Unification News for May 2003
ACLC Pilgrimage to Israel
by Rev. Michael Jenkins
On Friday, May 16, the ACLC group visited to the church of St. Peter in Gallicantu. It is built over the foundation of the house of Caiaphas the Chief Priest of Israel. This is where Jesus was led to be scourged and directly questioned by Caiaphas. (This was the place where Caiaphas' house was located -- the dungeon and torture chamber was located in the under his house. We went down into the dungeon in which Jesus was held and questioned for the last time. Bishop Stallings led our prayer. People are weeping and crying out at the suffering of our Lord. To look at the dungeon in which Jesus was held and questioned. It was unbelievable. Then we walked on the same stone steps from 2000 years ago where Jesus walked the night before he was crucified. It was recorded in Luke 22:61 that Peter followed him to this place and waited while he was beaten and questioned inside, it was there that Peter denied three times that he knew him. Jesus somehow turned and saw him after he had done this as it is recorded in Luke.
The Clergy are having a most profound experience in the Holy Land. God prepared these pastors by having them follow True Parents since the inception of the American Clergy Leadership Conference in May of 2000. This three year journey since then has prepared the clergy for this moment. Now, they are ready to embrace the first Israel.
On Saturday we went to the sea of Galilee and read the scriptures of the times when Jesus was there. We had fellowship on the boat ride across the sea and the clergy could feel the love of God and the presence of Jesus. Then at Capernaum we saw the house of Peter and the foundation of the very temple in which Jesus preached the gospel. Then on to the Mt. of Beatitudes and there we read the sermon on the Mount that Jesus gave there.
Upon our return that night we felt the presence of God. Still everyone also felt serious about the mission before us. Though the clergy were exhausted, I gave the parallels of history and Rev. Schanker gave a very powerful Mission of Jesus. We went until 11pm. The clergy were soaked in the word and continually guided to be like Jacob toward Esau, humble and sacrificial and bowing before him to win his elder brothers heart.
Bury the Cross
A great deal of sacrifice occurred on Sunday morning, May 18, as we were burying the Cross. Seven Israelis died from a suicide bomber just a few blocks from our hotel. Also Bishop C. Phillip Johnson, one of our national ACLC executive committee, had a life-threatening illness and had to be rushed to the hospital. Right at the end of the conference he revived and was able to rejoin us. We know that all of these historic events are occurring based on immense indemnity conditions set by True Parents in the last 40 days. True Father overcame a life-and-death battle, a trial to directly plant the condition of his indemnity in the Middle East to reconcile the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths.
Our particular focus here has been the unity of Christianity and Judaism. A conference was held in the same hotel that we have stayed in for the last few days, the Hyatt Regency in Jerusalem. Hotels are almost empty in Israel because of the terrorism. The bombing near our hotel prevented our guests, the rabbis and representatives of the Jewish community, from coming on time. Nevertheless, they had courage and they came. Over 120 representatives of the Jewish faith and leadership came for the one-day symposium.
Dr. Yang gave a powerful opening address, calling for unity of Jews and Christians, based on understanding our common faith in God. We are calling for reconciliation and for love based on Christians taking down their crosses and repenting for the fact that they did not understand that Jesus should have lived and been received by Israel. Also he called on the Jewish leaders to understand that now is the time to come together and embrace Jesus. The two brother religions should become one. This will be the basis for the healing of the struggle between the Moslem and Jewish communities.
Very significant rabbis attended and were presenters on the program. A major figure who is an Ambassador for Peace, Dr. Glaubach, gave a welcoming address. The opening session was chaired by Dr. Frank Kaufmann, entitled "Forgiveness, Love and Reconciliation." Archbishop Stallings gave the opening talk in this first session and we could see how God is with us. The Archbishop walked a very narrow road of inspiring the Christian leaders who were there, while at the same time inspiring the Jewish leaders to set aside our differences and come together not simply in love but also in common faith in God, knowing that our two religions were both created by the same God and that Christianity is the younger brother. Archbishop Stallings stepped out of the box and said we as Christians have not understood the meaning of the cross. Therefore, to set a condition for reconciliation we took our crosses down and came to Israel with a humble heart seeking our elder brother. He also said that we Christians must repent for the Holocaust and for all the anti-Semitism that occurred throughout history. He called upon the rabbis there to please forgive us.
