The B'nai B'rith organization along with The Ecumenical Theological Research
Fraternity in Israel kicked off a joint conference on Monday night focused on
countering anti-Israel sentiment within the large Protestant churches around the
world. According to Alan Schneider, director of the B'nai B'rith World Center in
Jerusalem, protestant churches have over the past two decades become
increasingly aligned against Israel.
This trend was forcefully underlined
in October when 15 senior leaders of mainline Protestant churches in America
sent a letter to Congress last month calling for an investigation and possible
suspension of US military aid to Israel.
The letter led several Jewish
organizations to pull out of an annual Christian-Jewish dialogue conference.
“This letter broke the trust of Jewish organizations involved in interfaith
dialogue,” Schneider said. “The purpose of this current consultation is to
provide the opportunity for representatives of protestant churches who are
supportive of Israel to meet similar people from other countries and
“They are often lone voices [in their churches] who have
taken personal initiatives to counter this wave of anti-Israel agitation, and so
we hope that this will be the beginning of ongoing contact and cooperation among
the participants.” More than twenty Christian and Jewish leaders from around the
world are participating in the four-day conference, which will seek to formulate
a strategy for future work to reverse the hostile attitude of many mainline
protestant churches to Israel, the organizers said.
Speaking at the opening of
the conference on Monday night in Maale HaHamisha, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, founder
of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation, said that the
doctrine of “replacement theology” was a large factor in ongoing Christian
hostility to the Jewish State. Replacement theology is the notion that the
Christian Church became the “new Israel” and that God’s promises to the people
of Israel were transferred to Christianity.
“As long as you believe in
replacement theology and that the Christians inherited the Jews and that the
Jews no longer stand in covenantal relationship to God, then we have no right to
be in Israel and you join our enemies,” Riskin said. “[But] our roots in Israel
are 4,000 years old. We did not occupy anyone’s land. There has been an unbroken
chain of Jewish life in Jerusalem, Hebron, and Safed for 4,000 years,” the rabbi
continued. In response, Rev. Dr. Paul Wilkinson from the UK echoed Riskin’s
sentiments, criticizing the mainline churches for never having fully dissociated
themselves from replacement theology.
According to Wilkinson, a
propaganda campaign is being waged by the Palestinian Authority, the Islamic
world and by the Protestant church including the Evangelical church,
“propagating replacement theology and its new manifestations.”
lie is Christian Palestinianism, the anti-Israel, pro-Palestinian crusade going
on in the church today that will say from one corner of its mouth ‘we love the
Jewish people’ and from the other corner of its mouth ‘we hate Israel.’ That is
not possible. You cannot love the Jewish people and hate Israel,” Wilkinson
According to Wilkinson, as well as Schneider, one of the main
proponents of replacement theology is the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology
Center, a Palestinian NGO run by Reverend Naim Ateek.