B'nai B'rith World Center co-sponsors consultation on Mainline Protestant Churches and the State of Israel
On Nov. 5-8 the B'nai B'rith World Center in Jerusalem co-sponsored a consultation with twenty Christian pastors, laymen, activists and intellectuals from the Anglican, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, Dutch Reform, United Church of Canada and other Christian denominations to discuss anti-Israel attitudes that have infused Mainline Protestant Churches over the past 20 years or more.
The consultation was co-sponsored by the Ecumenical Theological Research Fraternity as part of the activities of the joint World Center-Ecumenical Fraternity "Liaison Committee" forum.
The purpose of the consultation, which has been in the planning for three years, is to create a bridge of understanding between the State of Israel and these denominations and affect the biased positions they have adopted regarding the Israel-Palestinian conflict, in consultation with individuals who have shown their support for Israel in the past.
The participants are currently formulating a joint concluding declaration as a point of departure for future activities. The consultation took place at a significant juncture in the storied relationship between the Jewish community and the Mainline Protestant Churches, just three weeks after seven U.S. leading Jewish organizations – including B’nai B’rith International – canceled a long-planned meeting of a joint dialogue with representatives of these churches in the United States after leaders of their denominations sent a letter to Congress accusing Israel of war crimes and calling for an end to U.S. military aid to Israel. B’nai B’rith International is co-chair of that dialogue.
Participants in the consultation represent churches, movements and institutions in the U.S., Canada, Finland, Norway, the U.K., Uganda, Germany and Holland.
The opening session of the consultation included a keynote address by Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chancellor and Founder of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation on “The State of Israel as the Fundamental Component in Jewish-Christian Relations Today”. In a brilliant speech, Rabbi Riskin said that Jews and Christians should focus on many things that are common to their religions, particularly teachings about the god of love, morality and peace. “What unites us is far more important than what divides us, especially against fundamentalist Islam whose god is a god of power, not love, and who preaches jihad and war. Islam does not have to be like that, and in the far past it was not. Wahabi Islam that has taken over the Middle East is not monotheism but mono-Satanism. We have to have a united voice that talks about a god of love; then perhaps, with Jews and Christians united in this mission, we can teach it to the world and give strength to the moderate Moslems to join us.” Rabbi Riskin noted that Bethlehem has become a ghost-town for Christians today after most of them were killed or banished.
In his response, Rev. Paul Wilkinson, Ph.D., Associate Minister, Hazel Grove Full Gospel Church, England - a small pro-Israel church - said: “Today there is a propaganda campaign being waged by the Palestinian Authority, the Islamic world and by the Protestant church, including the evangelical church, not only propagating replacement theology and its new manifestations, but the Islamic world is now claiming Jesus for itself – a Jesus of Islam who is coming to destroy every Jew on earth. That is the eschatological end-times teachings of Islam. But there are Christians who know a different Jesus, read a different bible, and understand Israel in a completely different way. The big lie is Christian Palestiniaism, 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. I am completely pessimistic about our ability to overturn 2000 years of erroneous theology that has manifested itself in all kinds of diatribes and anti-Semitic actions. A Goliath of replacement theology and Christian Palestinianism, taunts, goads, accuses and condemns Israel and those Christians who stand with Israel. That Goliath cannot be felled with a stone and a sling as in the times of King David, because the problem is a spiritual one.”
The consultation included additional sessions on "The Case for Israel", "The Conspiracy Against Israel" and the plight of Christians in the Middle East. Presenters included Israeli academics, legal experts, diplomats and activists. The group also enjoyed an audience with the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem and a presentation by the Custos of the Holy Land, toured the Old City of Jerusalem and Christian sites around the Sea of Galilee, and visited the Neighborhood League Jerusalem youth co-existence project.
News of the event was carried in The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, Arutz 7 , Makor Rishon and The Algemeiner.
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