At the same time he also called on the rabbis to really understand that Jesus wanted to be loved by his people, that he was sent by God to build the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, and if there could have been understanding at that time, the kingdom would have come. Therefore, if understanding can be fostered at this time concerning Jesus and Christianity and Israel, then the Kingdom of God can be expanded upon the earth. The anointing of Archbishop Stallings was profound. It completely transformed the audience. [One clear sensitivity that was expressed by our FFWP representatives from Israel was that we must embrace and give truth in a way that does not make the Jewish guests feel pressure because in the past many times Christians tried to convert them by preaching at them.] Archbishop Stallings succeeded in this mission and the whole atmosphere was transformed. We knew that True Parents' indemnity covered everything. It was like a dream.
However, there was also a tremendous storm going on. The bombing occurred in the morning; then during the day a radical Jewish group tried at three different times to break into the hotel to stop the conference. In 1993 the same group was able to force the hotel that was hosting True Mother on her speaking tour to cancel right at the last moment. Our members approached 15 other hotels but no one would receive True Mother. Finally a hotel owned by Palestinians received True Mother and the event was a success. However, we were reminded of the courage of our True Parents, the heart of True Mother to go into these impossible situations where danger existed everywhere. At the hotel the event was put together at the last possible minute -- the video even had to be shown with two brothers holding up a white sheet as a screen. Rev. Kwak and Rev. Peter Kim had to set up the microphones. Things were very, very unstable. Yet True Mother spoke courageously and boldly and fulfilled her mission and responsibility. In these important countries we realize that her world tours had far more sacrifice connected to them, far more indemnity for our True Parents than we ever knew. Mother was truly protected by God.
We found this to be the same for our conference. The same group attacked our conference three times, passing out leaflets, trying to enter in, trying to get the hotel to cancel. The former president of our WFWP in Israel was also the chief of our security and this blessed sister stood strong and kept them from entering. Finally when they made a third attempt, she called the police, and interestingly the police called the Border Patrol, which is a unit of the Israeli Army, and the army came to protect our conference. Inside the hotel the conference was tranquil, but on the outside a ranging storm was going on, unbeknownst to most of the guests.
The conference had its own spiritual turmoil. Our objective and challenge was that the Jewish and Christian leaders would come together to affirm certain things about Jesus and receive and honor his messianic role in a loving way. Archbishop Stallings opened the doors wide. A leading rabbi who has spoken with Archbishop Stallings at international conferences in the past was deeply moved by the his spirit and presence and his love for Father and Mother Moon. This rabbi, who is prominent in Israel, somehow has been touched by True Parents. He gave a speech with great depth and understanding of the reality that God is working through Judaism and Christianity, saying that most of our scriptures have the same contents. If we can live those contents then we can come together. He also was extremely respectful and embracing of the ten sheiks and imams who attended, some of whom are Palestinian.
We truly could see from this experience that the religious leaders can and do want to come together. The extreme violence that takes place in the communities is not from the heart of the religion. It's coming from people who misunderstand the scriptures or use the scriptures for their own misguided purpose.
We had discussion groups around tables just as we've done at ACLC conferences, which was invaluable for us to know each other. There were 251 guests -- 131 Christian leaders and 120 rabbis and Jewish leaders. Around the tables we discussed prepared questions, such as how forgiveness can help us come together, and have you ever forgiven or loved a person from another religion. This kind of question led to a positive dialogue and discussion. We broke for lunch and many of our representatives stayed together with their Israeli counterparts. However, some people were still reticent and had a tendency to sit with people they were more familiar with.
The second session began with a famous professor who was a former city councilman of Jerusalem. Next Dr. Andrew Wilson gave his paper on how the cross, as explained by James Carroll in his book "Constantine's Sword," is a direct barrier to Jewish-Christian unity. Dr. Wilson had tremendous courage and marched out into the very deep water of presenting why Jesus was rejected and why Jesus must also be embraced in order for Christianity and Judaism to unite and work together in heart. He also highlighted the failure of Christianity to truly love its spiritual origins in Judaism and the Old Testament. It was a serious presentation that had profound impact on the audience. The discussion after the second plenary was far more challenging, and yet somehow the spirit of peace remained with us.
