As you may have guessed, I am not a fan of CatC.
Precisely because I am deeply committed to the unity of the Body of Messiah, Jews and Arabs, and to promoting fruitful fellowship and mutual service in the Lord,
I am not a fan of CatC...
First of all, because I have read the articles of speakers and Organizing Committee members from 2010 CatC when they were much less guarded about their stridently anti-Israel, Replacement and Liberation Theology positions.
Speaking on the overall themes of "Theology in the Service of Peace and Justice" CatC 2010 plenary speakers regaled us with the fact that all of Askenazi Jewry was in fact descended not from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but from "from an East European tribe who converted to Judaism in the Middle Ages" and therefore without any claim or connection to the promises given to the Patriarchs (Mitri Raheb, p. 1, "Contextual Palestinian Theology as it Deals with Realities on the Ground"). Mitri Raheb insisted that his DNA was closer to that of David and Jesus than Netanyahu's is, being from Bethlehem. At the same conference Naim Atik wrote, "So, for us, Jesus was a Palestinian who lived in Palestine" (Naim Atik, "Contextual Theology as it deal with realities on the ground").
Alex Awad attributed an immense "volume of death, destruction and suffering" to Evangelical "support for the Israeli war machine and the settlement policies." Nevertheless, he insists, "I do not advocate replacement theology; meaning that God has rejected the Jewish people and replaced them with the church. I espouse a theology of inclusion." By which he means that individual Jews are allowed to believe and be included in the Church (he quotes Gal. 3 and John 1; Awad, p. 10-12). The Church, in Awad's theology, is the sole redemptive instrument in God's program, rendering null and void all the national promises for the Jewish People--which IS Replacement Theology. If Awad were not a trained theologian, he could be excused as ignorant; but he knows exactly what he is saying and he is deliberately using misleading language for partisan, polemical purposes.
Gary Burge at CatC2012 used the same "bait-and-switch" technique by insisting that he opposed Replacement Theology, believing instead in "Fulfillment Theology": that is, that all the promises and purposes of Israel have been fulfilled in Jesus, leaving nothing for the nation of Israel except the option of individual salvation--even if on a large scale (Rom. 11:26)--in the Church (Burge, Q&A session, CatC2012). That is classic Supercessionism, Replacement Theology pure and simple. Burge is not a fool, but he is convinced that those who believe in Israel's national future and divine destiny are, and he treats them as such. This was and is the consensus view of the CatC organizers (see Manifesto).
Secondly, I am not a fan of CatC because the theme of "reconciliation" which so dominated the airwaves at CatC2012 had already been previewed by Salim Munayer at CatC2010and found wanting. It is wanting because it (1) demands the practical rejection of Israel's national role and promises in the redemptive plan of God (i.e. Replacement Theology) as the basis of reconciliation between believers and (2) it replaces a biblical model of reconciliation with a secular counterfeit which--in spite of "language" to the contrary--sets aside faith in the Messiah and the truth of His Word as the ground of all true reconciliation.
Salim Munayer was the only speaker at CatC 2010 to address the topic of "reconciliation" (Salim Munayer, "From Land of Strife to Land of Reconciliation"). But in fact Salim spent the first two-thirds of his paper launching a frontal attack on the biblical basis for Israel's claim to the Land, first of all by denying that the promises given to the patriarch's were unconditional ("God’s promise of the Land to the Israelites is often seen as an unconditional promise, but adopting this attitude is dangerous as well as unbiblical." Munayer, p. 3). He goes on to deny that the promise of the Land related to the people of Israel specifically or to the Land of Canaan specifically. Instead, Munayer claims, the promise related to the whole earth and it was made to mankind as a whole--to be enjoyed by those who believe no matter what their ethnic background ("Within this context, they are meant to indicate not only the Promised Land, but the whole world. It is a universal claim that stretches across the whole earth." Munayer, p. 8; and "However, since the promises made to Abraham by God have now been extended to include the whole world, and all believers in Christ the Messiah, continued focus on 'obsolete territorial land covenant ignores to a large extent Christ’s new covenant of God’s Kingdom that through his spirit encompasses all believers everywhere'.'" Munayer, pp. 11-12).
As far as the Land promise to Israel is concerned, Salim replaces Israel with the Church and the Land has been replaced by the "world" which is the Kingdom of God.
In other words, for the 'Land of Strife' to become a 'Land of Reconciliation', Israeli Messianic Jews and Christian Zionists must give up their faulty theology, abandon all faith in the fulfillment of God's promises to the nation of Israel (they are illusory, says Munayer), and pursue peace in a spiritual, universal context alone. Palestinian Arabs, on the other hand, are left free to pursue their "inalienable rights" to the Land uninhibited by the claims of the Jewish people or the promises of God.
