(Image Lilach Daniel from Israel, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)
By Atara Beck, Senior Editor, World Israel News -
Dr. Glenn R. Plummer, a pro-Israel African American pastor from Detroit, Michigan, was appointed by the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) as Bishop of Israel in April 2019. He and his wife, Dr. Ruth Pauline Plummer, who refers to herself as the First Lady of Israel, arrived in the country a month ago. They live in the Jerusalem suburb of Mevaseret Zion.
According to the COGIC website, its membership is predominantly African-American, with millions of adherents. The Church has congregations in 112 countries around the world. Its mission is “to seek and save that which is lost.”
World Israel News (WIN), in an interview with Bishop Plummer last week, asked how he managed to obtain permanent residency in Israel – especially during the coronavirus epidemic, when so many Jews wanting to enter the country, some in order to look around for an apartment and move forward on their own Aliyah plans, have not been granted that privilege.
“The government allowed us to come,” he replied. “That’s it. I don’t know these people. The government. I mean, there are departments. I don’t know…”
According to a Haaretz interview with the bishop published on October 4, “Plummer was not forthcoming about how he and his wife succeeded in obtaining permission to come to Israel at this time. ‘At this point, it would probably be best if I didn’t go into it,’ he said. He also refused to say what type of visas they’d received.
“In response to a request for comment, a spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry said she wasn’t at liberty to discuss individual cases because of privacy issues,” the article said.
‘To win souls and to win disciples’
The Plummers are veteran media personalities in the Christian world. Among other activities, they have been creating Christian educational videos on YouTube, titled “The Lesson Official.”
In the videos, they make comments about, for example, “two goals, to win souls and to win disciples.” Statements include, “We are called to tell everyone about Jesus…to win souls,” and “We have to be there physically, to baptize.”
He has also said, “We have work to do. The time has come to go to Israel…to lift up a nation for the Lord Jesus Christ.”
A 28-minute video from August 30, just ahead of their departure from America, is titled “The Plummers are moving to Israel.” Rabbi Tovia Singer, founder and director of Outreach Judaism, a Jewish counter-missionary organization, created a shorter version of the video in which he added snippets from previous The Lesson Official videos that included the aforementioned comments about winning souls.
Asked about the seemingly missionary statements in the video, Plummer told WIN that they were “not in the [original] Plummers moving to Israel video. That’s a video promulgated by some people who have accused us of something that is absolutely and categorically untrue. I’ve been a licensed minister, this is my 41st year. I’ve been ordained for 39 years. I have begun my relationship in 1996. I have led thousands of people here. Never one time in my whole life have I even had a conversation with a Jew about converting to Christianity.
“I never intend to do that,” he said. “I have never done it. What I said is that the purpose of the Church, the global Church, is to win souls and make disciples. I see our primary, if not complete group of people, as gentiles. I won’t even try to convince Muslims to convert. I don’t do that.
“Our people are primarily Church people…and so we have been teaching the bible, we have been teaching our Christian faith to Christians, and that’s who we talk to. And that’s who we were talking to on the video…
“I know full well the sensitivity of the Jewish people when it comes to Christians. I know the history of the Catholic Church and of the Crusades. I understand that. And I stand with Jews on that whole point.”
WIN then asked about the quote, “We have work to do…to go to Israel to lift up a nation for the lord Jesus Christ,” as well as the emphasis on the importance of reaching ALL nations.
“It’s the Sunday school lesson,” he reiterated. “Just so you understand the context of that program, there’s a group – we have nothing to do with these people – they select the Sunday school lessons five or six years ahead…Churches across denominations all study the same Sunday school lesson. My wife and I teach the International Sunday School Lessons.”
His wife added, “That was a contextual lesson that we were teaching about fulfilling the Great Commission. And so that’s what that was about. It’s not pertaining to us moving to Israel.”
(The Great Commission is a concept that has been used to support the missionary activities of many Christian denominations. It refers to several passages in the Gospel of Matthew, where Christ urges his apostles to make “disciples of all the nations” and “baptize” them.)
‘Give me a chance’
In the original, undoctored ‘The Plummers are moving to Israel’ video, several members of the general board of COGIC bless the couple on their journey. For example, Bishop Jerry Macklin, Second Assistant Presiding Bishop, said, “It was faith that caused you to go to Israel in the first place to begin a work and to lift up a witness for the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Would that not be interpreted as missionizing? WIN asked.
“If you ask me, ‘Why are you a Christian, why do you believe the Messiah has already come?’ I’ll tell you,” Plummer replied, stressing again that his mission in Israel is not to convert Jews.
“A witness and evangelism are two different things… In court, a person is a witness…
“I am a friend of Israel. In 2006, the missiles were coming over here, and most Israelis had evacuated the North. I flew here by myself. I wanted to go up to Haifa and Nahariya while the bombs were dropping. I had just left after speaking to 4,000 Jews at a Conservative synagogue and I said, ‘I’m going to represent you in Israel and let them know that Americans are standing with Israel.’ And I said to black people, ‘I’m going to represent you.’
“This is 14 years ago,” he said. “I’m the guy who is standing with you, and now, to twist something and say, ‘Didn’t you say what the bible says?’ Come on! Give me a chance.”
Rabbi Michael Skobac, who specializes in countermissionary work and established Jews for Judaism in New York, told WIN, “Claiming that witnessing is not evangelism is just slick double-talk. They often try to make fine distinctions between the two, but this is simply a distraction. For them, both terms amount to the same thing: Conveying the message of the gospel to those they believe need to hear it.
“Let me make this clear: These folks are missionaries, no question about it.”
