Written by: Tali Feinberg
Article source: www.sajr.co.za

A Christian minister has put his livelihood on the line by quitting the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (MCSA) over its Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) policy towards Israel. Reverend Rowan Rennie says he would rather “sleep on the street” than “stand against the people of God”.

Rennie led a group of 150 families from across South Africa in the break away.

In a video that has since gone viral, Rennie said amongst other points that the Methodist Church’s resolution was “so unbiblical and such an injustice that we cannot find ourselves under the umbrella of the Methodist Church”.

The MCSA has more than 66 000 members across southern Africa. It adopted BDS principles against Israel in September 2019. It directs its members to “boycott, disinvest, and sanction all businesses that benefit the Israeli economy; [and] all future Holy Land tours organised by Methodist clergy or persons affiliated to the MCSA [are] to boycott all Israeli operators and tours and deliberately seek out tours that offer an alternative Palestinian perspective”.

Rennie told the SA Jewish Report that his decision to lead the breakaway had been “terrifying”.

“The house I live in belongs to the Methodist Church and they’ve told me to leave by the end of the month,” he says. “I have three foster children in my care. I don’t know the future, but it’s okay, I won’t compromise on this issue.”

His breaking point was that he believed there was “no biblical grounding for this resolution”. In his opinion, “it’s tantamount to hate speech and racism. You cannot place blanket blame on Israel.” He believes that the issue will eventually cause a split in the Methodist Church.

Rennie says that some senior ministers had been supportive. “They are in the same place I’m in, in that they need to break away [because of the MCSA resolution on Israel]. You cannot tell Christians they cannot visit the Holy Land. People visit Israel not because they support the Israeli government, but because they want a spiritual experience. This resolution turns the entire nation of Israel and its integrity into a political agenda.”

The MCSA hasn’t officially spoken to him since he released the video, besides asking him to vacate his home. Of the small percentage of his former congregation [the St Luke’s Methodist Church] who have chosen to stay in the MCSA, there has been a backlash. A few senior ministers have berated him, but they haven’t spoken on behalf of the MCSA. He says all this animosity is understandable, but he won’t budge, as he has “a clear conscious going forward”.

Rennie has been in the MCSA for 23 years. He was ordained as a minister in 1997, and has just completed his second five-year term as a reverend of a congregation in Welkom in the Free State. “Over the past two years, we have been talking about leaving as we realised there would be a resolution rejecting Israel. In the past two weeks we officially broke away, becoming the Bethany Fellowship.”

Looking back, he says, “The church was quite biblically conservative when I first joined. It’s only in the past five years that we’ve seen it line up with the government. I believe its rejection of Israel is influenced by its close connection with the government, as can be seen with a number of its policies, especially regarding land.

“The Methodist Church is the biggest Protestant church in the country, and it uses its channels to push this agenda.” He says this is particularly heart breaking in South Africa, where the term “apartheid” has real meaning for many people. “Its comparison of Israeli [policies] to apartheid was done in a deceptive way, drawing conclusions without saying much, without questioning, and without showing both sides,” he says.

Describing the moment he realised the resolution was official, Rennie recalls, “I was in shock. It hit like a ton of bricks. I realised the church’s political voice was way above its spiritual voice. To get there and to still call yourself a Christian, when the Bible is so contrary to that stance … It’s insane from a biblical perspective.”

Rennie said that immediately after the resolution was passed, “We said, ‘no way, we can’t go this route’.” Those in agreement with him wanted to leave the church by March, but COVID-19 made it difficult. However, the lockdown meant that more people heard their message online and supported them. “We eventually felt we had enough followers, and broke away over the past two weeks.”

Those who have followed him have “taken such ownership of what we’ve said. We are privileged to make this stance and move forward in our conviction of supporting Israel.”

In response to the video, the MCSA released a statement saying that it “notes with deep sadness and concern” Rennie’s video. It went on to say that having accepted his resignation, “we note with deep disappointment the encouragement and invitation to other Methodists to join him. This is a wilful breaking of a covenant he made. Breaking these solemn and sacred vows isn’t viewed lightly.”

The MCSA urged members to “engage in open conversations to raise the theological issues we aren’t clear about or uncomfortable with. Maligning and breaking away from the church won’t create reformation, transformation, or bring healing to us, our nations, our continent, or the world.”

The MCSA did not respond to questions from the SA Jewish Report.

Rowan Polovin, the chairperson of the South African Zionist Federation, commented, “The MCSA has been wilfully blinded by the doctrine of ‘replacement theology’, which attempts to deny the Jewish people’s unbreakable connection to Eretz Yisrael. The modern manifestation of it is to use the artillery of BDS against Israel. The MCSA’s BDS resolution is a disgraceful attempt to single out and discriminate against the Jewish state.

“Reverend Rowan Rennie is a courageous and principled individual. We strongly support his heroic decision,” said Polovin. “Those who stand with Israel do so out of moral conviction and must be applauded. We extend our deepest gratitude to him.”

Rennie hopes that “Christians open their eyes, and question the things told to them”. He also hopes that the “Jewish community finds comfort that serious Christians empathise with everything they’ve been through. The whole world might be against you, but you have an ally in the Christian community. You aren’t alone.”

