With a little help from global friends

Pro-Israel Christian activists gathered from around the world in Jerusalem to battle anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.

christian delegation 521 (photo credit: Jim Fletcher)
christian delegation 521
(photo credit: Jim Fletcher)
When superstar Christian author Donald Miller leveled a host of unsubstantiated charges against Israel in a blog post November 21 (www.storylineblog.com), many Evangelicals were caught off guard.
After all, how could “one of them” attack Israel in such a fashion and seemingly maintain his status among, primarily, 20-somethings? Miller’s post didn’t catch the members of a recent delegation to Israel off guard. A trend among younger Christians to identify with the Palestinians was one of the reasons a unique group met at a picturesque kibbutz resort outside Jerusalem.
Dubbed the Jerusalem Consultation on the Mainline Protestant Churches and the State of Israel, the meeting, held November 5-8, featured pro-Israel activists from around the world, including Assyrian and Coptic Christians, European pastors and Umar Mulinde, the Ugandan pastor burned in an acid attack outside his church in Kampala on Christmas eve, 2011.
The consultation was considered a breakthrough in the sharing of ideas and experiences and networking opportunities. Organized by Dr. Petra Heldt of The Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity, and Alan Schneider, director of B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem, the consultation featured addresses from the attendees and tours of the country.
Heldt was thrilled with the outcome of the gathering and afterward addressed the essence of the discussions: “The consultation indicated elements of the context in which anti- Semitism and anti-Zionism in the hierarchy of modern mainline Protestantism often works. Such a context features at least two notions: (1) maligning and sidelining Bible-believing clergy and laity who oppose Replacement theology and express positive views on Israel; (2) turning a blind eye toward the implications of Shari’a/jihad laws for non-Muslims. In the case of Christians in the Middle East, that legal system expresses itself in systemic persecution. In the case of Israel, it makes itself obvious in the denial of the existence of the State of Israel.”
Schneider, too, recognizes that much work needs to be done with regard to human rights: “It has been a blessing to confer for four intensive days of consultation with clergy, intellectuals and activists in mainline Protestant Churches who, unlike their biased and politicized leadership, are prepared to support the State of Israel as it strives to fulfill its historic mission as a haven for Jews in an ever more dangerous global and regional environment and as the legitimate expression of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination.
“During these days we have learned that in the pews of the Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, Presbyterian and other mainline Protestant churches, there are a majority of parishioners who reject the anti-Israel resolutions and reports supported by their leadership and reject the pathological focus they wish to foist on these important religious institutions – to the exclusion of other, much more pressing human rights issues, including the plight of Christians in Arab and Muslim countries.
“We hope that the consultation will serve as a catalyst for like-minded churchmen to begin what will undoubtedly be a long and difficult process to bring fairness, balance and compassion for Israel and the Jewish people back into the lexicon of these churches, along with the recognition that the plight of the Palestinians was not imposed by Israel, which has made unprecedented concessions to reach a peaceful resolution. We are heartened by the fact that the participants rededicated themselves to supporting the State of Israel in their churches, to rejecting Replacement theologies and to building bridges of mutual respect and recognition with the Jewish people.”
One consultation participant, CAMERA correspondent Dexter Van Zile, is among those passionate about human rights and in particular the plight of Middle East Christians, who do not get the attention they deserve.
“The Palestinian Christians from Bethlehem have made a concerted effort to convince Evangelicals in the US to abandon Israel. They are trying to force Evangelicals to choose between their support for Israel and their fellow Christians in the Middle East,” Van Zile said.
Indeed, members of the consultation addressed a serious problem that is unfolding – that of decades-long mainline church attitudes toward Israel filtering-down to American Evangelicals (such as Donald Miller, Bob Roberts, Jr., and Lynne Hybels).
Van Zile is one of the few members of the media to recognize this problem.
“The story these Christians tell is one where Evangelical support for Israel causes the suffering of Christians in the Middle East and makes it impossible to share the Gospel with Muslims in the region. Anyone who pays the least bit of attention knows that Christians are brutally oppressed in every Muslim-majority country in the world. To blame this on Israel is simply ridiculous.”
Incredibly, according to Van Zile, “more than one million Christians have been driven from Iraq since the ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and more than 100,000 Christians have been driven from Egypt since the ouster of Hosni Mubarak from 2011.
There has been very little response to this religious cleansing.”
The members of the consultation aim to shine a light on these problems.
The dramatic testimony of Mulinde, Juliana Taimoorazy (of the Iraqi Christian Relief Council), and Raymond Ibrahim, a Coptic Christian, alerted consultation members to the global plight of Christians persecuted for their faith.
Against the backdrop of the thriving State of Israel, a successful haven for the persecuted, the consultation concluded with a statement that read in part: “We are church members residing in Europe, North America, and Africa.
We came to Jerusalem to share our concerns for the relationship between our churches and Israel. We affirm our love of Israel. We believe that God remains in covenant with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God’s intention is to bless them, and through them to bless others. We repudiate the ‘replacement theology’ that claims Israel has no further place in God’s plans.
“Our love for Israel does not contradict our love for other peoples in the region, including the Palestinians.
They too have a place in God’s heart.
We believe it is possible to pursue justice and peace in ways that attend to the rights and needs of all peoples of the region.”
The entire statement can be read at www.pcime.org.