Church to Repent of Antisemitic Laws

News emerged from the latest meeting of the General Synod that the Church of England is planning a service which will offer a formal act of repentance for antisemitic laws passed at the Synod of Oxford in 1222.

A meeting of the General SynodA General Synod meeting

One of those laws required Jews to wear a badge of shame to isolate them from the Christian public around them. Ultimately, these laws led to the expulsion of England’s Jews in 1290, and they were not officially readmitted until 1656, when Oliver Cromwell was Lord Protector.

The Church’s intention to plan the service in conjunction with the Council of Christians and Jews emerged in a written reply to questions submitted by Jacob Vince, Chief Executive of Christian Friends of Israel UK.

Book cover - God`s Unfailing Word

A Church of England publication titled God’s Unfailing Word includes an introduction by the Archbishop of Canterbury advising that ‘Christian communities may wish to consider whether there could be suitable opportunities in their public worship to focus and express repentance for Christian involvement in fostering antisemitism.’In light of that, Jacob Vince asked whether there would be interest in proposals for a national and corporate act of repentance, so that the Church is seen to follow through on its words.

Reaction from the Jewish community has been cautious. In a classic understatement, Dave Rich, director of policy at the Community Security Trust, said the planned repentance was “better late than never.”


Importantly, however, he added that:

“At a time of rising antisemitism, the support and empathy of the Church of England
for our Jewish community is most welcome as a reminder that
the Britain of today is a very different place.”

Some, like Jeffrey Shoulson, a professor of Judaic studies at the University of Connecticut, have expressed surprise that the Church of England is taking responsibility for antisemitic Christian laws passed before it came into being during the reign of Henry VIII in 1534.

However, as the ‘established church’ of England, it is the successor to the Roman Catholic Church which held power at the time the Synod of Oxford passed those laws.