St. Mark’s Cathedral; hatred in the center of Seattle

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The historic relationship between the Christian Church and the Jewish people has not been a good one. Stoked by accusations of deicide and nurtured by replacement theology, church inspired persecutions were common throughout the Middle Ages. Most look at blood libels, expulsions, forced conversions and massacres as relics of a horrored past, and for the most part this is true.

Hearkening back to darker days, the church is the religious linchpin of anti-Israel agitation in the Pacific Northwest.

Many Christian factions have worked diligently to heal old wounds, some now being counted among Israel’s greatest friends. Sadly this cannot be said of St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral. The landmark church located in the Capital Hill neighborhood of Seattle is the seat of the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia. Hearkening back to darker days, the church is the religious linchpin of anti-Israel agitation in the Pacific Northwest.

Under the leadership of Rev. Dr. Steve Thomason the cathedral has been host to an endless parade of extreme opponents of the Jewish state. One could assume that St. Mark’s Mid-East Focus Ministry (MEFM) chaired by  Ruth Mcree would have their plates full with the persecution of Christians in Syria, Iran, Lebanon, Egypt and throughout the Middle East, but no expression of concern regarding their persecuted coreligionists in the Islamic world has come even  close to the church’s obsessive focus on the Jewish State.

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St. Mark’s has partnered with  Sabeel, an anti-Semitic organization that compares the ancient Roman persecution of the Jewish people with Israel’s administration of the contested areas of Judea and Samaria. Sabeel embraces replacement theology; the belief that the Christian Church replaces Israel in God’s plan and that the New Covenant nullifies the biblical covenant between God and Israel.  Sabeel has been identified by the Anti Defamation League (ADL) as one of the top ten anti-Israel groups in the United States.

As a weapon in their theological war against the Jewish state, Sabeel provides speakers, films and materials that assert Israel is engaged in the persecution of Palestinian and Israeli Christians.

Breaking the Silence, an organization that presents a gross distortion of the Israel Defense Forces’ record of combat ethics in a war zone  has been hosted by the church’s Mid-East Focus Ministry.  The church featured a three person panel on “Iran, Nuclear Impasse and Prospect for War” where notorious Israel hater Richard Silverstein asserted that Israel, not Iran is the primary threat to peace in the region and a nuclear Iran may actually have a positive, stabilizing impact.

Rabbi Aron Meyer of Temple De Hirsch-Sinai giving the opening invocation.

Rabbi Aron Meyer of Temple De Hirsch-Sinai giving the opening invocation at the St. Mark’s Parents Circle event.

The promotional material for the Iran event was uniquely offensive, with historic allusions to pre-World War II Germany and echoes of familiar  canards. The  Jewish state was described as scheming behind the scenes to foment war as a means of distracting  from social challenges at  home. From the online promotion of the event;  “Will Barack Obama’s plan to wind down Middle Eastern wars fall prey to the manipulations of an Israeli leader who needs military conflict against his neighbors to create social cohesion at home?”

St. Mark’s MEFM co-sponsored a  community meeting during the 2009 missile war against Israel in which the organizers demanded the United State recognize and negotiate with the Hamas terror organization, this despite the fact that a core tenet in the Hamas charter is genocide against the Jewish people.

There appears to be no anti-Israel radical too extreme for St. Mark’s relentless pillorying of  Israel. Ramzy Baroud, a full-time anti-Israel activist was the featured speaker at a St. Mark’s fundraiser. Baroud supports the end of Israel as a Jewish state, advocating for her demographic destruction via a “one state solution’. He has asserted that the so-called “one state solution, if ever possible, is an honorable and dignified solution to the conflict”.

Other troubling organizations  hosted by St. Marks include Parents-Circle Family Forum, a groups whose reason d’ etre is to equate Jewish victims of Arab terror with Palestinian-Arabs who died while committing those acts of terror. Parents of actual Israeli terror victims have pleaded with the group to stop exploiting their children’s murder, but to no avail. 

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At a recent Parent’s Circle event at St. Mark’s, the Israeli Shas political party was likened to the Hamas terror organization. The atmosphere of  hostility at the event, not just towards Israel but to Jews in general was evident by remarks made by those in attendance such as one woman who posited that “Jew’s wish to have Gentiles serve them as slaves” .

Omar Barghouti advocated for the end of Israel as a Jewish state at St. Mark's.

Omar Barghouti advocated for the end of Israel as a Jewish state at St. Mark’s.

In February and March of this year, the Mideast Focus Ministry at St. Mark’s is presenting a film festival titled ISRAEL / PALESTINE – The Human Story“. While Israel may be in the title, there will be no balanced perspective offered as all six films present a grossly biased and often libelous view of the Jewish state. The series will feature a who’s who of local and international Israel haters, including Cindy Corrie, Ed Mast, Amin Odeh, Ziad Abbas and Peter Lippman. All of the film-series speakers actively support the boycott and demographic destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.

Opponents of Israel’s very existence like Miko Peled, Omar Barghouti and Kathleen Christoson have all shared their vision of a Middle East free of the Jewish State at  St. Mark’s sponsored events. Christison enthusiastically endorses a “one-state solution which she says “would mean the end of Zionism as currently conceived and the end of Israel as an exclusivist Jewish state” 

Significantly, the common thread connecting the vast majority of Israel related speakers at St. Mark’s is the rejection of a Jewish right to self determination and opposition to the very existence of a Jewish state.  While the pro-Israel group StandWithUs has denounced specific anti-Israel events at St. Marks, so far no other local Jewish communal organization has publicly condemned St. Mark’s for their embrace of fringe anti-Israel radicals and their sustained attacks against Israel as a Jewish state.

The common thread connecting the vast majority of Israel related speakers at St. Mark’s is the rejection of a Jewish right to self determination and opposition to the very existence of a Jewish state in any form.

St. Mark’s has reached out to certain segments of the Jewish community for the stated purpose of dialogue and “healing”. Temple De-Hirsch Sinai (TDHS), a prominent Seattle Reform temple responded to these overtures.  Rather than influencing St. Marks in moderating  their sustained propaganda against the Jewish state, TDHS joined St. Marks in co-sponsoring the very Parent’s Circle lecture described above, with Rabbi Aaron Meyer offering the opening invocation.  

While other Jewish leaders have eschewed anti-Israel programs at St. Mark’s, the church’s hostility to the Jewish state has not deterred some local Jewish clergy from participating  in other ecumenical events at the church.

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Israel, like any other nation, should be open to criticism, but when a Christian church singles out one state, the Jewish state as the only  nation worthy of ceaseless vilification this is a cause for concern. When that same church embraces the very dogma that has fueled centuries of persecution, there is a unique name for it, and it is not pro-Palestinian or even anti-Israel, it is something far more insidious.

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