The move came a few weeks after the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) informed Wall’s bishop in the United Methodist Church (UMC) about his involvement with VNN in a complaint filed on January 20, 2015.
The complaint, which was received by the UMC’s Chicago office on January 29, 2015, reported that Wall had been serving as Associate Editor of VNN since the middle of 2012. The complaint, also informed Sally Dyck, the Bishop of the UMC’s Northern Illinois Conference, about the website’s antisemitic agenda, reading in part:
If you peruse VNN’s website for yourself you will discover for yourself hateful commentary about Israel, the Jewish state and Jews themselves. Just plug in words like “Zionist,” “Israel,” and “Rothschilds” into its search engine (which is available at the bottom of VNN pages) and you will find Jews accused of perpetrating 9/11, conspiracy theories about Jewish bankers destroying economies and of preventing important inventions from coming to market and bringing about the decline of the United States. (If you plug “Jew” or “Jewish” you will find similar articles. “Protocols” works as well.”)
The complaint alleged that by serving as associate editor of VNN and allowing his articles to be published on the website, Wall was in violation of the UMC’s Book of Discipline, which prohibits racial discrimination and the “dissemination of doctrines contrary to the established standards of the doctrine of The United Methodist Church.”
The complaint, written by CAMERA’s Christian Media Analyst Dexter Van Zile, ended with the following statement:
As a U.S. citizen, Rev. Wall has the right to serve as editor and write for any publication he so desires. But the man is an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church and as such he has obligations [that] you are in a position to insist he fulfills.At the very least, two of these obligations would be (1) to refrain from promoting antisemitism, or assisting in the effort to promote such an agenda, and (2) to protect the United Methodist Church from scandal.Clearly, he has failed to live up to these obligations.I am under the impression that as Rev. Wall’s Bishop you have the authority to instruct him to resign as associate editor of VNN and to cease writing for the publications.In light of the evidence I have presented to you, I ask that you use this authority. If he refuses to follow your instructions, it will be necessary to strip Rev. Wall of his ordination.The main question presented to you by this complaint is whether or not one can be associate editor of Veterans News Now and an ordained Methodist Clergy person at the same time.I hope and pray that the answer to this question is a clear and unambiguous “No.”
I have taken into serious consideration your complaint against Rev. James Wall regarding his writings on the Veterans News Now website. During the course of our conversations, we have both noted that Rev. Wall’s name no longer appears on the VNN site as Associate Editor. This was your major concern. Although you have no longer requested that he no longer write for VNN, Rev. Wall’s blog is picked up by a variety of online sources, including VNN on an occasional basis with no permission or consultation.The complaint process is not designed to determine what is anti-Semitism, but I have determined that Rev. Wall’s writings are critical of Israel but not anti-Semitic and within the parameters of the United Methodist resolutions on Palestine-Israel. It is not within my scope of authority to determine whether VNN is fundamentally anti-Semitic (although its values statement clearly states that it is not against any race or religion).Therefore, I am not taking your grievance to the level of formal complaint against Rev. Wall.Sincerely,(Signed)Sally DyckCc: Rev. James Wall
Problems With Dyck’s Response
While it is gratifying that Rev. Wall’s is no longer serving as Associate Editor of a website that promotes antisemitism, there are a number of problems with Bishop Dyck’s response to CAMERA’s complaint.
First, her statement that articles on Rev. Wall’s blog are “picked up by a variety of online sources, including VNN on an occasional basis with no permissi
on or consultation,” ignores the fact that as creator of the articles on his blog, Wall owns the copyright to these texts and has control over where they are subsequently published. This information was conveyed to Bishop Dyck by CAMERA during a conversation that took place on Tuesday, February 24, 2015.
It also ignores the fact that Wall was directly affiliated with Veterans News Now (and its sister publication, Veterans Today), for several years. It is unlikely, if not impossible, that there was no consultation between Wall and the editors of these websites when his articles appeared on their websites.
Secondly, Dyck’s statement that Rev. Wall’s writing is “within the parameters of the United Methodist resolutions on Palestine-Israel” fails to take into account the hostility he has exhibited toward pro-Israel Jews (and Christians) that was documented in the Jan. 20, 2015 complaint with the following passage:
In his own writings, Rev. Wall does not typically exhibit the same degree of naked contempt for Israel and Jews that other writers on these websites (sic) manifest but he has his moments. In June 2010, Rev. Wall wrote a piece on his own blog (wallwritings.me) describing pro-Israel Presbyterians as “Israeli agents” who had “infiltrated” their denomination’s General Assembly. In other words, he declared Presbyterians who spoke in defense of Israel against its critics in the PCUSA traitors to their own denomination.And in December 2011, he wrote a piece titled “GOP Candidates Wear the Jewish Kippah.” Suppose a [sic] pro-Palestinian activists were described as wearing the hijab in an effort to marginalize them. Would that be tolerable?
In short, if Rev. Wall’s statements fall within UMC policy regarding the Middle East, there is a problem with UMC policy. It is unlikely, however, that most members of the UMC would agree with Bishop Dyck’s assessment.
Lastly, Bishop Dyck invokes VNN’s values statement, (which reports the publication is “not against any race or religion”) in an exculpatory manner. This is simply irresponsible. If it is not within her scope of authority to determine whether or not VNN is “fundamentally anti-Semitic,” then why even mention the site’s values statement in such a manner?
With her letter, Bishop Dyck brings the UMC into the ranks of Wall’s enablers. Whatever private conversations Bishop Dyck had with Rev. Wall, it appears that she is very reluctant to publicly condemn his decision to serve as an editor of a website that promotes antisemitism.
She is not alone in her reluctance.
The editors and staffers of The Christian Century, where Wall served as editor (and then a regular columnist) for a total of more than 30 years, have also proven reluctant to condemn their former colleague for his actions.
This is sadly ironic, for in the most recent (April 1, 2015) issue of the publication, the magazine’s editors lament the persistence of antisemitism “on the streets of Europe as well as in the Middle East and on the Internet.” Their former friend and colleague James M. Wall has contributed to the problem – a fact they have not reported.
Maybe the folks at Christian Century could follow the example of another magazine – The National Review. In 1992, the magazine’s founder, William Buckley, concluded that two contributors – Patrick Buchanan and Joe Sobran – had engaged in antisemitic rhetoric and as a result, could no longer write for the magazine. At the time, Christian Century published an editorial praising Buckley for his decision. The editorial read in part as follows:
Buckley’s careful treatment is especially valuable because Buchanan and conservative writer Joseph Sobran are among his close friends. Much of his article focuses on whether it is possible to criticize the state of Israel without being labeled anti-Semitic. Buckley believes it is, but he argues that Buchanan and Sobran have b\gone beyond such criticism.
The author of this editorial?
James M. Wall.