by Philissa Cramer
(JTA) — The Anglican Church of Canada has voted to remove from its prayer books a prayer calling for the conversion of the Jews.
The decision, made on June 30 during a church convening in Calgary, ratifies a move first announced three years ago to replace the prayer with one calling for reconciliation with the Jews. At the time, the Anglican bishop of Quebec said the change would help the church “acknowledge and repent” for its “participation in antisemitism” and help it 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.”
The conference last week was the first time the church’s General Synod, its official governing conference, met since the 2019 resolution.
“We commend the General Synod for this important decision,” said Rabbi Adam Stein of Congregation Beth Israel in Vancouver, in a statement on behalf of the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus and Canada’s Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.
“Authentic interfaith dialogue requires respect,” said Stein, who spoke to church leaders in 2019. “Any attempt by one to convert the other is the antithesis of respect. Changing this prayer represents a milestone in Anglican-Jewish relations and invites Anglicans to assume a reconciliatory stance with the Jewish community.”
The decision comes amid a spate of efforts to strip antisemitic elements from Christian liturgy and practices. In December, citing a rise in antisemitism, including among self-described Christian nationalists, the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations urged churches to scrutinize their own practices and change those that can fuel hatred against Jews.
The group’s letter followed initiatives in some of the world’s largest Christian denominations to address antisemitism in their liturgy and history. Earlier in 2022, the Episcopal Church announced that it would review pre-Easter readings that blame “the Jews” for the death of Jesus, and offered an alternative to them.
Meanwhile, in 2021, Pope Francis restricted the use of the Latin Mass, a traditionalist liturgy that includes a prayer for the conversion of Jews, out of concern that it was being used by those who did not accept the Catholic Church’s 1965 statement declaring that the Jews were not responsible for Jesus’ death; he has also condemned antisemitism.
And the Church of England, from which the Anglican Church of Canada spun off, recently apologized to Jews for the antisemitic laws that led to their expulsion 800 years ago.
The Anglican Church of Canada’s new prayer, “For Reconciliation with the Jews,” was written in consultation with the Canadian Rabbinic Caucus, according to the resolution to remove the “Conversion of the Jews” prayer. A different prayer for Jewish conversion to Christianity was removed from the Canadian church’s Easter liturgy in the 1990s.