Plummer, who was named among Israel’s top 50 Christian Allies – he came in ninth place – in a list compiled by the Israel Allies Foundation, denies allegations that he has come to win over Jewish souls, insisting that he’s here to build bridges between African-Americans and Israel.
Bridge-building, he told WIN, “is something that I have been consistently doing for 15 years, but I didn’t do it in the name of a very large organization like COGIC.”
Plummer’s stated plans include the opening of a media institute in Israel where young black Americans could study while learning about the country.
“It’s not just a religious journey for us,” he said. “We see Israel as the Silicon Valley of the world. We see Israel as the hub of technological discoveries. Young black millennials don’t even know that, and they could come here and learn, create relationships. We feel that black business needs to understand that there’s a market called Israel. It’s a fantastic place. And we want Israel to know that black America is a great market.”
‘You guys have a problem’
“The Ethiopian story is probably the lead story for us to communicate to black America,” he said. “It’s a story that most black Americans don’t know about…
“Israel feels so proud of that story, and you should. But when you talk to some of the Ethiopian millennials, you guys have a problem. There’s a problem with these young black Israelis, these young Ethiopian Israelis.”
Recalling a visit here in 2015, when there were riots for several days across the country following the fatal shooting by a policeman of a young Ethiopian man, Plummer continued:
“You want to talk about protests? They were jumping on cars…
“Israel has the same challenges here [as in the U.S., concerning racial tensions] with young millennial people,” he claimed.
Asked how he plans on helping that community, Plummer said:
“We have some real, tangible plans. First of all, one of our key focuses is on the millennial generation in America, the black millennials. My and my wife’s personal careers have been in media, television…and so, whether it’s social media, mass media, or any kind of media…what we’re doing here is creating an institute for African-Americans to come here to learn media, to learn technology.”
WIN asked: How about the Ethiopian Israelis? How are you getting involved with them?
“Since we’ve announced our media school, we’ve been asked by major organizations, ‘Would you allow Ethiopians to come and learn media?’ We say we’ll consider that, but our real focus is making an effective impact on black Americans. We didn’t come here to specifically teach and train Israelis. We’re open to that. Look, this is all just developing. We haven’t been here a month.”
Plummer didn’t specify which major organizations have approached him about the Ethiopian-Israeli community.
“We’ve made friends in that community,” he said. “They look at me and they think I’m Ethiopian, by the way. They don’t think I’m Nigerian, which is interesting, because there are different looks…”
Plummer has been among the leaders of an annual “Mission Outreach to the Ethiopian Community in Israel.” In the invitation he penned to American church people to join the 2017 mission, he wrote that already in 2015, “five Israeli congregations were received into the Church Of God In Christ. COGIC Presiding Bishop Charles Blake sanctioned this mission as an outreach to the Ethiopian Community in Israel.”
In the invitation to the 2016 Mission Outreach, Plummer wrote the following:
“This is not just a tour. This is a MISSION!
“COGIC President Bishop Charles Blakely sanctioned this mission as an outreach to the Ethiopian Community in Israel. Furthermore, the presiding Bishop…appointed me as the director of COGIC missions to Israel! This is nothing short of a miracle and a history in the make. We offer the thousands of COGIC churches worldwide the opportunity to support our outreach to the Ethiopian community in the Holy Land of Israel. On this mission we will meet with the members of the community and we will celebrate with them the incredible works of the Lord!
“We will also experience and enjoy the first ever Gospel concert in Jerusalem…”
In the video about the Plummers moving to Israel, the bishop discusses the Ethiopian-Israeli community, describing them as “people who look like us… When I say us, I’m talking about people of African descent.”
The video features a young Ethiopian-Israeli woman who serves in the IDF and, according to the Plummers, is “just on fire for God” and “like family.” In the same breath, they mention “Pastor David,” who is “like a son” to them. “They are a young congregation, a powerful congregation, doing great things across Israel. They are millennials.”
WIN asked Plummer who Pastor David is and which congregation they were referring to, but he would not respond.
Calvin Yosef Murray, a black American-Israeli and former football star who converted to Judaism, is incensed about the Plummers’ outreach to Ethiopian Israelis.
“What they’re doing is not good for the Jewish people,” Murray said. “The comment they made [about resembling the Ethiopians, also stated in the video] was really inappropriate.
“I used to be a pastor myself…What made me nervous is that they’re playing the race card. We have to show solidarity between the people of color among Jews and the people who are not of color. We are one people. We have to show a united front because if we don’t, they’re going to try to divide us…
“We think COVID is dangerous. This spiritual warfare that we’re dealing with is far greater.”
When the State of Israel was established, there were approximately 30 Jews who became Christians in Israel. Shannon Nuszen, a former Evangelical missionary and founder of Beyneynu, a non-profit organization that monitors missionary activity in Israel, says that now there are close to 200 missionary congregations across the country with an estimated 30,000 members altogether.
“There are at least 20 missionary congregations in the Ethiopian community alone,” she said.
‘The most vulnerable’
Regarding the immigrants from Ethiopia, “For the most part, the Jews who came here in the original operations are those who strongly identify as Jews. They came here against all odds, through the desert, thousands dying along the way, in pursuit of the dream to live freely as Jews in the Holy Land,” Nuszen said.
They were behind socially and technologically, having been isolated for hundreds of years,” she continued. “Integration and identity among the youth who want to fit into Israeli society has therefore been difficult. Because young Ethiopians are looking to find their identity and place in society, they are the most vulnerable to missionaries who offer charity, spirituality that fits modern culture, acceptance, and community.”