June 12, 2006 – New York – African-American members of the Pan-Methodist Commission for Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns have concluded a weeklong leadership seminar in Israel hosted by Project Interchange, an institute of the American Jewish Committee.
“For years we have been given only a partial picture of what was really happening in the area. The story of Israel is closely related to our own as African-Americans, and now I am able to see and understand the passion for freedom and love of the land,” said the Rev. Dr. W. Robert Johnson III, General Secretary of the American Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AMEZ) and a delegate of the World Methodist Council.
The Pan-Methodist Commission represents the four major Methodist bodies in the U.S. – the United Methodist Church (UMC), the African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AMEZ) and the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME).
Project Interchange, founded in 1982, is the only national organization dedicated to providing educational seminars in Israel for America’s political, civic, ethnic and religious leaders. Project Interchange's specially designed seminar programs strengthen relations between the U.S. and Israel, promote mutually beneficial ties between influential Americans and Israelis, and enhance intergroup relations in the United States.
During their visit the Methodist leaders encountered Jewish and Christian speakers committed to peace, visited Jewish and Christian historical sites, informally met with Arab, Druze and Jewish Israelis, as well as with Israel’s newest immigrant community, Ethiopians.
The delegation was jointly led by David Elcott, AJC’s Director of Interreligious Affairs and the Rev. Dr. W. Douglas Mills, UMC Associate General Secretary for Dialogue and Interfaith Relations. , also shared both Shabbat services and Sunday Mass together in Jerusalem. Throughout the week the Pan-Methodist Commission met with representatives of the AJC, the World Council of Churches and the Israeli Government.
“After engaging with so many diverse voices committed to peace, security and human rights in Israel “it is gratifying that the AJC and the Pan-Methodist Commission have pledged our efforts to build a relationship that advances these central and indispensable goals,” noted David Elcott.