That All May Have Life in Fullness - Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) 216th General Assembly; Richmond, Virginia - June 26 - July 3, 2004 PC(USA) Seal
 
 
         
 

Overture 04-34. On Confronting Christian Zionism—From the Presbytery of Chicago.

The Presbytery of Chicago respectfully overtures the 216th General Assembly (2004) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to actively oppose Christian Zionism and to develop a plan to communicate the theological and political ramifications it engenders within our denomination, in the mass media, and among U. S. government officials. Specifically, we call upon the General Assembly to do the following:

1. Issue to all churches in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) a pastoral letter on Christian Zionism and the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine and make this letter available on the PC(USA) Web site.

2. Inform current government officials of the Christian alternatives to Christian Zionism.

3. Continue to commend and promote the PC(USA) list of resources found in the September/October 2003 issue of Church & Society, entitled “Israel and Palestine: The Quest for Peace,” so that Presbyterians can and will become knowledgeable of the present day Middle East situation and have a better understanding of its history and people.

4. Educate Presbyterians about the Reformed principles for interpreting Scripture in light of the gospel and the rule of love of God and neighbor, as affirmed by previous General Assemblies.

5. Continue to cooperate with other denominations and like-minded groups to promote an understanding of peace in the Holy Land.

6. Urge our Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)-related colleges and seminaries to address this issue.

Rationale

We are called by Scripture to love God and all our neighbors. Christian Zionism promotes a theology that justifies grievous violations of basic rights of people who are also made in the image of God and is contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Its teachings invite contempt for fellow Christians in the Middle East, and foreclose decent human relations with many Evangelical Christians in our own American society and in our churches. The implications of this issue need to be understood and to be given much broader attention by our denomination.

The term, “Christian Zionism,” is used to refer to the use of passages of biblical prophecy out of context to influence political and religious leaders to accept the State of Israel as a necessary condition of the return of Jesus Christ and the eschatological end of time (Armageddon), when Jews and others will be given the option to either convert or perish.

Christian Zionism fails to relate to or defend Palestinian Christians who are fleeing their homeland because of Israeli occupation, economic closures, continuing confiscation of land and settlement construction, military aggression and now the “Wall.” Christian Zionism is actually anti-evangelical in that it undermines the presence and witness of the indigenous Middle East Christians, whether in the Holy Land itself or throughout the Middle East. Christian Zionism creates a false image of Christianity, one that is militant, western, and Zionist; and the repercussions often affect the continuity of indigenous Middle East Christians. Our Palestinian Christian partners urge us to speak out on this issue, notably the churches of the Middle East, the Middle East Council of Churches, the Sabeel Ecumenical Center, and others, as well as our good friends, the leaders of these bodies: the Reverend Naim Ateek of the Sabeel Center in Jerusalem, the Reverend Riad Jarjour, general secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches, and the Reverend Mitri Raheb, pastor of Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem, who last year served as a mission partner in residence on the Worldwide Ministries Division staff of the PC(USA).

Christian Zionism has become a divisive voice in American churches that turn prophetic texts of the Bible into apocalyptic scenarios for the end times in a predictive and reductionist form of prophecy. The Christian Zionist message jams the airwaves every day on Christian radio and television and follows a theological approach to the Bible called “premillennial dispensationalism,” a theme that emerged in the early 1800s and was promoted in the U.S. by the Reverend John Nelson Darby. The 1995 novel Left Behind by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, and the subsequent series of novels that pick up on this view and focus on events leading to the end of history and the return of Jesus, found a profitable market among millions of North America readers, thereby finding popular but largely uninformed support. Influential members of the current U.S. government endorse Christian Zionist positions as a basis for U. S. foreign policy. Christian Zionists, aligned with the minority Jewish settler group, take positions on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that are contrary to the position of the Israeli government and of most Israelis, opposing a two-state solution and supporting transfer of all Arabs out of Palestine. Finally, pre-millennialist interpretations that underlie Christian Zionism ultimately exclude any validity of the continuity of efficacy of God’s covenant with the Jewish people themselves, and ultimately are anti-Semitic.

Jesus rejected efforts to speculate on the future by saying it was not for them to know the “times or the seasons” that God has chosen (Acts 1:6-11).

Christian Zionism is contrary to the Reformed principles of interpreting Scripture that call us to read Scripture in light of the gospel; and to interpret Scripture in light of the one commandment of God that summarizes all other commandments, love for God and for all our neighbors.

Our denomination is part of a coalition of Christian organizations called Churches for Middle East Peace. Its “Theological Reflection #1” describes the effect of the Zionist claim as the active dispossession of Palestinians of their land. Adding our voice to this specific issue will strengthen our joint efforts.

The 215th General Assembly (2003) reaffirmed the actions of previous General Assemblies that support peace in the Middle East; further, the 2003 resolution urged pastors, lay leaders, sessions and individual members of the PC(USA) to avail themselves of study resources that help them understand the history, nature, and dimensions of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians (Minutes, 2003, Part I, pp. 622-23).


 
 
 
     
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