The Jerusalem Declaration
Then Archbishop Stallings was called upon to introduce the Jerusalem Declaration, written by representatives of ACLC, Dr. Kaufmann, Dr. Wilson, Rev. Jenkins, Dr. Yang, Rev. Daugherty, Archbishop Stallings, Rev. Hod, our president in Israel, and Dr. Abe, the national messiah to Israel. The first paragraph reads, "In a spirit of understanding, harmony and reconciliation, believers from both families of Judaism and Christianity wish to repent for the dark parts of our past and to seek a bright future together, caring for the plight of all who suffer and long for a better world. Assembled in the holy city of Jerusalem, in the land where God chose His covenant people and sent His prophets to purify our faith and lead us in paths of righteousness, on this 18th day of May, 2003, for the sake of God and a world of peace and love for all humankind, we join together with one heart to declare:".
The declaration goes on to highlight faith in God, that both faiths have suffered unspeakable horrors for the sake of their respective faith; that we wish to cleanse our lives and all future history from the moments of not loving innocent people; when our faiths have been persecuted and also have persecuted others. We want to work together with the prophets and saints and sages and founders of our religions who are now in the spirit world in order to usher in an age of peace and goodwill. We Christian believers repent that we have celebrated what was actually the moment of God's greatest sorrow by glorifying the execution which ended Jesus' physical life, shattered the dream and promise of the prophets, and blocked the coming of God's kingdom for 2,000 years. During this time we have too many times failed to embody the love of Jesus and instead perpetrated a history of anti-Semitism. For this we repent. We Jews as God's chosen people want to open our hearts to God to see ancient events with His eyes and liberate ourselves once and for all from this burden of the crucifixion. This simple, innocent Jewish young man, Yeshua, was loved by God and the one in whom He placed his hopes and dreams, but he was not received by the rich and powerful among his own people. For the sake of their own status and comfort they turned him over to be executed by a hateful foreign power. For this we repent. On this day we have devoted ourselves anew to living your will. We affirm the work of Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon to bring our families of faith together. We will make one family of God with the blessing of True Parents to establish a world of peace and ideal families.
Archbishop Stallings introduced the resolution. It wasn't easy. He invited the main rabbi up on stage, and then God worked a miracle. One Ambassador for Peace, Dr. Shalev, was assisting Rev. Porter from Chicago to hold up the declaration, which was printed on a 3.5 x 2.5 foot poster. Because Dr. Shalev happened to be standing next to this leading rabbi, he could give him a clear explanation of the declaration in Hebrew, tremendously helping the rabbi. Some rabbis were upset that the declaration would even be considered, but when Archbishop Stallings asked this prominent rabbi in front of 250 people to come together with him to sign the declaration, in a moment inspired by God he replied, I will sign it if my Moslem brother will sign it with me. The sheik stood up with courage and marked forward and all three signed the Jerusalem Declaration. This opened the floodgates and everyone rushed to the front to sign. There was an overwhelming feeling that a victory for True Parents has been accomplished substantially.
The concluding banquet had an overwhelming feeling of victory and joy. Dr. Abe, Dr. Yang, Pastor T.L. Barrett, and a prominent rabbi gave short addresses. The rabbi called us to be serious and understand the suffering that was going on. He brought forward a family from his synagogue who had just recently lost their 19-year-old son to a terrorist bombing. The father came up and told us that his family was at the hospital when his son was dying, and the doctor came to him and said, if you sign this paper then your son's organs can be used to save an 8-year old Palestinian girl. Will you do so? The father took a moment and prayed and said, yes, I want to let my son's life help someone else live. He signed the paper and this 19-year-old Jewish boy's organs were donated and the Palestinian girl lived.
