From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Sabeel holds "Challenging Christian Zionism" Conference in

From Worldwide Faith News <>
Date Wed, 28 Apr 2004 14:22:52 -0700

Contact:Sister Elaine Kelley
Administrative Officer, Friends of SabeelbNorth America
PO Box 9186, Portland, Oregon 97207
Phone: (503) 653-6625
Email:     Websites:;
April 26, 2004

International theologians, religious leaders, and peace activists gather 
for Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center conference in Jerusalem, 
"Challenging Christian Zionism: Theology, Politics, and the 
Palestine-Israel Conflict"

Over 600 Christian bible scholars, religious leaders and peace activists 
representing 32 countries, gathered in Jerusalem's Notre Dame Center April 
14-18 for The Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center's  conference, 
"Challenging Christian Zionism: Theology, Politics, and the 
Palestine-Israel Conflict."   The conference included a pre-conference 
pilgrimage from April 4-11 blending traditions of eastern and western 
Christianity and post-conference day trips in the West Bank and Galilee 
April 19-23.

The conference theme of Christian Zionism addressed a worldwide theological 
and political movement that embraces extreme ideological positions based on 
selected scriptural texts and which, according to conference 
presenters,  form a worldview that is detrimental to a just peace in the 
Holy Land.  Sabeel Jerusalem director, Rev. Canon Naim Ateek, said 
Christian Zionism "is a worldview where the Gospel is identified with the 
ideology of empire, colonialism, and militarism."   Over 20 presentations 
by international theologians, political scientists and legal experts 
covered a range of topics.  Catholic theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether, 
who is Carpenter Professor of Feminist Theology at the Graduate Theological 
Union in Berkeley, California, and co-author with her husband Herman 
Ruether of The Wrath of Jonah: The Crisis of Religious Nationalism in the 
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, criticized what she sees in Christian Zionism 
as the "language of apocalyptic warfare and messianic nationalism" which 
she believes is an "enormously dangerous" theology that should be 
rejected.   The Rev. Dr. Stephen Sizer, an Anglican and Chairman of the 
International Bible Society in the U.K. who is author of  Christian 
Zionism: Justifying Apartheid in the Name of God, to be released this fall, 
helped to define Christian Zionism, stating that at its simplest it is a 
"political form of philo-Semitism" or just "Christian support for Zionism, 
"meaning the political and expansionist aims of the State of Israel, its 
policies and its military. Christian Zionists believe the Jewish people 
have "divine right to posses the land of Palestine," Sizer stated.  He 
added that  Christian Zionism can be considerably more complex, with some 
leading agencies committed to both a prophetic plan as well as an 
evangelistic plan for the Jewish people.   Sizer named groups such as Jews 
for Jesus, Churches Ministry Among Jewish People (CMJ), and the 
International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem, which sees Biblical Zionism 
as cutting edge theology for "the Last Days." Sizer claims that Christian 
Zionism has become the most powerful and destructive force at work in 
America today, shaping foreign policy on the Middle East and inciting 
hatred between Jews and Muslims.

Central to Christian Zionism is a literal reading of the Book of 
Revelation, popularized by the Left Behind series of fictional apocalyptic 
thrillers written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins about events following 
the Second Coming of Christ and the "rapture"  in which Christians are 
taken up to heaven.  Conference presenter Barbara R. Rossing, Associate 
Professor of New Testament at Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, and 
author of The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of 
Revelation,  says the rapture is theologically "all wrong."   Rossing 
explored the bible sources of rapturist theology in her presentation as 
"modern literalist interpretations based on selective passages of the bible 
taken out of context."

Other presenters included Donald Wagner, professor of the Middle East 
studies at North Park University in Chicago; Dr. Gary Burge, professor of 
New Testament at Wheaton College and Graduate School in Chicago; Gershom 
Gorenberg, associate editor of The Jerusalem Report and founder of the 
Israeli religious peace movement, Netivot Shalom; Marc Ellis, Director of 
the Center for American and Jewish Studies at Baylor University in Waco, 
Texas; Father Peter DuBrul, an American Jesuit teaching Scripture, 
Philosophy, and Cultural Studies at Bethlehem University, West Bank; and 
Father Michael Prior, CM, professor of the Bible and Theology at St. Mary's 
College, University of Surrey, U.K.  who is author of Zionism and the State 
of Israel: A Moral Inquiry.   Palestinians from the West Bank could not 
participate in the Jerusalem conference because of military closures, so 
organizers scheduled presentations in Ramallah and Bethlehem to take the 
conference to them.  The Bethlehem trip had to be cancelled, however, as it 
fell on the day following Israel's assassination of Hamas leader Abdul Aziz 
Rantisi when access to Bethlehem was deemed too dangerous by conference 

Outcomes of the conference included participants' commitment to return to 
their respective countries to help pursue a political solution to the 
conflict in the Holy Land based on the enforcement of existing 
international law and United Nations resolutions.  A conference statement 
is to be distributed by all participants in their respective localities 
explaining objections to Christian Zionism and calling upon Christians to 
liberate themselves from ideologies of militarism and occupation and 
instead to pursue the healing of the world. And discussions have begun 
among the Sabeel leadership to form an international institute for the 
study of Christian Zionism.

Sabeel is an effort of the Palestinian Christians to educate and work 
alongside Christians of the west.  The Arabic name means "the way" and 
refers to the name given to first-century Christians in Palestine, who were 
called "the people of The Way."  Friends of Sabeel - North America works 
with Sabeel and other Friends of Sabeel in the U.K. Scandinavia, Ireland, 
Europe, and Australia.	Friends of Sabeel - South Africa will be formed in 
2005 with the support of Sabeel's international patron, Archbishop Desmond 

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home