The Rev. Bruce Shipman has resigned as Priest-in-charge of the Episcopal Church at Yale. This comes in the wake of the controversy that arose because of a letter he wrote to the New York Times on August 24 saying that the rise of anti-Semetic demonstrations in Europe is linked to the Israel-Palestinian conflict in Gaza.
The Rev. Bruce M. Shipman, on his own initiative, has resigned as Priest-in-Charge of the Episcopal Church at Yale, effective immediately.
The Rt. Rev. Ian T. Douglas, President of the Board of Governors, and the Rt. Rev. Laura J. Ahrens, bishop with oversight of university and college chaplains in the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, have accepted with sadness the resignation of the Rev. Bruce M. Shipman; and wish to thank him for his faithfulness, hard work, vision, and most especially his dedication to the students at Yale over the last fourteen months as Episcopal chaplain.
It is our belief that the dynamics between the Board of Governors and the Priest-in-Charge occasioned the resignation of the Rev. Shipman. Bishops Douglas and Ahrens are dedicated to working with the Board on matters of governance and process so that the Episcopal Church at Yale can continue faithfully to serve students and God’s mission at Yale University.
In addition, The Episcopal Church at Yale, its Board of Governors, the Bishops of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut, and the Rev. Bruce Shipman are all committed to a civil dialogue on difficult issues that divide peoples of this world and pledge ourselves to the prayerful and humble work of reconciliation and peace in our hurting and divided world.
Shipman wrote a letter to the editor in the Yale Daily News:
I believe that there is a correlation between the uptick in anti-Semitic violence in the world and the events taking place in Israel/Palestine and Gaza. That said, there is never any excuse for such violence and the crimes described by Professor Deborah Lipstadt are disgusting and repellant. There can be little doubt that many who engage in such behavior use the Israel/Palestine dispute as an excuse to mask a much deeper disorder known as anti-Semitism.
I ought to have said this in my letter.
I have been accused of anti-Americanism for my opposition to the Vietnam War in the ’60s and the Iraq War in the ’00s. In fact, my patriotism runs deep, as does my love for Israel and Palestine and for the two peoples locked in a tragic fight over the land. If I seemed to suggest in my letter that only Jews who actively oppose present Israeli policies have a right to feel safe, that was not my intention nor is it my belief. Personal safety and protection by the rule of law is a fundamental right. Nothing done in Israel or Palestine justifies the disturbing rise in anti-Semitism in Europe or elsewhere. Persons of good will must be concerned as well by the rise of Islamophobia that is now being justified in terms of national security.
David Bernstein, writing in the Washington Post, says that the more Shipman says, the deeper the hole he digs:
I pointed out that by holding Jews responsible for anti-Semitism, Rev. Shipman was engaging in unacceptable victim-blaming. Let me put it even more bluntly now: he is blaming the victims of racism for the existence of racism.
A few updates.
First, my disgust at Rev. Shipman’s letter has been widely shared, but not by some who want to turn this into another opportunity to debate Israeli policy. Most of those people, not being anti-Semites themselves, but rather due to ideological blinders being immune to recognizing anti-Semitism when it arises in a context related to Israel, would recognize the appalling nature of Shipman’s letter if the context was different. Imagine, for example, a right-wing Christian who, following an attack by “Christian Identity” type on a synagogue, wrote the following: “Critics of the synagogue attack and other manifestations of anti-Semitism make far too little of the relationship between the immoral trash that Hollywood produces and growing anti-Semitism in the U.S. and beyond…. the best antidote would be for all Jews of goodwill to press their friends who run major studies to stop using movies to push an anti-Christian agenda that mocks traditional moral values.” I use this example, by the way, because I actually once read an article making exactly this argument in a right-wing Catholic newsletter I happened upon in a student lounge at Marymount University in Arlington. The message, from that article and from Rev. Shipman, is “if you want me to be your ally on combating anti-Semitism, you had better adopt my ideological agenda; otherwise, while I’m not necessarily saying you get what you deserve, that kinda is what I’m saying.”
Second, Chabad of Yale released the following statement: “Reverend Bruce Shipman’s justification of anti semitism by blaming it on Israeli policies in the West Bank and Gaza is frankly quite disturbing. His argument attempts to justify racism and hate of innocent people, in Israel and around the world. One can and should study the Israeli policies regarding human rights, and the honest student will realize the painstaking efforts undertaken by Israel to protect innocent civilians. Hamas, ISIS and other radical groups make it their mission to torture, rape and kill as many civilians as possible. Yet, no moral person however, would attempt to justify blatant global anti-Moslem hatred in light of these atrocities. I call upon Bruce Shipman to retract and apologize for his unfortunate and misguided assertion. Instead of excusing bias and hatred against others, he should use his position to promote dialogue, understanding, and tolerance.” Rabbi Shua Rosenstein, Chabad at Yale University.