Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Methodist Missionary Janet Lahr Lewis: Bias or Blindness?

Janet Lahr Lewis is a missionary with the Board of Global Ministries of the United Methodist Church serving in the Middle East as liaison between ecumenical groups.

From her biography:

Focusing on advocacy and activism, Janet's responsibilities are numerous. She is the main contact for VIM teams and United Methodist visitors who wish to follow the recommendation of the General Conference to spend a significant amount of time in the area with local Christians, acting to make those connections with UMC partner organizations.

In an essay entitled “Remember al Nakba too” published this week at the United Methodist Website, Janet has written

“Israel has even gone so far as to destroy archaeological artifacts in an effort to wipe out evidence of non-Jewish cultures, except Roman, throughout history in the region.”

This is a grotesque inaccuracy (in an essay full of gross inaccuracies), and is particularly abhorrent in light of Israel’s painstaking and meticulous efforts at protecting and documenting its rich archaeological legacy.

The Archaeological Survey of Israel was established in 1964 with the goal of creating a  comprehensive archaeological study of the land .  It is one of the largest scientific projects ever undertaken in the country and has lead to the creation of an online database which documents over 15,000 archaeological sites.

Dr. Ofer Sion, head of the Antiquities Authority Surveys Department, noted the unusual nature of the archeologists’ ongoing work...

“Sometimes the surveyors rappel into ancient caves, or even scuba dive in the sea to gather information,” he said.

“Without the survey we would know nothing about the history of the country.

”Who would know about the famous site at Gamla, the monastic sites, the ancient life in the desert or the hiding refuges and the story of the zealots and rebels in Judean Desert caves?”

Janet is stationed in the region.   Could it be possible that she has never gone to the Israel Museum, or to any of the myriad of archaeological sites in Israel? 

Could it be possible that she has never picked up a National Geographic to read about the tombs of the early Natufians?

Hasn’t she picked up a newspaper or read online about the recent discovery of a cache of coins from the period of Alexander the great? 

Janet Lahr Lewis writes:

 Ironically, there apparently is no written set of standards similar to those in engineering, for example, by which archaeologists can be held accountable.

Whether the issue with Janet Lahr Lewis of the United Methodist Church is one of bias or blindness, the end result is the same- a hateful, inaccurate and dishonorable screed. 


Anonymous said...

The article may have been removed from the Methodist website, and is unavailable but it is re-printed here:

Anonymous said...

Good biographical material on Janet Lahr Lewis here, at

Note: 12 years working for Naim Ateek of Sabeel.

Janet Lahr Lewis is a professional anti-Israel activist who (according to her bio) worked for Sabeel's main office in Jerusalem for 10 years and has since served as the executive director of Friends of Sabeel for two years, in which position she runs their international outreach operations. She has also achieved a level of prominence within the United Methodist Church, which is the largest mainline Protestant denomination in the U.S.

Her UMC profile lists her as the UMC "liaison between ecumenical groups and Israel and Palestine"... Janet is the main contact for ... United Methodist visitors who wish to follow the recommendation of the General Conference to spend a significant amount of time in the area with (Israeli and Palestinian) Christians." In other words, the United Methodist Church has installed a strident anti-Israel activist as their primary contact person for groups wishing to conduct fact-finding tours of Israel and the Palestinian territories under church aegis. (More here in this piece on Sabeel)

Lewis, who worked as a civil engineer and "troubleshooter" at a Old Cast Stone Products in Thompson, OH, says she received a calling on a visit to "the Holy Land". According to the bio she posts on the official website for United Methodist missionaries:

“After taking a typical Holy Land tour and seeing the devastating consequences of the ongoing illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, I experienced not only a ‘call’, but rather an undeniable ‘push’ to go back to that not-so-holy land and do whatever I could to help bring about ‘freedom for the oppressed,’” Janet recalls. She sold her house in the U.S. and volunteered for several years, first in the Galilee, then Bethlehem where she “lived with my neighbors under the heavy hand of injustice and military occupation.”

I'm not sure how that bio corresponds to the more than 12 years working directly for Naim Ateek at Sabeel, but, putting that aside, the main point is clear: she is the most senior United Methodist missionary in Israel and she is an outspoken partisan for the Palestinians against Israel.