John sees breakthrough at Bethlehem gathering
Former YMCA Norfolk chief executive and ex-Sheriff of Norwich, John Drake, and his wife Barbara, witnessed first-hand a major breakthrough in the evangelical world in Bethlehem at a gathering of over 600 high profile international and local Christians. Keith Morris reports.
Organized by Bethlehem Bible College, the “Christ at the Checkpoint,” conference last week addressed the issue of how to find hope in the midst of conflict and bring together, for the first time, leading evangelical leaders to engage Biblically on issues that have historically divided them.
Subjects addressed included Christian Zionism, Islamism, justice, non-violence and reconciliation and were intended to create an ongoing forum for Christian peacemaking within the context of the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
John (pictured above), whose links to Jerusalem go back over 40 years when he was a street worker in the old city, commissioned by the then Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, George Appleton, now visits the Middle East several times a year in his role as an ambassador for the Israeli Jerusalem International YMCA, the Palestinian East Jerusalem YMCA and the UK-based Hope Christian Trust.
John said: “The conference brought together Messianic believers and Palestinian Christians who all want to honour Jesus, affirm each other and to find mechanisms to engage. It was all about how to honour God in the land and find a way forward. People were listening respectfully to each others’ views.
“It was a significant occasion - because there were so many younger Americans and Palestinians gathered it gives hope for the future. The fact that key American evangelicals and institutions are engaging with the pain of the Palestinian and Israeli church shows that this is a part of the world which needs our time and attention. I firmly believe that it is the Christians on both sides who can be the catalyst for hope – because that is our mandate. We are called to be peacemakers.”
In addition to keynote addresses from British contributors such as Dr Colin Chapman, Rev Stephen Sizer
and Rev John Angle,
other speakers included John Ortberg, Joel Hunter, Lynne Hybels, Ron Sider, Sami Awad, Bishara Awad, Richard Harvey
and Tony Campolo.
There were participants from 20 nations.
Bethlehem Bible College has the only public library serving the whole local community in the town. It is appealing for books, preferably in Arabic, but also would be pleased to receive books written by John Stott in any language. John has committed to support Palestinian Christians by collecting such books, which can be left for him at the Norwich Christian Resources Centre.
Through the Hope Christian Trust, John is also seeking funds to train the next generation of Christian leaders in Gaza
John is also working towards bringing Christian leaders with a world perspective to the UK, including Tony Campolo and David Pillegi, rector of Christ Church in Jerusalem.
Conference organizers concluded by challenging the evangelical community to cease looking at the Middle East through the lens of “end times” prophecy and instead rallied them to join in following Jesus in the prophetic pursuance of justice, peace and reconciliation.
Should people wish to explore these matters further, John is happy to speak at local gatherings. You can contact him at email@example.com