Wednesday 2 May 2012

The Church at Christ's Checkpoint

Dr Paul Wilkinson has published a devastating critique of the Christ at the Checkpoint conference, which took place from 5-9 March (during ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ and the Jewish festival of Purim) in Bethlehem. Wilkinson was almost unique among the conference attendees inasmuch as he disagreed with the ethos of the conference, and his report The Church at Christ’s Checkpoint makes disturbing reading.

Wilkinson, who coined the term ‘Christian Palestinianism’ for those in the Church who oppose the state of Israel, became a target at CATC for hostile attack by some of the conference organisers. His report demonstrates that CATC was not an isolated, self-contained conference with stand-alone presentations. Rather, CATC is linked to a highly sophisticated pro-Palestinian network and, in the case of some speakers, to anti-Semitic groups.

The Introduction to the document relates the story of how, ‘Early in 1932, Sir Oswald Mosley, the English fascist leader, attended a business dinner at the home of British industrialist, Zionist and philanthropist, Israel Sieff (of Marks and Spencer fame). Mosley was looking for financial support for his newly formed political party from the industrialists attending the dinner. He shared his plans for the New Party, stressing that “a new movement must find somebody or something to hate. In this case it should be the Jews.” Sieff writes: “He did not seem to think he had said anything particularly unacceptable, but the effect on the company was instant. I said, ‘I must ask you to leave, Sir Oswald’. He strode out… and I never saw him again.… Until that time I did not know what he felt about the Jews.”

‘There are many Christian Palestinianists, Christ at the Checkpoint speakers included,’ the Introduction continues ominously, ‘who do know what some of their “friends” feel about the Jews, and yet are still willing to engage with them in platform sharing, press conferencing, political rallying, petition signing, and policy making, if it serves their anti-Zionist purposes.’

The Church at Christ’s Checkpoint is available free of charge from Hazel Grove Full Gospel Church, 68 London Road, Hazel Grove, Stockport Cheshire, SK7 4AF, Tel: 0161 456 8393 or 0161 682 1157. It is also available to download in pdf format.


  1. There is always a danger that Christians might get caught up in political propaganda, and are often used by others towards that end. Perhaps this is what has happened in some of these instances. I would want to avoid such politicisation of the gospel message which should be one of bringing God's kingdom to bear upon situations - peace justice and reconcilliation to all sides. But I am also concerned about how Christian Zionists are caught up in a political struggle to support a largely secular state, one that is certainly not yet in Christ. Even for those who believe Israel is a state before God there is a need for the adoption of a prophetic approach which challenges the nation towards righteousness (i.e. see Jeremiah 38), and not a rubber-stamp approach which overlooks injustice.

    The main concern I would raise about this document is page 35, which suggests that Augustinianism, Calvinism, Fulfilment theology are part of a 'corrupt tree'. This attitude is in danger of cutting oneself off from all of Christendom and turning away from the Church, and even I detect a tendency amongst some CZs to love the State of Israel more than Jesus Christ.

    As someone brought up in the Devon Plymouth Brethren, I don't see myself as a strong Calvinist, but still we have much to learn from our spiritual forebears in the faith - we can't cut ourselves from our own roots and isolate ourselves - this was incidentally what happened with Darby's influence in the exclusive brethren. They cut themselves off from everyone and formed holy-huddle type bunkers. I know how it works, and CZs need to avoid that mistake.

    The main dialectic I see often is that developed by CZs who try and paint every one who is sceptical of modern zionism as holding to replacement theology and therefore is anti-semitic. I have tried to show how the doctrine of the emergence of the first century Church should be understood in terms of continuity and unity with faithful Messiah-led Israel in my book Zion's New Name.

    Incidentally, Calvin may even have been a Cohenite, and Augustine actually argued that Jews should be left alone as they attested to the truth of the Old Testament, and should not therefore be persecuted by Christians.
    Andrew Sibley

  2. Thanks Andrew, but you don't have to agree with everything Paul Wilkinson says to see the validiy of his position (just as you don't have to agree with every detail of Calvin's teaching or practice to be a Calvinist).

    I'm glad you see that Jews need the gospel. Apart from the fact that the 'Christ at the Checkpoint' organisers tell lies about Israel, none of them appear to have any concern for the salvation of the Jewish people. Indeed, Gary Burge told the conference about the 'fun' he had had teasing some ultra-Orthodox youngsters in Jerusalem.

    Toward the end of his talk, Burge imagined returning to the Old City of Jerusalem and speaking to the same young men again. What did he want to tell them? The message of Messiah? This is what Burge wanted to say to them:

    '"Is it possible for you guys to be a descendent of Abraham and not be his son?" Wow, would that be fun!.'

    He would tell them he was a son of Abraham despite his 'mostly Swedish' background.

    'I know that would start a really cool little debate', Burge fantasises. 'They'd say “What? are you crazy? Abraham was a Swede?” and I'd say, "No no, no, no. You guys don't get it. It's not about DNA. Abraham was the father of many nations and then we'd be living in John chapter eight [which describes Jesus' confrontation with the scribes and Pharisees] right on a Jerusalem street.

    'How cool is that? But why not throw caution to the wind. Just before I escape to the airport, I would tell them Jesus was the premier son of Abraham.

    'I'd tell them my Palestinian Christian friends here are also Abraham's children and if privileges are being connected to Abraham, I'll tell you what: "Maybe they [the Palestinian Christians] ought to be in your equation."

    Burge concludes his fantasy by telling the boys that, according to Paul, Abraham was the father of the both the circumcised and the uncircumcised.

    'And if I did this, I'm sure our little debate would really get going. And it would become stranger and stranger and more and more stressful ... because it would strike at the heart of so much grief in this part of the world.'

    This CATC key player would like to meet the Jewish youngsters again not because he had lost an opportunity to tell them about their Messiah but so he could have fun by demonstrating his superior theology.

    Pardon my Arabic, but Burge makes me sick.