In response to Rev. Robert Stearns’ scheduled appearance as a panelist at the 7th Annual Jerusalem Conference, Jewish Israel recently released a report on some of Stearns’ missionary activities and connections in Israel. We were in contact with a main organizer of the event and expressed our reservations regarding a missionary presence in a conference which “ is dedicated to the promotion of Jewish heritage and values and to Israel’s future as a viable, modern, democratic and Jewish state. “
Stearns, a regional director of CUFI and founder of Eagles’Wings Ministries, did appear at last week’s conference. Jewish Israel offers the following synopsis and commentary on some of the major points covered in his remarks as a panelist in the forum, “The Future of U.S. –Israel Relations”:
Stearns, a passionate speaker, received very healthy applause as a welcome and applause periodically erupted throughout his address.
He began by making mention of the “hundreds of millions” of evangelicals supporting a democratic, Jewish Israel and an undivided Jerusalem.
[JI comments: Those figures are of interest, as Pastor Hagee of CUFI claims 50 million evangelicals. Meanwhile the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) claims to represent 420 million and that organization has issued a statement on behalf of their constituency calling for ongoing efforts to evangelize the Jews. Stephen Strang, another CUFI regional director, has endorsed that statement].
Stearns spoke briefly of “Rosh Chodesh Adar”, Purim, “Hamans in every generation” and “Hashem’s” presence.
He then went on to say that with all due respect to the great efforts of the Jewish community in America, he would argue that it is the evangelicals and the evangelical culture which is to be credited for America’s staunch support of Israel (for emphasis, Stearns repeats this comment later in his address - perhaps to stress how terribly dependent Israel is on evangelical support.) He illustrated how engrained evangelical religious culture is in America’s heart and background by speaking about Bill Clinton and the directives he received from his dying Southern Baptist pastor - never to abandon Israel.
[JI comments: 1)While a spirit of evangelism and a fascination with the biblical land of Israel can certainly be credited - to a significant degree - with the staunch support Israel has received from certain sectors in America, it is simply wrong for evangelicals to diminish or to try and supersede the great efforts and role played by the American Jewish community. 2) Stearns’ use of Clinton’s pastor as an example of the depth of evangelical influence tends to backfire when one considers the devastating foreign policy initiatives and consequences that Presidents Clinton and Carter (“America’s first evangelical president”) brought upon Israel.]
Stearns went on to say that evangelical Christianity is the only growing brand of Christianity in the world and that it is spreading exponentially in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
And then he dropped the bomb…
He cautioned that at this point in time “the evangelical movement is in a place of shifting”. He spoke about “the emergence of a new evangelical left”, “the new progressive evangelicals”, and that they have “a very different view of Israel. He said it was vital to be aware of these forces which are ostensibly operating under “an evangelical umbrella”.
[JI Comments: This writer addressed this exact issue in an article called “Theo-political Climate Change” written in September 2007. Rabbi Riskin’s wishful thinking of a new era in Jewish –Christian relations may be premature, as even his good friend Robert Stearns is feeling the potential chill.]
To combat the leftward trend and to ensure ongoing evangelical support Stearns suggested the following formula:
1) Seek out young emerging evangelical leaders and bring them to Israel at an early age (he mentioned how seeing Israel and praying at the Kotel had changed him).
2) Build bridges for travel and bring pastors to Israel (he mentioned how he had just sent a group of 130 pastors, whom he had traveled with, home. But before leaving they had signed a 3 foot high “covenant” of support for Israel).
[JI comments: With regards to point 1), The combination of dangling the threat of the new evangelical left over Israel’s head with the remedy of Israel’s needing to involve even more pastors and church leadership in the Jewish State sounds like it could have been a calculated move to advance Daniel Ayalon’s proposal of special status for the evangelical church (a main component of which involves longer stays and easier and additional visas for church clergy).
With regards to point 2), one would hope that the Jewish people value the quality of their covenants, not the size. It may be time to do away with mega mock-ups of cardboard checks and other such grandiose displays. By toning down the pretentiousness, we may be better able to judge the sincerity and intentions of the alliance]
Stearns concluded with the standard but rousing pledges of “unconditional support” and a promise that the church will no longer be a part of the “sin of silence” which was characteristic of the 1930’s. “For Zion’s sake…”
He received loud and extended applause. Immediately afterward, Daniel Ayalon made his way over to Stearns and embraced him.