The Anglican Church of Canada’s move to expunge a prayer for the conversion of the Jews from its liturgy is being hailed as a milestone.
Meeting in Vancouver, the church’s General Synod – its governing body – approved a measure on July 16 to delete an invocation calling for the conversion of Jews from the Book of Common Prayer, and replace it with a prayer entitled “For Reconciliation with the Jews.”
Successful resolutions before a synod must pass in all three of the church’s “houses.” This one was approved with near unanimous support: Among the laity, it passed by a 99 per cent plurality, and by 100 per cent among both clergy and bishops.
The amendment will require ratification at the next General Synod in 2022. But Edward Simonton, the church’s Vicar General of Quebec, told The CJN the resolution’s passage at the next synod will be “just a formality,” given its overwhelming support this time.
Besides, he added, only 230 of nearly 2,800 Anglican churches in Canada still use the Book of Common Prayer. The rest use the Book of Alternative Services, introduced in 1985.
A similar resolution failed at the church’s 2016 General Synod. The following year, Right Rev. Bruce Myers, the Anglican bishop of Quebec, spearheaded a formal consultation to remove the old prayer and replace it with a new one.
Addressing the 2019 synod, Rev. Myers said persecution of Jews “is not a thing of the past, nor is it restricted to other parts of the world,” citing last year’s mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, which left 11 people dead.
Changing the prayer exhorts Anglicans “to acknowledge and repent of the church’s participation in anti-Semitism, to stop singling out Jews as a target for our evangelistic efforts, and to assume a humble and reconciliatory stance with our Jewish elders in the faith,” Rev. Myers said in a statement. “It also invites Anglicans to be ever mindful of Christianity’s deep Jewish roots.”
The “Prayer for the Conversion of the Jews,” among some 50 prayers in the Book of Common Prayer that are recited discretionally, beseeches God to “hasten the time when all Israel shall be saved,” and that his “ancient people…open their hearts that they may see and confess the Lord Jesus to be thy Son and their true Messiah.”
The prayer “For reconciliation with the Jews” was a joint effort between the Anglican Church, the Prayer Book Society of Canada, and the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus, an affiliate of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
It reads: “O God, who didst choose Israel to be thine inheritance: Have mercy upon us and forgive us for violence and wickedness against our brother Jacob; the arrogance of our hearts and minds hath deceived us, and shame hath covered our face. Take away all pride and prejudice in us, and grant that we, together with the people whom thou didst first make thine own, may attain to the fulness of redemption which thou hast promised; to the honour and glory of thy most holy Name.”
Rabbi Adam Stein of Congregation Beth Israel in Vancouver, who addressed the synod on behalf of the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus, praised the new prayer and the hope and friendship it offers to Jews, reported the Anglican Journal.
“I think it’s just such a wonderful thing, and a really wonderful feeling for us, that a prayer that certainly made the Jewish community quite uncomfortable might soon be replaced with one that’s so beautiful and so positive,” Rabbi Stein said.
Rabbi Reuben Poupko of Montreal, speaking on behalf of the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus, commended the synod for its “principled decision, which represents a milestone in Anglican-Jewish relations.”
The church “has sent a strong signal to the Jewish community that it stands with us against anti-Semitism – both past and present.”
In 1992, the Anglican Church of Canada deleted a prayer recited on Good Friday that asked for God’s mercy on Jews for wilfully rejecting and denying Jesus.