WASHINGTON – A well-known, outspoken group of Christian Zionists is being criticized by an ecumenical organization of churches for its "uncritical" support of Israel, as it kicked-off the first day of its annual gathering in the nation's capital on Monday.
The National Council of Churches USA (NCC), a coalition of 35 denominations representing 45 million members, says many Christians have a different opinion of Israel than Pastor John Hagee's Christians United for Israel (CUFI).
Among the points of contention is CUFI's "uncritical" support for the State of Israel based on a literal reading of biblical apocalyptic texts, argues NCC.
"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, in a statement.
And "CUFI stands apart from the historic Churches still present in the Holy Land," he added. "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."
Pastor John C. Hagee is the founder and senior pastor of the Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas – a non-denominational evangelical church with over 18,000 members. He has received numerous recognitions for his vocal support of Israel, believing that Jews continue to be favored by God by grace despite their unbelief in Jesus.
Hagee rejects the replacement theory which says that the new covenant presented in the New Testament given to the Church replaces the old covenant given only to Israel.
While the NCC noted that its members also support Israel, it is critical of the Israel-occupied Palestinian territories. NCC advocates for a two-state solution of a secure Israel alongside a Palestinian state.
"Only a just solution will bring peace to the Middle East," said Kireopoulos.
A fairly new critic of Israel, who previously had a history of strong support, has also been expressing her opposition to Christians giving "blind support" to the country when it is wrong.
Award-winning talk show host Janet Parshall has criticized Israel's parliament for condemning groups that share the Gospel. The Knesset Christian Allies Caucus – a group in the Israeli parliament that seeks to build cooperation between the parliament and Christian leader – does not associate with groups that share the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In addition, an Israeli political party had introduced a legislation in the Knesset which would punish someone for sharing the Gospel in Israel for up to a one-year prison sentence.
"I thought, wait a minute, we can't just blindly support Israel," she said, according to OneNewsNow.com.
Parshall subsequently withdrew from speaking at a Jerusalem conference sponsored by the Knesset Christian Allies Caucus.
Christian Zionists are often characterized by "a kind of blind support that says no matter what Israel does, Israel can do no wrong," noted Parshall.
"I don't believe that of our government and I certainly don't believe that of the Israeli government. And friends tell friends, in love, when they see things that they think are wrong," she added.
Christians are arguably Israel's strongest and most vocal supporters in the world with American evangelicals making up 1/3 of American tourists that visit Israel, second only to American Jews.
CUFI is hosting its 2nd annual Israel/Washington DC Summit July 16-19. Pro-Israel churches, ministries, and individuals will hear from speakers such as Sen. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, former speaker of the house Newt Gingrich, and former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. The gathering will also include a lobby day on Capitol Hill for participants to meet their representatives to press for support of Israel.