A Jewish spokesman for a Jerusalem-based interfaith group was in Baltimore this week to urge support for moving the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
Zvi Gavati, who represents the unofficial International Christian Embassy in Israel with a largely evangelical, nondenominational Protestant membership, sought to counter U.S. church leaders' criticism of the proposed embassy move. Mainline denominational groups have opposed the move as a "backdoor effort" by Israel to preclude future Christian and Muslim roles in governing Jerusalem.
Applauding the growing support in Congress for shifting the embassy, Mr. Gavati said in an interview that the sooner the United States recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel the better. "It's a question of security. It's a question of defense. It's a question of taking care of the holy places," he said.
Mr. Gavati has been a guest while in Baltimore of the Rev. Joseph Sid Rigell, a retired evangelical Protestant minister, and his wife, Betsy Rigell, who together operated a mission on East Baltimore Street for many years. They lived in Israel from 1979 to 1986. Gene Blum, a Jewish Baltimorean who has lived in Israel, was another of Mr. Gavati's hosts here.
The International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem was established in 1980 with interfaith backing "to demonstrate to Israel that there are Christians all over the world who . . . love her." Mr. Gavati retired in 1979 as Israel's deputy commissioner of prisons. He has been a liaison with the interfaith group since 1986.
Speaking to several Baltimore audiences, Mr. Gavati took strong exception to a March 6 statement issued by eight U.S. Christian leaders, including Cardinal William H. Keeler, that accused the Clinton administration of "failing to recognize and support Palestinian rights and interests in Jerusalem."
Cardinal Keeler, speaking after the church leaders' appeal to President Clinton was assailed in Jewish circles, urged "greater sensitivity" to concerns of the Christian minority in the Holy Land as Israeli-Palestinian peace talks progress.
In addition to the cardinal, the signers of the March 6 letter were Episcopal Presiding Bishop Edmond L. Browning; Evangelical Lutheran Bishop Herbert W. Chilstrom; Greek Orthodox Archbishop Iakovos; American Friends Service Committee director Kara Newell; the Very Rev. Gerald L. Brown, president of a group of Roman Catholic religious superiors; Antiochian Orthodox Metropolitan Philip Saliba and Robert A. Seiple of the World Vision organization.
Mr. Gavati said the mainline Christian groups do not give sufficient weight to Israel's biblical and historical right to an undivided Jerusalem, and he argued that the Palestinians have no rights to the city at all.
Calvin B. Hubbard of Ellicott City is a U.S. representative of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. Jan Wilhelm van der Hoven, who lives in Israel, is its executive director. Its headquarters in Jerusalem is the former Chilean embassy.
Crosse may sue
The Rev. St. George I. B. Crosse III, who was defrocked by the United Methodist Church last month because he is alleged to have established a congregation without denominational approval, has hired a lawyer to press his complaints against Methodist Bishop Joseph H. Yeakel.
Mr. Crosse contends the bishop denied him a church trial required by the rules before a United Methodist minister may be involuntarily dismissed.
In a July 3 letter to the chairman of the church's Board of Ordained Ministry, Sheila Brooks-Tahir, Mr. Crosse's attorney, said her client was denied due process and "has suffered grievous harm to his reputation and general well-being."
Ms. Brooks-Tahir warned "the Committee on Joint Review, the Board of Ordained Ministry, the cabinet and the bishop" that they should "inform their insurance carrier that I intend to hold them individually responsible for the injuries and damages suffered by my client."
The Junior Ushers Board of Baltimore's First Christian Community Baptist Church, at 4116 Groveland Ave., has issued a public invitation to a celebratory service at 4 p.m. Sunday.
"Come and be blessed with the preached word by Evangelist Gwendolyn Brooks of St. Abraham Baptist Church," the invitation says.