Press Release

Statement by Religious Leaders from Various Churches Denouncing the Calls of the Temple Institute to perform the “Red Heifer Sacrifice”

Religious Leaders from various Churches have denounced calls of the radical Temple Institute to perform the “Red Heifer Sacrifice”, slated for April 22nd.  

Below is the full text of the statement and the signatories:

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you.’” — Psalm 122 

Joining together as Christians from the Holy Land and other parts of the world, we express our concern, dismay, and condemnation of Christian Zionist efforts to bring greater suffering and pain to Jerusalem. Any observer of events in the Holy Land today—a region including the State of Israel, the West Bank, occupied East Jerusalem, and Gaza—knows that its peoples are presently enduring great suffering. As Christians, we are called by our Lord to be peacemakers; we therefore condemn Christian Zionist efforts to promote greater war under the false banner of prophecy.

We have seen news of efforts by the Temple Institute, by any measure an extremist organization, aided by extremist Christian Zionists in the United States, to sacrifice what they claim to be a “red heifer” in the coming days. These groups claim that such a sacrifice is necessary to purify a priest who would then be designated “clean” to enter the Holy of Holies of the Jewish Temple.

This plan has many implications. It is part of the Temple Institute’s plans—supported more by Christian Zionists than by fellow Jews—to build the Third Temple. The group’s plans would require the relocation or destruction of Masjid al-Aqsa, including the Dome of the Rock, within the Haram al-Sharif. Such a plan is not only a great affront to the hope of multi-religious coexistence in Jerusalem but an invitation to regional, if not global, warfare. This plan, many years in the making, will transform the Israeli-Palestinian situation from being a political conflict into a religious conflict with no earthly solution.

While filling believers with expectations for the future, prophetic hope also involves temptations. As Jesus says in Matthew 18.7 and Luke 17.1, certain interpretations of God’s will can be stumbling blocks for faith. This is especially true when Christians are convinced that God is so poor that God needs our help to create miracles on earth. We are called to test every spirit (1 John 4.1). It is clear to us that a manufactured, genetically modified heifer intended to promote violence and unrest is no miracle from God.

As religious leaders, we are saddened to see the cynical self-interest at play in the relationship between the Temple Institute and its Christian Zionist supporters. Christian Zionist support for this plan is based on a warped Christian reading of the Scriptures (premillennial dispensationalism) that expects the Third Temple to be desecrated by the Antichrist before the Messiah comes. We understand our Christian faith to teach that Christ alone is our sacrifice, once, for all (2 Corinthians 5.21).

Thus, the Temple Institute and its Christian Zionist supporters have developed a relationship based on mutually instrumentalizing and exploiting one another—precisely the opposite of the human relationships toward which we are called.

In the face of this madness, we call on all persons of goodwill to condemn this plan by the Temple Institute to engage in a sacrifice of a so-called “red heifer.” Actions like this have been attempted in the past but in vain; they accomplish nothing except for escalating hatred, instability, and violence.

We especially call on Christians around the world to lovingly correct and reprove fellow Christians who have been deluded by any form of the imperialist, colonial, and war-promoting ideology of Christian Zionism. It is imperative that we inaugurate a global intra-Christian dialogue focused on the repudiation of Christian Zionism among other forms of theopoliticalextremism.

No religion—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam among them—has a monopoly on extremism. It is the responsibility of the faithful first to challenge extremists within their own traditions. Only then can we hope to build bridges with others. Today, the Christian Zionist promotion of further violence alongside what is credibly described as a genocidal assault on the people of Gaza presents an urgent challenge to Christians around the world.

We reject in the strongest terms any effort to make Jerusalem into an apocalyptic playground. The anti-Jewish and anti-Islamic prophetic fantasies promoted by many Christian Zionists view the Holy City as a place of war when God has called it to be a house of peace for all nations.

We call on all persons of goodwill to educate themselves on peacebuilding measures for the peoples of Holy Land.

We affirm the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s continued promotion, protection, and stewardship of the Historic Status Quo of the Holy Sites in Jerusalem, especially in the face of coordinated international threats to this peace-preserving order.

We urge all Christian leaders to consider the messages of the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem as well as messages coming from civil society organizations in the Holy Land that seek to promote human rights, peace based on justice, and wellbeing for all people rather than one group alone.

H.B. Michel Sabbah
Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Emeritus

Bishop Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit

Presiding Bishop, Church of Norway

H.E. Christophoros Atallah
Greek Orthodox Archbishop and Head of the Jordan Churches Council Bishop

The Right Rev. Dr. Carmen Lansdowne
44th Moderator, The United Church of Canada

Kari Mangrud Alvsvåg

Bishop, Church of Norway

H.E. William Shomali
Patriarchal Vicar for Jerusalem and Palestine, Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem

Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan
Former President, Lutheran World Federation

Rev. Prof. Dr. Robert O. Smith
Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod, ELCA

Canon Dr. Naim S. Ateek
Founder, Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center

Rev. Dr. Mark S. Hanson
Former Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Rev. Prof. Dr. Mitri Raheb

Founder & President, Dar al-Kalima University

Ineke Medcalf
Founder, Niagara Movement for Justice in Palestine-Israel

Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac
Founder, Christ at the Checkpoint
Kairos Palestine

Rev. Prof. Dr. Chris Ferguson
Former General Secretary, World Communion of Reformed Churches
International Visiting Professor, Universidad Reformada, Colombia

Rev. Dr. Jack Sara
President, Bethlehem Bible College

Rev. Dr. Shanta Premawardhana
President, OMNIA Institute for Contextual Leadership

Rev. Atle Sommerfeldt

Bishop Emeritus, Church of Norway

Rev. Hans-Erik Nordin

Bishop Emeritus, Svenska Kyrkan

Rev. Dr. Larry Greenfield

Chairperson, OMNIA Institute for Contextual Leadership

Executive Director Emeritus, Parliament of the WorldsReligions

Rev. Dr. Trond Bakkevig

Canon, Church of Norway

Prof. Dr. Paul Knitter

Professor Emeritus, Union Theological Seminary

Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla

Former Executive Director for the Global Mission and Service and Justice Unites, ELCA

Rev. Ashraf Tannous

Pastor, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land

Rev. Dr. Evangeline Anderson-Rajkumar

Pastor, St Paul Lutheran Church, Olean

Rev. Ramez Ansara

Union of Congregations of Helsinki

Dr. Marthie Momberg

Stellenbosch University, Nelson Mandela University, South Africa

Rev. Pertti Ruotsalo

Vicar General, OSMTH Finland

Omar Haramy

Director, Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center

Dr. Theol. Martín Hoffmann

Prof. emer. Universidad Bíblica Latinoamericana, Costa Rica

Bergljot Urdahl

Physiotherapist, YM-YWCA of Norway

Alice Goodman

Reader, Scots Kirk Lausanne/International Presbytery Church of Scotland

Melissa Yarbray

Regional Coordinator Southern California, Churches for Middle East Peace

Desmond Sequeira

Niagara Movement for Justice in Palestine-Israel (NMJPI)

Dr. Paul A. Wee

Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Craig L. Nessan

Professor of Contextual Theology and Ethics, Wartburg Theological Seminary

Rev. Conrad Braaten


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