Also see Part 1: “Commentary: Assembly of God (AOG) General Council to Vote on Resolution Against Israel ” and Part 3: “A Further Unveiling of Assemblies of God Resolution 3 & the Serious Implications”
By the Editors at Lighthouse Trails
On July 28th, Lighthouse Trails posted a commentary by Lighthouse Trails author Cedric Fisher titled “Assembly of God (AOG) General Council to Vote on Resolution Against Israel.” This commentary set off a fire storm on the Internet, and on Saturday July 29th, Lighthouse Trails editors received an e-mail from Dr. George Wood (General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God). Dr. Wood is familiar with Lighthouse Trails because of a controversy in 2013 where Dr. Wood gave his blessing and permission for contemplative emergent Ruth Haley Barton to speak at the 2013 AoG General Council Conference resulting in some Lighthouse Trails articles addressing the seriousness of such promotion.
Shortly after Lighthouse Trails editors received the e-mail from Dr. Wood on the 29th regarding our recent posting of Cedric Fisher’s commentary, we learned that the e-mail was being distributed on the Internet. Because Dr. Wood has made his e-mail public, we are responding in the public arena; and because his e-mail stated that the commentary we posted is “false, meretricious, and slanderous,” we are compelled to issue this response. Below is Dr. Wood’s e-mail to Lighthouse Trails editors in its entirety (in black bold) along with response comments by us in indented non-bold green paragraphs. (After you have read this section, please see a response written by Cedric Fisher regarding Dr. Wood’s e-mail.)
Dr. George Wood’s e-mail to Lighthouse Trails:
I don’t know exactly who to address this to, so I have included all the email contact points provided on your website.
I am asking you to retract and apologize for the totally incorrect article you published on July 28, titled, “Commentary: Assembly of God (AOG) General Council to Vote on Resolution Against Israel.”
Here are the facts, as opposed to the lies given by Cedric Fisher.
1. Resolution 3 doesn’t mention Israel at all. It has nothing to do with Israel. As general superintendent, I am not indicating my support or opposition to this resolution as it comes from delegates to our General Council – but, I can tell you for a fact that you can search this resolution with a microscope and you will find no reference to Israel, nor will you find any intention that this resolution applies to Israel. Here’s the full text of the resolution: http://generalcouncil.ag.org/-/media/GC17/2017GCResolutionsBooklet.pdf?la=en.
Our Response: It is true that Resolution 3 does not mention Israel at all, and Cedric Fisher never said that it did. However, the resolution absolutely connects Israel with the Resolution when it states: “Furthermore, the Commission on Doctrinal Purity and the General Presbytery approved the 12 Assemblies of God position paper entitled, ‘Church Mission and Peacemaking.’” It is in that position paper that Israel is discussed and clearly rebuked as the guilty party for causing conflict. There is no mention of Islamic/Muslim wrong doing in the position paper. We realize that some reading “Church Mission and Peacemaking” may not see how it is implicating modern-day Israel, especially if they are not familiar with the present efforts to put most or all of the blame on Israel for Middle East conflict.
2. The AG position paper is titled, “Church Mission and Peacemaking.” Lighthouse Trails added “and Israel,” even though the position paper doesn’t mention issues regarding the modern state of Israel. Here’s the position paper: https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index/Church-Mission-and-Peacemaking.
Our Response: The phrase “and Israel” was mistakenly added twice in one sentence. We have now corrected that error. However, this does not change the context of the position paper. Dr. Wood says that the position paper doesn’t mention issues regarding the modern state of Israel, but we believe that is exactly what that position paper is doing.
3. “Israel–the Church’s Response” is not a position paper. It’s what we call a “common concerns” article. It was written by the Office of Public Relations over 15 years ago. Here’s the article itself: https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index/Israel-the-Churchs-Response. Here’s the topic index of other common concern articles: https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index.
Our Response: Cedric Fisher’s commentary did call both papers “position papers” when in reality “Israel – The Church’s Response” is not an official AoG position paper. Rather, it is listed under AoG Beliefs on their website and described as “based upon [AoG] common understanding of scriptural teaching.” (source: https://ag.org/Beliefs/Topics-Index)
4. By mixing quotations from the position paper and the common concerns article, Lighthouse Trails concocts a belief that simply doesn’t exist.
Our Response: We don’t agree with Dr. Wood’s assumption here. To say that an argument can’t be proven by using different credible (and related) documents is faulty reasoning.
5. The article goes on to talk about Rick Warren’s PEACE plan, which is NOT mentioned in Resolution 3, the position paper, or the common concerns article. It then states, “Resolution 3 is an attempt to present a more powerful statement of disassociation with Israel.” But Resolution 3 doesn’t mention the contemporary state of Israel at all, let alone “a more powerful statement of disassociation with Israel.” This is simply a lie.
