By Arlene Bridges Samuels
Millions of Christians who support the Jewish state are confident in God’s eternal covenants with Israel and the inerrant truths of Scripture. That’s why recent resolutions of the Presbyterian Church USA’s (PCUSA) Committee on International Engagement are so unsettling.
The committee’s 28-3 vote last week asserting that Israel is an “apartheid” state is a disturbing sign of their bias against the Jewish nation. The committee also decided to add the Palestinian day of mourning to their calendar, declaring May 15 as Nakba Remembrance Day. Nakba, meaning “catastrophe,” describes Israel’s declaration of independence on May 14, 1948 as a disaster. These recent decisions by the PCUSA disregard God’s plans for modern Israel to continue fulfilling prophecy as a “light to the nations” (Isaiah 42:6).
The apartheid accusation is chief among the PCUSA’s upside-down claims made during their General Assembly meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, June 18–July 9. Harkening back to the appalling decades when South Africa was truly apartheid—a minority white population ruthlessly oppressing its majority Black population—the PCUSA leadership has turned Isaiah 5:20 into a present-day fact. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”
Painting all members of a PCUSA church as promoters of Israeli defamation would not be accurate or right. I have friends who are members of the denomination and they are faithful believers working and praying for changes within their churches. However, key influencers in the PCUSA leadership and committee hierarchy also have a long track record of engagement in anti-Israel policies, including the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS)—economic warfare against Israel. They keep steering their denomination into anti-biblical channels, dismissing God’s ancient covenants with the Jewish people that are still in effect today.
The foundational problem seems to be theological. Replacement theology has infected denominations for centuries with the erroneous idea that the Church has “replaced” the Jewish people as God’s chosen people—that God has terminated His covenants with the Jewish people and permanently evicted them from Israel with no future plans and blessings.
Nevertheless, in Genesis 17:7, God declares to Abraham, “And I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you in their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and your descendants after you.” God chose the Jewish people to transmit His words through Jewish scribes and to provide universal salvation through our Jewish Savior. God does not lie, nor does He change His mind.
We are surrounded by the results of a dramatic shift toward weakened fidelity to Jesus, Scripture, and faith. Amid rising global anti-Semitism, certain church leaders have for decades regrettably woven a thread of anti-Semitism into their congregations’ outlook. Case in point: On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in 2015, the Reverend Dr. J. Herbert Nelson II, Stated Clerk of the PCUSA General Assembly, declared: “The continued occupation in Palestine/Israel is 21st-century slavery and should be abolished immediately.”
Within the PCUSA itself, Presbyterians for Middle East Peace (PMEP) spoke out against Rev. Nelson, observing that he “seems to blame all Jews as the culprit, ignoring the many reasons why Americans support Israel.” The PMEP added, “Lashing out at the U.S. and global Jewish community is beyond the pale. Gratefully, his actions and words do not match the work of local PCUSA and Jewish congregations in communities across the nation.”
Regarding the current resolutions, the PMEP stated that the anti-Israel motions “made a mockery of the PCUSA’s historic commitment to hearing all sides and doing deep research on issues prior to taking controversial decisions.” They went on to say that the Committee on International Engagement did not invite a single U.S. or Israeli Jewish voice to offer further perspective and that there were “no representatives of the thousands of organizations that have not deemed Israel to be an apartheid state.”
The Jewish state itself is now undeniably the focus of accusations and lies from Palestinian leaders that sometimes echo Iran’s threats and find a welcoming home in PCUSA’s wrong-headed rulings. Fortunately, groups and individuals opposing the guidelines of the PCUSA are taking action. After decades of PCUSA’s ill-begotten decisions, Shurat Hadin, the Israel Law Center, filed a case against them in 2014 saying that they “violated the U.S. tax code through unlawful lobbying and contact with Hezbollah, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.” The PCUSA has been active for decades in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.
I also applaud the Philos Action League, newly minted by the Philos Project, which promotes positive Christian engagement. Right now, they are conducting peaceful protests at the PCUSA General Assembly. On July 2, the Christian organization tweeted, “We are continuing to protest the GA225 vote declaring that 1) The false claim of apartheid (among several other claims) is anti-Semitic and hurts relations between Christians and Jews” and “2) that not all Christians believe the claim of apartheid.”
Ignoring clear Scriptures on several key issues, the PCUSA membership is slowly diminishing. The Christian Post published a report stating that last year, 100-plus churches, 51,000 members, and four presbyteries left the denomination. The PCUSA congregations have declined for decades due in part to embracing liberal views. With upwards of 60 million American evangelicals who claim a pro-Israel stance, my guess is that the PCUSA’s anti-Semitism has also driven away members who care about Israel. Since its founding in 1983, this branch of the Presbyterian Church has fallen from 3,121,238 members to 1,193,770, a 62 percent loss.
Despite the recent resolutions from the PCUSA, I am thankful for pastors and churches that remain faithful to the clear, God-inspired message of the Bible. The sound teachings about His covenantal promises to the Jews are eternal. For us as non-Jews, God graciously set up a system of adoption. He receives us into His family when we recognize our redemption from sin through His Son’s sacrifice and resurrection.
Let us pray that American denominational leaders drifting from biblical truths will encounter Arab voices like Yosef Haddad, a Greek Orthodox Christian Arab who grew up in Nazareth. Although Arab Israelis are not required to serve in the military, Haddad volunteered to serve in an elite Israel Defense Forces (IDF) unit where he became a commander. “From the second I stepped in the unit I was treated like family. There’s no difference between any Golani soldier. It doesn’t matter if he’s Jewish or Arab or Ashkenazi or Ethiopian.”
Yosef later founded an Israeli Arab organization called “Together.” He speaks worldwide to disparate audiences with a clear message. “We say the truth. We show the facts. The whole truth. Israel is not perfect, but the way Israel is represented in the Arab world, in the media, is completely far away from reality.”
Friends, you know that we live in chaotic times. Isaiah 40:28-31 is the perfect passage to reflect on today: “The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”
Please join CBN Israel in prayer this week for Christians worldwide to stand with the Jewish nation and people:
- Pray for mainline churches across the globe to wake up to the biblical truths about Israel and the Jewish people.
- Pray with praise that God has sustained a remnant of churches, Christian organizations, and individuals who consistently stand with Israel.
- Pray for the Philos Action League to grow stronger and inspire new like-minded groups to rise up around the world.
- Pray for Israel’s interim government to operate with wisdom and steadiness in the weeks and months leading up to the next election on November 1, 2022.
Arlene Bridges Samuels pioneered Christian outreach for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). After she served nine years on AIPAC’s staff, International Christian Embassy Jerusalem USA engaged her as Outreach Director part-time for their project, American Christian Leaders for Israel. Arlene is an author at The Blogs-Times of Israel, a guest columnist at All Israel News, and has frequently traveled to Israel since 1990. She co-edited The Auschwitz Album Revisited and is a volunteer on the board of Violins of Hope South Carolina. Arlene has attended Israel’s Government Press Office Christian Media Summit three times and hosts her devotionals, The Eclectic Evangelical, on Facebook.