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GDCM News and Notes
 GDCM News and Notes 

GDCM Weekly Communique & Updates

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Evangelicals in Middle East debate if “Deal of the Century” is “generous” or “extreme.”

After three years of anticipation—and dread—President Trump announced the launch of his “Deal of the Century” to achieve peace between Israel and Palestine.

With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at his side, he outlined details for a proposal that would recognize a Palestinian state following extensive land swaps and security arrangements.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was not present, having broken off communication with the White House following several US decisions deemed biased toward Israel.

Abbas immediately rejected the plan, which Palestinians had long declared “dead on arrival.”

But Netanyahu’s acceptance was enthusiastic, declaring himself willing to begin negotiations with the Palestinians on such terms. A day earlier, Netanyahu’s challenger Benny Gantz also signaled his party’s agreement with Trump’s proposal.

With three Arab states lacking a peace treaty with Israel in attendance—Oman, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates—Trump hopes there will be a regional push to implement his plan.

And with $50 billion promised as investment for the nascent Palestinian state, the president believes all the necessary pieces are in place.

“All previous generations from Lyndon Johnson tried and bitterly failed,” Trump said. “But I was not elected to do small things, or shy away from big problems.”

It only required he approach peace in a “fundamentally different” manner.

No Arab or Israeli would be uprooted from their home. This guarantees the preservation of all existing Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.

Jerusalem would remain the undivided capital of Israel. At the same time, on the ...

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“Dr. B,” an egalitarian leader and mentor to Bill Hybels, continued teaching at church for years after elders learned of his misconduct.

Willow Creek Community Church—still grappling with former senior pastor Bill Hybels’ history of alleged sexual harassment and abuse of power—now is dealing with allegations of misconduct against the man who mentored Hybels.

A longtime church member shared in a public Facebook post Saturday that Gilbert Bilezikian—known widely as “Dr. B.”—kissed, fondled, and pressured her to have sex with him between 1984 and 1988.

“We believe that Dr. B engaged in inappropriate behavior, and the harm he caused was inexcusable,” Willow Creek’s acting lead pastor Steve Gillen wrote Monday in an email to church staff obtained by Religion News Service.

The Willow Creek Elder Board confirmed in an update posted online Tuesday night that the church had decided to restrict Bilezikian from serving there after the church member came forward with allegations against him about a decade ago.

Bilezikian, a retired Wheaton College professor, was never on staff at the church, according the the elders. But he has been active in the church for decades and was a mentor to Hybels. In addition to his influence on Willow Creek, Bilezikian helped start CBE International (founded as Christians for Biblical Equality) in 1988.

“There would be no Willow Creek without Gilbert Bilezikian,” Hybels told Christianity Today in 2000.

The two met when Bilezikian was a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in suburban Deerfield, Illinois, and Hybels, a student. According to the article, Hybels rode up to Bilezikian’s house on a motorcycle one day in 1975 and proclaimed, “Dr. B., you and I are going to start a church.”

Not long afterwards, Willow Creek Community Church began meeting ...

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In Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, can believers offer Shiites better support than the assassinated military leader?

Middle East Christians might shrug their shoulders. They might even fret and worry. But perhaps Qassem Soleimani got what he deserved.

“We regret what happened. We do not want anyone to die, because Christianity wants the good of all,” said Ashty Bahro, former head of the Kurdistan Evangelical Alliance.

“But a person leads himself to his own destiny.”

Soleimani, head of Iran’s special operations Quds Force, was killed by a US rocket strike on January 3. It was a rapid escalation following the Iran-linked death of an American contractor, a retaliatory attack on the responsible Iraqi militia, and the storming of the US embassy in Baghdad.

According to the US State Department, Soleimani, who reported directly to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, was responsible for 17 percent of American deaths in Iraq from 2003 to 2011.

He also enraged Sunni Muslims by engineering the subsequent Iranian defense of Syria’s regime, led by President Bashar al-Assad. With Russia and the Iran-backed military wing of Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the shelling of rebel-held cities resulted in the displacement of thousands during Syria’s civil war.

But Soleimani was also acclaimed for his role in fighting ISIS, personally directing Iraqi militias from the front lines.

Thus, Middle East Christians have mixed feelings about his death—and the immediate aftermath.

Some Syrian believers see no benefit to anyone.

“Iran was working with the US government in certain agreements. Why did you destroy them?” asked Maan Bitar, pastor of the Presbyterian churches in Mhardeh and Hama, noting both the fight against ISIS and the nuclear deal.

“This will prompt a severe reaction that will hurt America, and ...

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