Charisse Zeifert, from the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, said, “Having spoken to Reverend Rennie in an interview on ChaiFM, I was struck by his courage and sincerity. At great personal and professional cost to himself and his parish, he has taken a principled stance to speak out publicly against what he sees as a blatant misinterpretation of the Bible. It’s reassuring for the Jewish community to know that we have allies fighting BDS lies, and I believe it’s important for Reverend Rennie to know that he too isn’t alone.”

Click here to KEEP UPDATED on the latest news by subscribing to our FREE weekly newsletter.

Date published: 08/12/2020
Feature image: Reverend Rowan Rennie

JOY! News is a Christian news portal that shares pre-published articles by writers around the world. Each article is sourced and linked to the origin, and each article is credited with the author’s name. Although we do publish many articles that have been written in-house by JOY! journalists, we do not exclusively create our own content. Any views or opinions presented on this website are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the company. 


  1. Our Heavenly Father commands us to pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Ps 122v6. God even says you need to pray for the peace of Jerusalem for the sake of your family. This shows how serious God is regarding His command. Gen 12v3 also says… I will bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you. The Abrahamic covenant still stands today. These are doors opened by God, Himself that no one can shut. Does the Methodist Church not realize they are putting a curse on their church and its people. Do they really believe they can face God with a clear conscience? Don’t they see they are lifting their fists towards God? Did they forget that salvation came from a Jewish Saviour? Yaweh saw fit to initiate salvation first to the Jews then to the Gentiles. How dare they discredit Jerusalem in their behaviour, when Christ wept for Jerusalem. This shows the love in His heart for Jerusalem. Let’s pray for the peace of Jerusalem, that we may honour God as we look forward to the new Jerusalem, the Bride og Christ in whom He will dwell, with the saints dressed in robes of righteousness, washed in the blood of the Lamb of Yaweh.

  2. Well done Reverend Rennie! Jesus was/is a Jew, and Israel is the birthplace and foundation of our Christian faith. And so, just as all children should respect and revere their earthly parents, so all who call themselves Christians should respect and revere our original ‘spiritual parents’, the Jews, that is Israel.
    Amen. 🙏 Sterkte Rev. Rennie…

  3. Thank you for your courageous stance on this important issue Rowan. I know that there are also other issues at stake that you also raised. Stand firm and may God and His people provide for you and your family!

  4. We commend Rev. Rennie for taking a stand in his support of Israel. As Tony Hoare mentioned, Jesus was a Jew and we are told to bless Israel and it’s people. So sad that the MCSA has allowed politics to blind their eyes to the truth.


  6. Sad but true the methodist church hierarchy and organized central body leaders defaulted on Gods word a long time ago when politics replaced its biblical point of view Now the Methodist church is just another want to be terrorist organization

  7. Well done Reverend Rennie, my brother in Christ. I’ve never been a member of the Methodist Church but am sure their are many of us of various churches who believe as you do, as the Word of God is just that, the truth, and the truth sets us free!

  8. I’ve spent many happy times in Israel over the years and I’ve gotten to know the issues fairly well. But I’m feeling very conflicted by the Methodist Church’s stance on Israel. The policies they’ve forced us to adopt are not right. Neither rationally or Biblically.

    Over the years I’ve have had serious issues with some of the MCSA policies. Dating right back to when I did national service.
    Once again I’m concerned they are getting involved in politics to further a particular parties agenda. It’s well known that the ANC is anti Israel and pro BDS. I think the synod has been dominated by ANC supporters for many years now and it can no longer be condoned.

    Biblically it’s very clear that we should support Israel and I can’t understand why the Methodist church chooses a political agenda over a Biblical instruction.
    I think we need to voice our disapproval of their policies on this. Certainly they do not speak for me, and I’m sure not for many thousands of us.
    What the MCSA is doing takes the focus off the really important and urgent problems that face our people.
    I think it’s completely unacceptable that the MCSA has created this dilemma.
    They need to decide whether they are a political party or a church.

  9. I grew up in the Methodist church. My Grand Father was the founder of the Methodist congregation in the town where I grew up. My wife and I became Local Preachers but today I feel thoroughly ashamed of the Methodist Church and I believe John and Charles Wesley would be too. Yesterday Morocco became the forth Arab country to form diplomatic relations with Israel so they are thus supporting Israel economically. The BDS movement has no Biblical support and is shot through with evil intent and it is therefore totally sinful to support it. The MCSA has fallen into total apostasy. Well done Rev Rennie.

  10. Well done Rev Rennie. I left the Methodist Church a year ago as the Minister of the church I was in Never preached from the Bible. To think that Charles Wesley used to preach on street corners with only a Bible in his hand

  11. It is with great shock and shame that I was made aware of this BDS Resolution that was approved by the MCSA and the break away from the church by Rev. Rennie in the Joynews.
    I was a memder of the Methodist Church for 33 years and immediately hand in my resignation, because as a Christian I believe what the Word of God is saying to me and His Word don’t change. He is the same God who said I will bless those who bless Israel and curse those who curse Israel.
    Unfortunately my country, my Government and now my church decided where their loyalty and support lies. How can any obedient Christian pray for the prosperity and peace for Jerusalem and Israel, as the Bible command us to do and then support the Boicot, Disinvestment and Sanctions(BDS) movement against Israel.
    I have watch with great sadness the split in the church world wide over the past two years and believe this issue is going to have the same effect once it become more general knowledge in S.A.
    May God open our eyes to see that this is a Biblical issue and not a political (“appartheid”) issues which we experienced in S.A.

Comments are closed.