(photo credit: Christian Coalition of America web site)
The leaders of three Jerusalem-based Christian Evangelical organizations on Monday voiced distress over a recent proclamation by the Latin Patriarch and the heads of three other churches in Jerusalem issuing a stinging and virtually unprecedented public criticism of Christian Zionism and their unflinching support for the State of Israel.
The bitter inter-Christian tiff followed an August 22 "Jerusalem Declaration on Christian Zionism" signed by the outgoing Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, Archbishop Swerios Malki Mourad of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate, Bishop Riah Abu El-Assal of the Episcopal Church and Bishop Munib Younan of the Lutheran Church, was indicative of the deep discord and resentment within the Christian Church over the Evangelicals' support for Israel.
The declaration lambasted Christian Zionism as a "false teaching" that "condemn[s] the world to the doom of Armageddon."
"It is with concern that we note the negative opinions about Christian Zionism voiced by certain church clerics in Jerusalem... using inflammatory language they have expressed views that are far from the truth," read a joint response by the heads of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, Bridges for Peace and Christian Friends of Israel.
"We find the paper unbalanced and notably one-sided. It totally ignores the jihadist goals of the Hamas Government and turns a blind eye to terrorism perpetrated by this regime," the statement read.
The unusually-harsh statement by the Latin Patriarch, who is a Palestinian, comes at a time of burgeoning ties between Israel and the Christian Evangelical community around the world.
"Christian Zionism is a modern theological and political movement that embraces the most extreme ideological positions of Zionism, thereby becoming detrimental to a just peace within Palestine and Israel," the Jerusalem declaration claimed, calling Christian Zionism "a false doctrine that corrupts the biblical message of love, justice and reconciliation."
"A Christian Zionist believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible, and rejects replacement theology which played a pivotal role in the persecution of Jews through the centuries and under-girded the Holocaust," the Evangelical leaders wrote in their six-point response. "Christian Zionism is not heretical; in fact, Christians from all traditional backgrounds have held such a view for two thousand years.
"We pray for peace but we note with sadness that the present Palestinian government is totally dedicated to the destruction of Israel."
The assault on Christian Zionism, which also included an attack on their alliance with Israeli groups, were the clearest signs to date that the ever-growing friendship between the two sides is increasingly worrying to non-Evangelical Christian groups.
"We further reject the contemporary alliance of Christian Zionist leaders and organizations with elements in the governments of Israel and the US that are presently imposing preemptive borders and domination over Palestine," the proclamation reads, in what appears to be a indirect reference to the Knesset's increasingly-influential "Christian Allies Caucus," the cross-party parliamentary lobby that works with Christian supporters of Israel around the world.
The acerbic and open attack on Christian Zionists also served as an indication of the immense chasm that exists between the various Church leaders living in Jerusalem.
The three Christian Evangelical leaders who wrote the response, Malcolm Hedding, Rebecca Brimmer and Ray Sanders, noted that there has been no dialogue whatsoever between the Jerusalem clerics and themselves, calling such meetings a "Biblical prerequisite."
"We feel that we have been treated with disrespect and disdain, and attacked by the issuing of this public declaration," they wrote. "They present themselves as lovers of justice, mercy, truth and peace. This public attack seems lacking in those qualities."