Our Response: As for Rick Warren’s influence within the AoG, this could be proven in a number of different ways (not to mention that he is one of the keynote speakers at this year’s AoG General Council along with Mark Batterson (Circle Maker) and Priscilla Shirer (contemplative teacher)), but we will provide this one piece of documentation. In a 2008 Time Magazine article titled “Rick Warren Goes Global,” it states:
“Warren is particularly excited by the hands-on involvement of some of the larger players in the Evangelical community. “A guy was going, ‘I’ll take Mozambique,’ and another guy was going ‘I’ll take Nigeria,’ ” he said happily, adding that he’s already secured personal commitments from influential leaders in the Salvation Army and the Assemblies of God (the largest Pentecostal denomination.) “They’ve said, they’re in, and they have to get their boards along,” he reported.” (emphasis added; source: http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1809833,00.html?xid=rss-nation).
Since 2008, the Purpose Driven paradigm has continued to have a major influence in nearly all evangelical denominations, including Assemblies of God.
Regarding Dr. Wood’s statement that it is a lie to say that Resolution 3 is anti-Israel, it is not. This resolution was worded in such a way as to not appear to be directly implicating modern Israel.
6. “AoG General Superintendent George O. Wood and other leaders of the denomination appear enamored with Warren to the extent they are virtually subservient.” That would be news to me, Rick Warren, and other leaders of the denomination. Furthermore, there is no denomination more active than ours in evangelizing Muslims.
See our response in point #5.
7. As is typical of Lighthouse Trails, you engage in six-degrees-of-separation conspiracy mongering. Even though neither Don nor Jodi Detrick wrote Resolution 3, he is mentioned because he is married to her, and she is mentioned because she allegedly promotes “contemplative spirituality.” This isn’t research; this is nonsense.
Our Response: Actually, Cedric Fisher’s mentioning Jodi Detrick because she is the wife of the chairperson of the AoG 2017 Resolutions Committee is certainly not “six-degrees-of-separation conspiracy mongering.” First of all, this is a husband and wife who are both highly active in AoG leadership; this is hardly “six-degrees of separation.” Second, the issue that took place with Dr. Wood and the AoG General Council in May of 2013 was no minor issue. Dr. Wood allowed Ms. Detrick to bring in a hard core New Age sympathizer to teach AoG women at the AoG General Council Conference that year. Lighthouse Trails wrote three carefully documented articles explaining several aspects as to why Barton should not be allowed to teach Christian women. After our first article (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=11431), Dr. Wood issued a public statement defending Ms. Detrick’s choice of speakers (and he incidentally mentioned Ms. Detrick’s husband as he felt the association was important for people to know – the very thing he condemned Cedric Fisher for doing). Our second article in 2013 included Dr. Wood’s response defending the choice of Ruth Haley Barton (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=11554). Incidentally, Cedric Fisher (a former AoG pastor who was not an LT author at that time) wrote an article addressing the issue with Barton (http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=11569). He made some very valid points, and his article from 2013 is worth reading to better understand the dilemma.
We believe it was appropriate for Cedric Fisher to mention the Wood/Detrick/Barton event that took place four years ago because from years of researching the contemplative prayer movement, we know that one of the “fruits” of contemplative prayer is a shift in attitude regarding Israel. While there have always been those (such as those in the Reformed camp) who have historically rejected Israel of having significance according to a biblically prophetic view and adhere to Replacement Theology, there is also now a growing number of evangelicals who are moving from a pro-Israel stance to an anti-Israel stance, and many of those evangelicals have first embraced the contemplative prayer movement. Is this just a coincidence? We don’t believe so. Those who practice contemplative meditation, over time, begin to change their views on the Atonement, the Cross, salvation, and even Israel and the Jews because the meditation experience is panentheistic (God in all) and interspiritual (all paths lead to God) in nature; and when one begins to accept panentheism and interspirituality, the Cross, the Atonement, salvation through Christ alone, and Bible prophecy (which includes understanding Israel and the return of Christ) do not fit into that mold any longer.
Dr. Wood resents the fact that Jodi Detrick name was mentioned in Cedric Fisher’s article, so much so that he has resorted to ugly name calling. We fear that Dr. Wood does not understand these vital issues, and that is why he is lashing out.
8. The article about Ross Byar’s school is hilarious. Ross teaches “pacifism,” not “passivism.” And do evangelical Christians really want to go on record opposing the teaching of pacifism to MUSLIM students? Additionally, the Haaretz.com article cited doesn’t report that Byars’ school advocates “inner eye” mysticism. It says that on the day the journalist visited, they were learning about the mysticism of an important modern Jewish rabbi. A good education acquaints people accurately with the beliefs of others. LTR makes that look suspicious.
