The event was announced on March 22 at a series of CUFI events at the Summit Club in Birmingham and the Word of Faith Christian Center. There was a pastors breakfast, which included representatives of the Birmingham Jewish Federation, an African-American pastor’s luncheon, and a solidarity meeting at the church.
Louisiana Nights to Honor Israel have been held in Shreveport for several years, and there have been similar events for Mississippi in Jackson. Last fall’s Jackson event drew about 2,000 — more than the entire state’s Jewish population.
Rev. Michael Stevens of Charlotte, N.C., CUFI African American Outreach Director, spoke at the March 22 events. He said CUFI now claims over 600,000 members just five years after it was started by Rev. John Hagee of CornerStone Church in San Antonio, Tex., and the goal is to have 1 million members in the next year.
Walter McKee, CUFI Alabama State Director, said “when a cause is in God’s plan, it will work.”
Stevens said CUFI is an organization with only one purpose — to support Israel, setting aside differences in theology and doctrine within the Christian community.
Rev. R.W. Gibson of Word of Faith said while the event will be in Birmingham, the coalition is being built across the entire state.
Several mentions were made of Alabama’s unique role in Israel’s founding. In 1943, Alabama’s legislature became the first to officially call for the establishment of a Jewish state in its ancestral homeland.
Stevens asked why, if the goal is to unify pro-Israel support, was there a separate event for African-American ministers. He noted that the African-American community and the Jewish community have “shared experiences and parallels of pain,” noting that both groups were “slave children” from Africa.
He also noted that there is repair work to do, as the contemporary face of anti-Semitism in America is that of Louis Farrakhan. He also noted troublesome past comments Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have made about Jews.
He reminded those in attendance that in the 1960s, Jews “were the ones who marched with us.”
CUFI also works to try and reassure the Jewish community that its pro-Israel sentiments are genuine and have no strings attached. Many in the Jewish community feel evangelical support for Israel is part of a plan to convert Jews, or that it stems from Christian end-time theology.
Stevens acknowledged the concerns, saying he’s not sure all Jews trust him when he shows love to Israel. He decried the “replacement theology” that Christianity replaced the covenental relationship Jews have with God. “You can’t replace a population of people because we feel we have an anointing on our lives… you can’t get our Christianity without the rootedness of Judaism.
“We’ve got to put our differences down,” he said.