The Council of Christian and Jews has welcomed the new Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who will succeed Rowan Williams next year, as a “good friend”.
The Rt Rev Welby, Bishop of Durham and a former dean of Liverpool Cathedral, who will automatically become a joint president of the CCJ, has been involved in reconciliation work between Jews and Arabs.
Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad, believed that Bishop Welby would have “a very balanced view” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He said: “We both love the Jews and the Arabs. He really cares about them, totally. He is not the kind of person who will take just one side.
“It’s very rare. Everybody takes one position or the other. You either love Israel and hate the Palestinians; or you hate the Jews and you love the Palestinians. But he is on both peoples’ side.”
Canon White said that Bishop Welby had worked “in the thick of it” from Iraq to Nigeria. “He has been there in the midst of all of it. This isn’t interfaith relationships and reconciliation eating smoked salmon bagels in Golders Green and drinking cups of tea. This is really at the cutting edge.”
Liz Spencer, chairman of Merseyside CCJ, said that Bishop Welby had spoken to the group of his work with Jews, Christians and Muslims on an environmental project in the Holy Land.
Last year he helped CCJ mount a Holocaust Memorial Day exhibition in Liverpool Cathedral, she said. “He gave us space and facilitated it. He was very helpful and told his staff to help in any way they could.”
Bishop Welby abstained in this summer’s controversial vote at the Anglican Synod this summer, which endorsed the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Israel and Palestine (EAPPI). The Board believes that EAPPI promotes a partisan view, which creates hostility towards Israel among Christians.