How God, Martin Luther King brought a ‘Bishop of Israel’ to the Holy Land

Meet Bishop Glenn Plummer, a man on a mission to bring Black American Christians to Israel.

 Bishop Glenn Plummer (photo credit: Courtesy of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC))
Bishop Glenn Plummer
(photo credit: Courtesy of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC))

Glenn Plummer is the “Bishop of Israel” for the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), one of the largest Evangelical churches in the world.

The congregation is 115 years old and predominantly Black. Until 2020, it operated in 112 countries. But when Plummer and his wife moved to Israel in between COVID-19 lockdowns, the latest branch opened up in the Holy Land. 

How does a Black bishop end up in Israel?

“I have been a Christian Zionist for years,” Plummer told The Jerusalem Post.

His love for Israel began when he became a Christian at the age of 19. 

“I started reading the Bible,” he recalled. “Everything I read was about Israel and the Jewish people.”

He started learning about Israel from his studies.

“All I knew about Israel is what I read in the Bible,” he explained. 

Plummer visited Israel for the first time in 1996 with a delegation of Black church leaders from the US and Africa. The trip was led by Dr. Myles Monroe, a well-known Evangelical teacher and minister from the Bahamas. 

After landing at Ben-Gurion Airport, the delegation went straight to Jerusalem. On their bus ride south, Plummer recalled that their tour guide quoted a passage from Psalm 121. 

A song for ascents. I turn my eyes to the mountains; from where will my help come? Psalm 121:1

“When he said that, tears began to flow. From that moment, it was so emotional for me,” Plummer recalled.

He said the trip deepened his understanding that Israel is a “real place, and these are real people.”

This reverence for Israel, Plummer explained, is extremely common in Black churches in the US, noting that Black congregations often name their churches after places in Israel. 

“Mt. Zion is one of the most common names of Black churches in America,” he said. “We are a people who have been prepared and groomed to respect, to honor Israel.”

Plummer shared that of the 45 million Black Americans, 80% to 85% are associated with a Black church and “are nurtured with a love for Israel.”

Despite this, he estimates that only five percent to 10% of Israel-loving Black American Christians have visited Israel. 

“Our community has not been targeted by the pro-Israel tourism industry,” Plummer claimed. “The invitation has never been made. Black American church people are left with [only] their Biblical version of Israel.”

That is something he would like to change. He said his intent is to bring as many Black Christians as possible to the country. Because “Israel sells itself.”

“Black American church people are more familiar with the Hebrew Bible than the majority of Jewish people,” Plummer asserted. “That’s why we are so inspired by your stories and by the fact that you are still a people. It inspires us as a people. When you read the story of Hebrew scripture from a place of oppression and being hated, it reads differently.

“We are there with you,” he continued. “That’s our experience too. We understand the feeling.”

Bishop Glenn Plummer and his wife Dr. Ruth Pauline Plummer. (Credit: Courtesy of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC))Bishop Glenn Plummer and his wife Dr. Ruth Pauline Plummer. (Credit: Courtesy of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC))

A controversial beginning

Plummer moved to Israel in September 2020 with his wife Dr. Ruth Pauline Plummer. Their arrival, during a time when most Jews were unable to enter the country due to COVID restrictions, caused quite an uproar.

Plummer said that it was then Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, in consultation with then Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi, who personally approved their entry.

The couple was given a two-week window to enter Israel. They arrived within a week, despite the fact that COGIC was in a crisis of its own. Of the church’s 250 bishops worldwide, 15% had recently died from COVID.

The Plummers were well-aware that they were entering Israel at a sensitive time. What they were not prepared for was the controversy that blew up upon their arrival. 

Almost immediately, “all these articles started flying out,” he said, accusing him and his wife of being missionaries with a special interest in missionizing the Jews of Ethiopia.

COGIC leadership advised the Plummers to remain quiet. The Plummers compiled because they understood that “Israel is going through a tumultuous political moment in their history.”

When, despite their silence, the controversy continued to swirl, accompanied by death threats, church leaders negotiated with US Senator Gary Peters of Michigan to airlift the couple out of Israel during a time when Ben-Gurion Airport was officially closed. But Bishop Plummer and his wife refused to leave.

“We came to be a blessing,” he said. “We’re here to see that our people, Black Americans, come here and experience the wonders of Israel, the people of Israel. Israel is a miracle. You’ve had empires and peoples sworn to your destruction. Yet you are still a People. You have cranes all over the place! To me, it is fantastic! It is to the glory of God.”

A second, somewhat less brutal wave of controversy erupted over the title First Lady of Israel that was assigned to Bishop Plummer’s wife. 

Plummer explained that in every Black church, the wife of the pastor is called the First Lady of the church. Similarly, the wife of a COGIC bishop is called the First Lady of the bishop’s jurisdiction. Hence, the First Lady of Israel title was a reflection of their church tradition, not intended to usurp the role of the actual First Lady of Israel, Michal Herzog.

Dr. Ruth Pauline Plummer (right) with Israel's First Lady Michal Herzog. (Credit: Courtesy of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC))Dr. Ruth Pauline Plummer (right) with Israel's First Lady Michal Herzog. (Credit: Courtesy of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC))

According to Plummer, First Lady Herzog recently encouraged First Lady Plummer to cooperate with her on some initiatives when the two women met during the shiva of Ora Herzog, mother of Israel’s President Isaac Herzog. 

Plummer noted with pride that his wife is an ordained minister herself, as well as being a recording artist, a speaker, a businesswoman, a broadcaster and the recipient of an earned Doctorate of Divinity from Tabernacle Bible College in Miami, Florida.

‘Israel is the Lynchpin to God’s Global Prophecy’

While acknowledging that “this last year-and-a-half have been unusual,” Plummer shared that he is “formally a representative of 6.5 million Americans,” and he has work to do in Israel.

“I chose to live here because Israel is the lynchpin to God’s global prophecy,” Plummer said. “In Genesis 12:3, God obligated Himself: ‘I will bless those who bless you And curse him that curses you; And all the families of the earth Shall bless themselves by you,’” he said, quoting Genesis 12:3.

Now that things have begun to quiet down, Plummer is hard at work building what he called, “a world-class media institute” for millennials. The plan is to select “young people in the church with a firm Biblical foundation to come to Israel for three months."

The graduates are meant to create new media to tell the story of Israel to their millennial constituents in their own language. 

The first cohort of media students is expected to arrive in Israel in September 2022.

The bishop's inspiration: God and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Plummer credits God with being his primary inspiration. 

“What’s my inspiration for what I’m doing here? The inspiration is from the God of Israel. I feel inspired by Him and His word in the Bible,” he said. 

But he has another inspiration, too. 

“On a human level, who inspired me to come here? Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  My wife and I are the embodiment of what he embodied,” Plummer said. 

Bishop Plummer in front of Martin Luther King St. in Jerusalem. (Credit: Courtesy of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC))Bishop Plummer in front of Martin Luther King St. in Jerusalem. (Credit: Courtesy of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC))

The day before he was assassinated in 1968, King delivered his famous “Mountaintop Speech” in which he said, “And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”

According to Plummer, King was planning to bring 5,000 Black Americans on a tour to Israel in November 1967, but the tour was canceled in the aftermath of the Six Day War. 

More than 50 years later, Plummer shares the same dream.

 “He was the inspiration,” Plummer said. “He was a social prophet.”