Next week the 3rd biennial CATC conference will begin in Bethlehem. This has once again stirred heated discussion and debate within the Messianic/Christian evangelical community in Israel. This public expression is good in that it helps all to ‘hear’ the depths of feelings which this conference arouses. It is also good for those from the Messianic community in Israel who do go, whether as invited speakers or whether as part of the gathered conference-goers, to go in the light of what others of their brethren think and feel, so that they may take it all into account while there. Even though each may be going ‘in his own name’, yet, nonetheless, they do represent more than themselves. We pray for salt, for spiritual discernment, for wisdom, for the right words in season, for protection from being overwhelmed in the atmosphere of the conference, for God to bring forth out of this conference something which is HIS.
In correspondence with a brother and friend who will be at the conference, and in a broader context of all that’s being ‘shared’ about the conference, here is my take about it that I have written to him, and to two of the speakers — one in a public forum, the other in a selected workship — who will be present:
“As I already said to you, I am glad that you will be at the conference. Your being there and my being there would convey different messages. I am not praying against the conference, nor am I boycotting it. I simply do not, nor cannot, endorse the conference. And, as I let you know, I have told E and J out of my love and respect for them both. But the extreme views of the film-maker of “The Stones Cry Out” — with her books and sites favorable towards Islam, but negative against Israel, and her presumptuous ignorance of God’s ways of working through men and nations in history — was the clincher. You could say that, for me, she is the ‘Stephen Sizer’ of this year’s conference.
This conference has never been about reconciliation. That’s why the first one was such a disaster, and brought so much rancor and division into the Messianic body here. I am also aware that there are not a few Arab believers in Israel proper who also want to keep away from it. (BTW, some of those closely involved with the conference have Israeli citizenship and passports, but do not generally want to be called Israeli, but Palestinian. This is like so many Jewish believers refusing to be called Christian, even though they are in Christ. God will not let either of these denials go through to the end.)
The conference manifesto, and Alex Awad’s telling of how this conference came to be, make it very clear that there are at least six underlying assumptions governing this bi-annual gathering till now:
1. a re-write of history and of identity, to ‘blot out Israel from being a nation anymore’; to invent, deny, reinvent their own history; revise Yeshua’s identity; steal from the Israeli and Jewish people’s identity
2. the Bible is not the basis of what we believe or of who we are
3. weakening Biblical support among especially western evangelical Christians towards Israel in God’s plans, which they refuse to accept how this also affects His plans for Christians and the Body of Messiah
4. weakening economic and political support for Israel among the nations of the world
5. reducing financial assistance from Christians to Israel and to Messianic believers and congregations and ministries, in order to increase financial assistance to ‘Palestine’ and Arab churches and ministries, rather than seeking blessing of this kind to all (A few years ago already, I sent out to our entire e-mail list that they should not neglect the Arab and Palestinian believers (for we are one Body), not in prayer nor in financial giving, realizing that this could cut into what small support that we ourselves receive, whether personally or whether as a congregation.)
6. modify the tone and tactics, but not the essence of what the intent of the conference is about, as plainly stated in their manifesto
All this reminds me of another scenario: a conference of believers, most of whom deny the deity of Jesus, but claiming that salvation is still through Him/him. They hold a conference which the outsiders don’t realize who and what is going on, but internally it causes an uproar within the Body of Christ here. They hold another conference, and invite a couple of belivers who do believe in Yeshua’s deity, but who are sympathetic to these others for relational reasons. They let these one or two speak what they believe, or on how important relationships are, but nothing is changed in the view that the ‘unbelievers’ have, and no one wants to be too judgmental because of its affect. Another conference is held: nothing has changed, but relationships are trumping truth. And the ‘unbelievers’ want their unbelief and concocted narrative to be just as valid as the truth that the believers hold with Holy Spirit confidence.
I understand that there is a difference between who Yeshua/Jesus really is, and what lack of understanding of what/who Israel is. The first is a salvation issue (even though the ‘unbelievers’ refuse to accept that); the other is not. That is why we break relationship and fellowship with those who deny the deity (and the humanity) of the Lord, but with the second group we may only stop ‘walking together’ at times. With the first group, we are not brothers in Messiah; with the second we can be. Love, truth, and righteousness all need to ‘be there’ for true unity and peace.
Just as there is no common ground with those who deny the true Jesus upon which to discuss the many questions that do arise for true believers, so it is not really possible to discuss the real issues of covenant faithfulness and of [God’s] justice with those who refuse to believe God’s word about the restoration of Israel as a nation, and, ultimately of the Kingdom of God to Israel, and over the nations, and to the entire world and universe. The entire creation is groaning until now for that day!
The last days will see an increasing deception, and the devil is after the elect, if possible. Some of these brothers are deceived and deceiving others; some are deliberately fabricating and leading others astray to follow after them. Some clearly love the Lord and the brethren.
I pray that you will have salt in you at the conference, and that the Holy Spirit will fill you to be a discerning, faithful witness regarding all things; and I look forward to hearing your reports.
Also, here are links to two excellent analyses: one, of the factors behind the increasing weakening of evangelical Christian support for Israel; and the second an outstanding research into the stated intentions of the CATC conference, and the subsequent results. (In referring to these links, it does not mean that I agree with all that either ministry otherwise necessarily ‘majors’ in.)