Our Response: Dr. Wood better read that article at Haaretz.com again. It clearly states that the teacher at Byar’s school is introducing and advocating a mystical spirituality to the students. The article states:
“Today, in fact, she’s [the teacher] trying to introduce the students to a mystical teaching from Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the first Ashkenazi chief rabbi in British Mandatory Palestine. The big idea is his concept of the “inner eye,” and Talesnick [the teacher] wants to suggest that if you can see with it, you’re color blind. It’s a good lesson against racism.”
Cedric Fisher stated it accurately when he said the school was advocating a mystical teaching.
9. I could pick apart the article’s references to the six authors of Resolution 3–all of whom I know personally or at least know of–but I’ll just quote this hilarious statement about Nam Soo Kim: “I could not discover any significant involvement or contributions to the AoG. As with most of the other authors, he seems to be involved with activity outside of the denomination.” For the record, Nam Soo Kim is an executive presbyter of the national Assemblies of God, a fact that is easily found on the AG website: https://ag.org/About/Leadership-Team/Executive-Presbytery.
Our Response: The fact that Cedric Fisher did not know of Nam Soo Kim’s involvement with AoG is a moot point, but we accept the correction. However, there is one author of Resolution 3 that we do know about, and that is Murray Dempster. In 2007, 80 evangelical leaders signed a document titled “An Evangelical Statement on Israel/Palestine.” A November 2007 Christianity Today article titled “Evangelical Leaders Reiterate Call for Two-State Solution for Israel and Palestine” discussed the document and listed Murray Dempster as one of the signatories. The article stated:
“[O]ver 80 evangelical leaders have signed a statement indicating their belief ‘that the way forward is for the Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate a fair, two-state solution.'” (source: http://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2007/november/148-33.0.html (For a list of Dempster’s credentials that include the signing of this two-state solution document, see http://www.seu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/MWD-Resume-Updated-SEU-8.1.2013.pdf)
We find this unnerving that a man, Dempster, who is a signatory for a document that calls for a two-state solution, is also a contributing author and endorser to this AoG resolution that has the potential of invoking great harm to the Jewish people; and it is equally troubling that the head of AoG is perfectly OK with this. He says that he knows all of them personally or at least knows of them—insinuating that this makes them all legitimate). According to one Jewish Christian radio host we spoke with this morning, a two-state solution would “legitimize” a Palestinian State filled with brutal terrorists who want to destroy Israel. What in the world is AoG doing playing with this kind of fire?! Cedric Fisher provided us with some thought-provoking comments today on the two-state solution:
“Some evangelical leaders insist there is nothing wrong with the Two-State Solution. They claim that Israel advocates a Two-State Solution. If that were true, then it would have already occurred and we would not be having this controversy. There is a vast difference between the versions of Two-State Solutions. Israel’s version could be summed up as, “You leave us alone, and we’ll leave you alone.” Conversely, the Two-State Solution advocated by certain evangelicals is to moderate a resolution between Israel and Palestine that involves Israel giving up the West Bank, its biblical heritage as God’s Chosen People, and other untenable concessions. There is an effort to dismiss Israel from eschatology and brand it as just another sinful nation.
“These leaders cannot understand why true supporters of Israel view them as anti-Semitic. They claim they are not anti-Semitic but rather that they also support Israel. They obviously do not support the Israel that exists, but the “Israel” they have modeled for their peace plan. I invite the reader to read the literature of these so-called pacifists for “peace.” If they supported Israel as it presently exists, they would not be sympathetic to the Muslim narrative and attempt to coerce Israel to accept a pro-Palestinian Two-State Solution.
10. This conclusory statement is an outright lie: “Therefore, to embrace the Palestinian and Muslim cause and reject Israel is, in essence, to be anti-Semitic. Thus, the AoG’s positions papers and Resolution 3 is oxymoronic in presentation and factitious in intent. It is an effort to unite the 60 million-member worldwide denomination with other denominations and political groups that are openly hostile to Israel.” None of the AG links the author has provided–to Resolution 3, our position paper, or even our common concerns article–embrace Islam, reject Israel, or exhibit antisemitism. The World Assemblies of God Fellowship numbers 68.5 million adherents, not 60 million (https://ag.org/About/Statistics), but the author can’t even get this basic statistic right. And I am unaware of any member nation of the WAGF that’s “openly hostile to Israel.” I certainly am not – having been to Israel over 40 times and having established the Assemblies of God Center for Holy Lands Studies that has brought thousands to Israel – including hundreds of students preparing for the ministry.
Our response: We stand behind Cedric Fisher’s closing comments. We believe AoG is facing a real threat, and the fact that their head cannot see this and has no problem with Resolution 3 is scary at best.
You should have regard for truth. But, you [do] not.
The article you published is false, meretricious, and slanderous. You should be ashamed.
