authority have resumed serious negotiations, having now the
encouragement of virtually the entire world except the terrorists and
their sponsors. Instead of applauding this long-hoped-for initiative, the WCC
chooses now to cast doubt on the viability of diplomacy by clinging to the
one-sided anti-Israel invective that has hitherto subverted hopes for
I see three possible explanations for this:
WCC takes a long time to write its documents. It is possible that their
in-house journalists simply havent got the energy to re-write the text
which has been moving up within its massive bureaucracy for so many months.
2. WCC thinking has become so adamantine that change is no longer
possible. External reality is no longer consulted by these deep-thinkers. In
recent months, the Universities from which the WCC got the fashionable
idea of divestment have started backing away from divestment.
is typical of the WCC that it joins in on left-wing habits of thinking only
after everyone identifying as a progressive has picked up on them by
which time, the wave has begun to recede and the rhetoric shifts. We find an
earlier example of this in the late 1930s, when these same
mainstream Churches (then clustered in the Federal Council of
Churches, in the days before the inauguration of the WCC) were still making
Common Front noises about the Peace-loving Soviet Union while simultaneously
preaching pacifism and the need for understanding towards the diplomacy being
pursued by Adolf Hitler.
If this intake of history is too much for
people with normal political interests and limited historical memory, we need
go back no further than the Cold War years, when WCC dignitaries were taking
Communist-government-funded tours of the Communist world, and returning to
denounce rumour-mongers in our midst who pretended that there were restrictions
of freedom, including the freedom of worship, in the Communist world. To my
knowledge, we have never received from the WCC any public and formal
recantation of their sinful assistance to Communist tyranny. Nor should we
expect to live to see similar recantation of their present celebration of the
alleged record of religious tolerance in Muslim empires of the past or present.
People who are confident of their total righteousness cannot be changed by
arguments deriving from fact.
3. The most sinister explanation
and I fear the most likely is that the WCC is now panicking in face of
the real prospect of a diplomatic solution of the Israel-Palestine dispute,
which could result in the Palestinian side settling with the State of Israel.
The WCC leadership has been drinking disinformation for decades from the well
of the Middle East Council of Churches, and is committed to Israels
illegitimacy. In its statement of February 21, the WCC implies that the real
boundaries of Israel the boundaries that now need to be re-negotiated,
are not those of 1967 but those of 1948. WCC supports the unlimited right of
return of Palestinian refuges, fully cognizant of the fact that if
any substantial part of that multi-million population is canted back inside the
1948 boundaries, then the Jewish state will not be able to contain them. It is
my considered belief, reached through careful study of dozens and dozens of WCC
statements on this issue, that the WCC will not let up on Israel until it is no
more. Righteousness has made these priests mad. It has not registered with them
that soon after Israel is no more, the Church will be no more. The slogan that
keeps Muslimists alive is the one that runs: After the Saturday people
[the Jews], will come the Sunday people [the Christians].
in some minds it will mitigate the criminality of WCC thinking to reflect that
it is not anti-Semitism but self-loathing that has made the Church
so hostile to Israel. In my mind, however, it makes it worse.
Question: The treatment meted out to Christians under the PA
control is well known. The death penalty prescribed for Moslems converting to
Christianity, for example, is no secret. The Prism Group (http://www.theprismgroup.org/TreatmentChristianArabs.htm)
has posted a long indictment in this regard. How do you explain that the WCC
turns a blind eye to the suffering of its own, while condemning Israel?
Answer: In scriptural language, it is because they prefer the
praise of men to the praise of God.
The educated leadership of the WCC
is totally out of touch with attitudes of the laity, while totally attuned to
attitudes in the secular world. It is a point of pride with these people that
they see relative virtue and partial truth in everything. They have given up on
the notion of the Bible as a book of revealed truth and on the Creed as a body
of truthful propositions in light of which other beliefs and other propositions
must be judged. To keep themselves credible in the great world of learning it
is essential (they believe) for them to get to the head of the global army of
deconstruction and antinomianism. They never miss an opportunity to put on
pagan clerical garb and join in solemn festivities of all the anti-Christian
religious groups, in order to establish their bona fides as friends of all
From its beginning in 1948, it has been the policy of the
WCC to deny the plainest evidence of anti-Christian activity in foreign lands
and simultaneously to discount anti-Christian expression wherever it appears.
