The Disappearing of the Methodist Liaison Office

If you were a Methodist and felt you needed to become more informed about the situation in Israel/Palestine, you maybe might think that you were short on resources and needed the help and guidance of the Board of Deputies and its associated machinery.  You would be wrong.  The Methodist Church has an extremely rich and extensive resource right at its finger tips. It is called The Methodist Liaison Office in Jerusalem.

Here are some extracts from the MLO website:

The Methodist Liaison Office in Jerusalem was officially launched in October 2012 as a partnership of the World Methodist Council, the Methodist Church of Britain and the General Board of Global Ministries of The United Methodist Church.  Its purpose is to increase international awareness and involvement of the Methodist community in the issues of Palestine and Israel.  The Office is charged with coordinating advocacy and education initiatives and to provide travel and volunteer opportunities for and/or by the worldwide Methodist community.

 Methodists from around the world, particularly those who visit the region, are increasingly aware of the political realities affecting Palestinians and Israelis.  Methodists have heard the call of the indigenous Christian community as outlined in the Kairos Palestine document and the establishment of this Methodist Liaison Office is part of their response.

The Methodist Liaison Office can support your exploration of Israel/Palestine and the issues the people of this region face by:

Offering responsible pilgrimage

Partnering with local organizations

Providing opportunities for local volunteer placements

Resourcing the worldwide Methodist Church family

They also coordinate with their partners on tourism packages.  For example, they will be offering two pre-conference trips in coordination with Sabeel Ecumenical Theology Centre who will be hosting their international conference in November.

Presumably the Methodist Church in Britain, under its present leadership no longer regards itself as a partner.

The Office acts as a resource for the worldwide Methodist church family on the issues of Israel and Palestine.  It liaises with interested parties and partner organizations and provides information, website lists, book lists, contacts, advocacy initiatives, action alerts and more.  It also provides theological resources and reflections .

Obviously this bit wouldn’t be of interest to the Methodist Church in Britain today, since the Board of Deputies forbids it theological reflections, see here.

The Methodist family, through the World Council of Churches, maintains a tradition of ecumenism, supporting the ministries of the historic churches in this region.  The Methodist presence is also building interfaith relations with Jewish and Muslim communities.

Given the scale and detail of their own in-house resource, why did the Methodists turn their backs on it in favour of the execrable BoD appointed FODIP ?

The current Methodist leadership may be feeble, but they are not stupid.  They are fully aware of the absurdity of this and its potential for causing them discomfort.  President Gee gives MLO a brief mention in her end of December blog.  They had 10 meetings during the course of the trip. The very first one was at the MLO at 8.30 in the morning of the first day, and was a last minute afterthought.  This was clearly, in the light of what has subsequently transpired, a backside covering exercise.  “Phew got that out of the way.”

President Gee tells us she heard there, that the shrinking of the Christian population in Palestine was largely for “reasons connected to occupation.”  Wow, strong language.  We are not told any detail about these connections.  It seems that to Ruth Gee, they might for all the world be entirely coincidental, and mere foot notes.

By the time President Gee came to give her interview to Karen Burke, MLO had been disappeared altogether.  Of the 10 meetings, 9 are referred to.  The meeting at the MLO, it seems, could not be mentioned in an interview that was carefully constructed to be Board of Deputies friendly.

The reality is, of course, that the situation in Israel/Palestine is not the leadership’s perceived problem.  Their problem is the Board of Deputies.  They are so terrified of the BoD, that turning their backs on the world Methodist community is preferable to incurring any further private and public harassment at the hands of the BoD.

The MLO is, it seems, much too Wesleyan for them.

One of the returning innocents abroad tell us that the trip was part of the church’s continuing dialogue with The Board of Deputies.

Really ?