These are the stories we need to understand that are going on in Jerusalem, both on the Palestinian side and the Jewish side. The people and the religious leaders do not want the conflict that is occurring now, but without a deep moving of the Holy Spirit there can be no healing that will penetrate all the way to the point of conflict. This is something the political leaders cannot do. It can only come from the religious side. We saw that the rabbi was teaching this family well.
Rev. Jenkins spoke, giving a Power-Point Presentation showing ministers taking down the cross, praying at Paul's prison, praying where Jesus was in prison, and then saying that we came to Israel to become one, that Christians must learn from our elder brothers. There's a scripture that says one day strangers will come to Jerusalem and hold onto the coats of the rabbis. Rev. Jenkins called the main rabbi and said, I want to hold onto your coat to learn the ancient scriptures. Will you teach us? The rabbi held up his coat and said yes. Rev. Jenkins went over and held the coat of the rabbi. This kind of spirit was guiding everything.
In conclusion, Rev. Jenkins called on Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders to follow the True Parents, who have a messianic anointing to bless the family and to lead the three religions descending from Abraham into the Kingdom of God. Many participants were crying, many were deeply moved. Rev. Jenkins showed pictures of the blessing of True Parents, particularly the Sept.14, 2002 blessing with Moslem leaders, Christian leaders and Jewish leaders praying over the couples, and a beautiful picture of True Parents conducting the prayer of blessing. Rev. Jenkins concluded with a call for a new Israel formed from the three religions descended from Abraham -- Christianity, Judaism, and Islam -- to rise up.
The Holy Spirit touched everyone. People didn't want to leave. People were overwhelmed. A great blessing of God had occurred and the anointing was upon us. We stayed for 2 hours afterward. One rabbi came forward and said, I now accept Rabbi Jesus and I welcome him back home. The head rabbi held up his coat and said, for the first time in my life I could see what God wants to do through Christianity. If Christianity was like the spirit at this evening's banquet then I can see Christianity and Judaism uniting as one and everything could be solved. I really was touched by God. He was deeply moved. Rev. Jenkins said to the rabbi, for us to come together we have to repent for not understanding that Jesus should have lived and been loved by his family in Israel. For us to come together we have to love Moses, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and love Jesus. Rabbi, will you join me in loving Jesus? In front of the audience the rabbi said, yes.
An incredible spirit led us to this moment. We know that it is founded on True Parents' way of indemnity and their lifelong teaching and wisdom. From this holy place of Jerusalem I now call upon the Second Israel to rise, to fulfill our destiny connected with Cheon Il Guk, that every blessed central family must become a temple of God and live according to the teaching of God. We must restore all the historical failures of the three religions descending from Abraham and bring about a new day of God's blessing and peace through the blessing of marriage. Rev. Jenkins also showed pictures from the blessing of Archbishop Stallings and told how Pastor Barrett's marriage was healed, and called upon those present to join this new family movement while keeping their own faith tradition. Father Moon does not try to convert. He tries to show how God is working through each religion when we come together.
Now we call upon our blessed central families and Christian leaders in America to rise and join with the first Israel so we can embrace the sons of Ishmael and reconcile our sad history, opening a new history in the Kingdom of God. Thank you for your prayers, America.
Sadly, another bomb went off today, so our work is not yet done, but the seed of God's Kingdom has now been blessed by the rabbis from Judaism, the Christian leaders who took down their crosses, and the imams who signed the Jerusalem Declaration. The seed of the Kingdom of God has now been planted forever in Israel.
Archbishop Stallings' Reflection:
The American Clergy Leadership Conference accomplished an historic mission in Jerusalem in this gathering with Jewish rabbis and leaders as well as a small delegation of Muslims who were present for the symposium on Jewish-Christian reconciliation.
The ACLC expressed its profound gratitude to the Jewish community for being the foundation of faith on which Christianity has been built, and also expressed its deepest sorrow and repentance for all of the pain and suffering that the Jewish people have experienced as a result of our ignorance and the misunderstanding that fostered a climate of anti-Semitism in America and around the world.
The ACLC believes that the beginnings of a continued relationship of brotherhood with the people of Israel will continue as we work together to grow in mutual understanding and appreciation of each other's religious heritage and tradition, to challenge one another to re-examine the life of Jesus in a new context as we work together to restore the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.
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