New York City, July 16, 2007
As Pastor John Hagee prepares for his annual Christians United for Israel (CUFI) gathering this week in Washington, D.C., two leaders of the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) are reminding observers that most Christians do not share CUFI's stated goals.
"John Hagee's message differs greatly with what theologians have taught for centuries," said Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos, NCC's Associated General Secretary for International Affairs and Peace.
"The Christian Gospel is clear that salvation came through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ," said Dr. Kireopoulos. "To supplement this message is to pervert the Gospel Hagee claims to preach."
Pastor Hagee's efforts are the latest in a century old apocalyptic movement that began in earnest in the 19th century. Sometimes called Christian Zionism because of its uncritical support for the State of Israel, it is based on a literal reading of Biblical apocalyptic texts.
CUFI's position of uncritical support for Israel separates it from the Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox, and traditional Protestant Churches, all of whom support Israel while at the same time advocate for a Palestinian state, Kireopoulos said.
The NCC advocates for a two-state solution, with a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state. The NCC position, approved by the NCC's 35 member denominations, is based on the Christian imperative to seek justice for all people. The NCC has stated the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories is unsupportable. This position is shared by Churches worldwide, and is counter to the position espoused by CUFI.
"Only a just solution will bring peace to the Middle East," said Kireopoulos. "CUFI stands apart from the historic Churches still present in the Holy Land. All of these Churches serve Palestinian Christians, who are adversely affected by the policies supported by Hagee and CUFI. As a result of these policies, Christian communities in the Holy Land are diminishing and are threatened with extinction."
"CUFI's ongoing vilification of Islam is also unacceptable," said the Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana, NCC's Associate General Secretary for Interfaith Relations.
"The NCC continues to urge Christians to build relationships with Muslim people, the vast majority of whom are peace-loving, law-abiding people," Premawardhana said.
Hagee's group has also advocated going to war with Iran.
"Such a war is totally unacceptable," said Premawardhana. "The NCC believes that high level dialogues with Iran and other Middle Eastern partners is the proper method of dealing with Iran."
The National Council of Churches USA is the ecumenical voice of 35 of America's Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, historic African American and traditional peace churches. These NCC denominations have 45 million faithful members in 100,000 congregations in all 50 states.
Latest NCC News at www.councilofchurches.org