We bring emerging Christian leaders to Israel for a 10-day study tour with a local guide, a Christian scholar, and a CLAL rabbi. Together, we explore the Holy Land through a theological, rather than political lens. Students return from the trip connected spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually to Israel, while gaining a nuanced understanding of contemporary Palestinian life.

We provide significant travel subsidies to participants in order to make sure that cost does not keep them from taking part in this life-changing experience.

I am a different person and a better Christian for having this experience, and I know that it will make me a better and more successful pastor as I take up the next stage of my calling.

I wanted to be overwhelmed by standing where Jesus stood and seeing the places that he saw.  I was, and also discovered new insight and awareness about myself and my faith.  I also fell in love with an amazing land, and a modern country, which is both holy and fun – if not always easy to fully understand.

God reached through a Jewish Rabbi from New York, sitting in the spare room of a tourist hotel in Jerusalem and put warm, loving and forgiving arms around me.  I received the forgiveness of Christ and assurance of salvation in the arms of the other.

the challenge

We are living in a time of political echo chambers, and none with more reverberations than those about the Holy Land. Fierce critics have created a narrative of Israel as an evil oppressor and Palestinians as helpless victims. Some of Israel’s most ardent supporters have created implausible narratives about Israel’s perfection. Christian seminarians are often called to choose between one of these two echo chambers. The 70,000 current seminary students in the United States – the future leaders of 300,000 churches serving nearly 250 million Christians and 56 million Christians in prayer services each week – could allow the pain of the Middle East conflict to polarize their communities. We seek to break the echo chamber with transformational trips to the Holy Land for emerging Christian Leaders that help them understand that when it comes to Israel, the Palestinians, or so much else in ministry, it's more complicated than we know.

 

Initial successes

We have already led four Holy Land study tours with colleagues and students from United Seminary in Ohio, an institution associated with the United Methodist Church. Survey data from the latest trip indicates that 16 out of 17 participants came to see Israel has having “some” to “very much” importance, and nearly all would like to return to the Holy Land once again.

Beyond the annual trip with United Seminary, we have four trips planned in the coming academic year: two with Luther Seminary in Minneapolis (one for students, another for recent graduates), one with the Episcopal Diocese of Cincinnati, and direct-to-seminarian trip that draws together top seminary students from across the country. This means bringing nearly 100 emerging Christian leaders to Israel during the 2018 - 2019 academic year.

 

Visions for Growth

We envision scaling up the number of trips each year, so that we can bring thousands of emerging Christian leaders to the Holy each year – enabling them to redefine the relationship between the hundreds of millions of church members and that sacred place, the State of Israel, and the Palestinians. This could transform a generation of American religious leaders and help them lead more effectively in a complicated world.