Evangelicals' letter backs PA state

Pastor blasts appeal in 'NY Times,' says it does not represent majority's view.

blair abbas 298.88 (photo credit: Ahmad K. Gharabli)
blair abbas 298.88
(photo credit: Ahmad K. Gharabli)
Many evangelical Christians throughout the United States support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and seek "justice" for both sides, reads an open letter to US President George W. Bush published in Sunday's New York Times. The letter, signed by several dozen evangelical clergy and activists, urged the Bush administration not to "grow weary" in its attempt to negotiate a "lasting peace" in the region. The letter's authors sought to correct what they called a "serious misperception" that all American evangelicals objected to the establishment of a Palestinian state, and said they hoped that the awareness of a large body of evangelical support for a permanent status agreement between Israel and the PA would "embolden" Bush. Those who love [Israel] are not forced to withhold criticism, the letter argued, adding that "genuine love and blessing" meant promoting one's neighbors well-being. According to the letter's authors, both Israel and the Palestinians had rights to the land of Israel that stretched back "millennia." Both sides, the letter said, had committed acts of violence. Only a lasting peace agreement, the letter exhorted, would end bloodshed and ensure that each side had a "viable" state. To this end, the letter's authors expressed their support for the road map peace plan, and endorsed former British prime minister Tony Blair's efforts in his new role as the Quartet's Middle East envoy. "We renew our prayers and support for your leadership... and justice and peace for all the people in the Holy Land," the letter concluded. But other senior evangelical Christian leaders in the US blasted the letter as misrepresenting mainstream evangelical beliefs. "The authors of this letter do not represent the views of the vast majority of Bible-believing mainstream evangelicals in America," said San Antonio-based Pastor John C. Hagee, a prominent Israel supporter. "The problem in the Middle East is that Israel has no partner for peace, and Israel's neighbors refuse to recognize Israel's right to exist," Hagee said. He added that the assertion by letter's writers that the Palestinians have a historic connection to the Holy Land is "absolutely incorrect." Hagee's organization "Christians United for Israel" which has been dubbed the Christian AIPAC and which held its second-annual Washington summit last week with 4,500 delegates from across the US, is planning on sending US President George W. Bush its own letter voicing their opposition to American pressure on Israel for any further land withdrawals. A list of the letter's signatories: Ronald J. Sider, President Evangelicals for Social Action Don Argue, President Northwest University Raymond J. Bakke, Chancellor Bakke Graduate University Gary M. Benedict, President The Christian & Missionary Alliance George K. Brushaber, President Bethel University Gary M. Burge, Professor Wheaton College & Graduate School Tony Campolo, President/Founder Evangelical Association for the Promotion of Education Christopher J. Doyle, CEO American Leprosy Mission Leighton Ford, President Leighton Ford Ministries Daniel Grothe, Pastoral Staff New Life Church (Colorado Springs) Vernon Grounds, Chancellor Denver Seminary Stephen Hayner, former President InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Joel Hunter, Senior Pastor Northland Church Member, Executive Committee of the NAE Jo Anne Lyon, Founder/CEO World Hope International Gordon MacDonald, Chair of the Board World Relief Albert G. Miller, Professor Oberlin College Richard Mouw, President Fuller Theological Seminary David Neff, Editor Christianity Today Glenn R. Palmberg, President Evangelical Covenant Church Earl Palmer, Senior Pastor University Presbyterian Church Seattle Victor D. Pentz, Pastor Peachtree Presbyterian Church, Atlanta John Perkins, President John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation & Development Bob Roberts, Jr., Senior Pastor Northwood Church, Dallas Leonard Rogers, Executive Director Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding Andrew Ryskamp, Executive Director Christian Reformed World Relief Committee Chris Seiple, President Institute for Global Engagement Robert A. Seiple, Former Ambassador-at-Large, International Religious Freedom U.S. State Department Luci N. Shaw, Author, Lecturer Regent College, Vancouver Jim Skillen, Executive Director Center for Public Justice Glen Harold Stassen, Professor Fuller Theological Seminary Richard Stearns, President World Vision Clyde D. Taylor, Former Chair of the Board World Relief Harold Vogelaar, Director Center of Christian-Muslim Engagement for Peace and Justice Berten Waggoner, National Director Vineyard USA