To join in recognition of the extent of Christian martyrdom in our time, they
believe, would undermine their credentials as impartial friends of all seekers
of truth. Christian people who escaped Communist persecution in the Soviet
world have live to tell us that their sufferings were made especially acute by
their jailors publication of the denials of their situation made by
visiting Western Church leaders. Persecuted Christians in China, North Korea,
and in nations that have governments committed to the enforcement of Quranic
law, have unbridled contempt for the WCC.
Question: In the
course of the media debate on the WCC decision, certain interesting factors
concerning the WCC have surfaced. For example, a Jpost report (http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/Printer&cid=1109387976122&p=1006953079865)
mentioned that the WCC supported violent terrorist groups in Zimbabwe and
elsewhere, and that between 2000 and 2003, the WCC issued 36 human-rights
complaints against Israel and two about Sudan, where close to two million black
Africans, many of them Christian, were killed. I wonder how the Christian
rank and file in Canada and the US can stomach such known facts?
Answer: The fact is that they dont stomach it. The rift
between laity and the elites who turn out official statements for
the Churches is widening with every passing day.
your opinion, does the divestment decision of the WCC hierarchy reflect the
sentiments of the rank-and-file? If not, is there a way in which the
rank-and-file can make their voice heard? What are mainstream
church-members saying about the divestment decision?
is a mistake to think of the laity as innocent in this matter. It is the duty
of every person who belongs to any organization to be informed about what the
leaders of his organizations pronounces on his behalf. The nub of the problem
in the Church is that the laity persist in ignorance of the published
official opinions of their churches. This is just one consequence
of the limited and half-hearted character of the commitment which most
Christians have to the Churches to which they nominally adhere.
is a tendency for hard-working politicians to prefer to have opinion wholesale,
and this is what inspires leaders of organizations to line up at their doors
offering wholesale opinion the opinion of the medical profession, the
opinion of women, the opinion of children, the opinion of taxpayers, and so on.
There are organizations that will deliver all of this to you wholesale. The
easy path for the politician is to take WCC documents at their face value, and
quote them as Christian opinion.
Christian laity bear a
terrible moral responsibility here. I dont know what is helpful to say
here other than that Christians ought to be Christians they ought to be
active in the determination of their denominations views, and they ought
not to let pass as the expression of their own views what are in fact the
attitudes of elites.
Heres a modest thought: It might be a good
beginning if every individual who ever stood up in his Church, at Baptism or
Confirmation and said, I am a Christian, would actually turn up in
Church next Sunday. On the way out, he might pick up the denominations
newsletter, and when he gets home, he might read it. What else can I say.
Question: What, in your view, can Israel's supporters, Jews and
non-Jews alike, do to oppose the WCC divest met plan? Can bloggers assume any
Answer: In this as in so many recent public
matters, bloggers have played an absolutely indispensable role, drawing
attention to the emperors new clothes, as professional journalists
(afraid to appear uninformed or unsophisticated) will not.
Question: What are the implication of the WCC decision vis-a-vis
the Christian churches in Canada? I understand that the Canadian Council of
Churches as a whole is a member of the WCC?
Answer: The line
breaks within the Canadian Church precisely as it does in the Church in the
U.S. -- except that the non-WCC side of the Church (Pentecostals, especially)
are a somewhat larger component there than here.
you believe that there is any chance that the WCC will rescind the divestment
decision? If yes, under what circumstances?
Answer: I have a
poor record as a prophet. I cant help thinking, though, that, this
initiative might well run out as the pure meanness and the mindlessness of it
I would hope that, while recollection of long-ago theology
instruction may be growing dim, arithmetic still lives on in most clerical
minds. Declining numbers of members means lesser contributions to the pension
funds of presently active clergy. Divesting the pension fund of some of its
best assets, at a time when so many of these denominations are bearing the
burden of adverse court judgements arising out of alleged child abused cases
and other matters, is morality aside more than heroic, it is
suicidal. Re-inventing the Gospel to allow homosexual ordination and marriage
has already cost Anglicans and others hundreds of thousands of members. I
cannot understand how the rank and file of clergy, whose pension funds are at
stake, would agree to deliberately ruing the solvency health of their pension
funds by simultaneously divesting the accounts of some of their best assets,
and driving out of the ranks of their laity the many hundreds of thousands who
regard themselves as friends of Israel.