Finally, there is a process in our Constitution and Bylaws by which members can present resolutions. The authors of resolutions have no guarantee that what they propose will be adopted; but, our Bylaws make provision for members to have that right.
Our Response: The men who wrote Resolution 3 are leaders in the AoG, not some renegades who have no influence in the denomination. Without intending on sounding disrespectful, the shame goes to AoG leaders who are involved in trying to pass Resolution 3 and to Dr. Wood, not Cedric Fisher and Lighthouse Trails.
Response to George Wood’s E-mail from Cedric Fisher:
I wish to thank Dr. Wood for taking time out of his busy schedule to respond to my commentary. Since Dr. Wood has insisted on more information, I will respectfully honor his request.
First, I concede that Resolution 3 does not contain the word “Israel,” and I never stated that it did. However, it contains the reference to a position paper that does mention Israel. Additionally, although “Israel—the Church’s Response” is not an official position paper, it is a position officially assigned to the “Church” and included under “Beliefs” on the AoG website. Further, Resolution 3 is presented as being about peacekeeping, but the statement it proposes to add to the Constitution includes justice and peacemaking. Here is why that is important.
We must ask, “What nations in conflict did the authors of R3 have in mind when they wrote the Resolution?”
The only nation in conflict that the majority of evangelicals are focused on is Israel. Regarding the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the terms justice and peacekeeping are interpreted by the worldview of whoever employs them. Some evangelicals consider Israel “unjust” and even “racist” in their dealings with Palestinians. I propose that the conflict is not because Israel is unjust, racist, or rejects peace. It exists because her neighbors wish to annihilate her as stated in the following:
I will never allow a single Israeli to live among us on Palestinian land. (Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, The Jerusalem Post)
The solution that political Progressives, Liberals, Palestinian sympathizers, denominations, and some leading evangelical “pacifists” propose is a two-state solution. That attempt at “justice and peacemaking” would devastate Israel. Standing in the way of a two-state solution is the traditional, biblical, eschatological view that most evangelicals hold dear. There is currently a massive effort underway throughout Christianity to neutralize and eject that view from evangelicalism. The result, unintended or perhaps intended, is that anti-Semitism has reared its ugly head in evangelicalism.
Therefore, we are wary of overtures of justice and peacemaking by individuals who have been involved in efforts to impose a two-state solution on Israel. Is it the intent of R3 authors to legitimize a worldview that undermines historical evangelical support for Israel in the name of justice and peacemaking? We can help answer that question by taking a look at some of R3’s authors.
R3 author Murray Dempster is considered by some of his peers as the “‘Grandfather of Modern Pentecostal Pacifism.” Dempster was a signer of the document “An Evangelical Statement on Israel/Palestine” that proposes a two-state solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. He also signed a letter to President George Bush in July 29, 2007, calling for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict that includes the vast majority of the West Bank.
Dempster is professor of social ethics at Assemblies of God Southeastern University. An online blog post titled, “Liberal Theology at Assemblies of God University?” features the testimony by David Thrower expressing concern about the influence of the Emergent Church and “progressive” adherents that question the supremacy of God and the authority and veracity of His Word at Southeastern. Thrower mentioned Dempster touting liberal theologian James Cone. However, deeply troubling was his observation concerning rampant anti-Semitism that included an on-campus lecture by pro-Palestine advocate Sami Awad. At one point in the lecture, Awad had very anti-Semitic comments mentioning that Israel did not have a right to exist. – Chelsen Vicari, Juicy Ecumenism blog; December 18, 2014, https://juicyecumenism.com/2014/12/18/squishy-theology-assembly-gods-southeastern-university/
Another R3 author, Robert E. Cooley, signed the Yale “A Common Word” Christian Response document http://faith.yale.edu/common-word/common-word-christian-response. Among the signers is Rick Warren, one of the speakers at the upcoming 57th General Council in Anaheim. The document begins:
As members of the worldwide Christian community, we were deeply encouraged and challenged by the recent historic open letter signed by 138 leading Muslim scholars, clerics, and intellectuals from around the world. “A Common Word Between Us and You” identifies some core common ground between Christianity and Islam which lies at the heart of our respective faiths as well as at the heart of the most ancient Abrahamic faith, Judaism.
The document also stated:
Before we “shake your hand” in responding to your letter, we ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One [a name for the Muslim god] and of the Muslim community around the world. . . . That so much common ground exists—common ground in some of the fundamentals of faith—gives hope that undeniable differences and even the very real external pressures that bear down upon us can not overshadow the common ground upon which we stand together.
As I pointed out in my commentary, R3 author Robert W. Houlihan and Russell P. Spittler have made statements in support of Dempster.
How can I or anyone who is willing to take a serious look at this situation conclude that R3 is anything other than an attempt to undermine evangelical support for Israel?