The last section of Munayer's paper, the "reconciliation" part, uses a series of highly imbalanced, inaccurate, and ultimately anti-Jewish comparisons in order to show how each side 'needs to acknowledge the other's suffering'. In this section, the suffering of Palestinians in the "Nakba" is made equivalent to the suffering of the Jews in the Holocaust (Munayer, p. 18). Justification for Jewish settlement of the Land is limited to European guilt for the Holocaust, concerning which, according to Munayer, "the Palestinians were forced to pay the full price for a debt they had not incurred." (p. 17). Israel, is described as guilty of many sins, including "'obsessive, excessive, measures about terrorism, the endless fencing in, the interrogations, the legal justification of torture...the discriminations against Israeli Palestinians, the fear and contempt, the bellicosity,' all aimed at the Palestinians…" (Munayer, p. 17). But what about Palestinian guilt? Salim writes: "The list of “sins” is long for the other side as well. The Arab nations have been guilty of perpetuating the conflict in a number of ways, and for using it as an excuse for their own mismanagement." (ibid.). No, in fact it is only the "Arab nations" who are guilty, the Palestinians are portrayed only as victims, innocent lambs caught between a ravenous wolf (Israel) and an indolent shepherd (the Arab nations).
When Munayer finally gets to Palestinian guilt, it is limited primarily to passivity: "In addition to accepting the murder of innocent civilians as a legitimate form of self-defense, they have also been guilty of self-pity, victimization, and demonization of the Israeli people. Palestinians have also failed to recognize the very real historical and spiritual attachment the Jewish people have to the Land, and they need to find a way to acknowledge the history of Jewish suffering." (p. 18; my emphasis). Who actually committed those acts of "murder of innocent civilians" which the Palestinians merely "accepted" (a terrible sin indeed!)? So much for "even-handed treatment"!
According to Munayer, reconciliation requires acknowledging the other side's suffering, which--as he describes it-- is clearly a much more challenging task for the Palestinian (or for the Evangelical Christian in the States), seeing the overwhelming evil of Israel and the Jews in contrast to the pitiable Palestinians. This, of course, was the whole context and purpose of CatC2012 (and 2010): Help the Evangelicals experience the suffering of their Palestinian brothers at the checkpoint; interpret their experience for them: "the sole cause of Palestinian suffering is, in fact, the evil Israeli apartheid occupation!"; and then flood them with "biblical answers to Christian Zionism" (Sizer, Kohl, Burge, etc) so they will never read their Bible the same way again. What's left? To take 60 Wheaton College students to demonstrate at Maasara with Anarchists Against the Wall (Here) and send them home as ambassadors for the cause.
And that's called "promoting reconciliation."
Should it surprise us that Salim's organization is also promoting "reconciliation" with Muslims, apart from faith in Yeshua? (see Musalaha Prayer letter, 20.8.2010). (Contra 2 Corinthians 6:14–15)
Similarly, CatC 2012's commitment to "reconciliation" is a mantra disconnected from God's truth. Radical Islam's attacks are blamed on their victims. CatC reconciliation is a coming together of every nation, tongue, tribe, and religion, without kneeling at the feet of Yeshua, without submitting to those parts of His Word that 'we don't like' (the "2/3" Bible, and those inconvenient "Jewish" passages of the New Covenant). "Set "theology" aside and we can get along just fine!" God forbid!
I believe that the greatest danger of the CatC conference and those who promote its agenda is precisely in distracting us from the essentials (the Great Commission) to focus on politics--even if framed as "peace, justice and reconciliation". It is always a dangerous exchange and is inherently divisive and polarizing, as this conference has proven to be. True biblical reconciliation will always be based on recognizing our own depravity (not just the other guy's; Eph. 2:1-3); the absolute necessity of Messiah's ongoing redemption in our lives (Eph. 2:4-10); and finding our identity, meaning, purpose, and unity in Him and the proclamation of His Gospel (Eph. 2:11-3:14)--not in national or political or social agreement, which is a humanistic counterfeit for God's transforming work.
God's "ministry of reconciliation" is reconciliation to God Himself by faith in Yeshua who makes us new creatures empowered by the Spirit to love and serve Him together in unity (II Cor. 5:17-21).
There are many significant works in the Land which bring together believing Jews and Arabs in holy and joyous fellowship: King's Kids, The Galilee Gatherings, Israel College of the Bible, SAYF and many joint cooperative outreaches of the National Evangelism Committee and various Arab congregational evangelistic initiatives, to name just a few. They all focus on preaching the Gospel, edifying the body, growing in grace, and serving together--not on "reconciliation"--and yet that is the blessed result.
May the Lord help us be about these things!