CJ History


Some confusion has arisen regarding Covenant Journey and Passages. The origin of this confusion is rooted in the fact that Passages used the written language and mission of Covenant Journey to describe its program. The following is designed to help clarify the differences by comparing Covenant Journey and Passages.

Covenant Journey Origin: Liberty Counsel began developing Covenant Journey in February 2011. In June 2011, Mat and Anita Staver met in Israel with many government officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, to discuss their vision of bringing Christian young people to Israel to strengthen their Christian faith and equip them to be goodwill ambassadors for Israel. In September 2011, Liberty Counsel launched the template for Covenant Journey with the creation of the Liberty Ambassador Counsel (LAC) VIP Tours, which combined both the biblical and historical sites along with modern Israel. In May 2012, the LAC added students and provided summer internship opportunities in Israel. Participants paid the full cost of the tour. In 2014, Liberty Counsel launched the first Covenant Journey experience for Christian college-age students with leadership potential. Except for the $500 required from accepted students, the entire cost of the 10-day experience is funded by private donations.

Passages Origin: Passages began in 2016 using virtually identical language that was developed and written by and for Covenant Journey.

Who is behind Covenant Journey? Liberty Counsel created Covenant Journey under the leadership of Mat Staver, Founder and Chairman of Liberty Counsel. He also serves as Founder and President of Covenant Journey, which is a separate 501(c)(3), nonprofit, tax-exempt organization affiliated with Liberty Counsel. Liberty Counsel is the primary funder of Covenant Journey, but Covenant Journey also receives contributions from the general public.

Who is behind Passages? The Museum of the Bible (Steve Green of Hobby Lobby) and The Philos Project/Paul Singer have partnered to create Passages. Paul Singer is a Jewish billionaire hedge fund manager and founder of Elliott Management. He funds many nonprofit organizations to advance same-sex marriage and the LGBTQ agenda. He is the primary funder behind the challenge to California’s Proposition 8 (the marriage amendment), the passage of same-sex marriage by the New York Legislature in 2011, the election of pro-LGBTQ political candidates, and the effort to change the Republican Platform to include same-sex marriage and the LGBTQ agenda. Paul Singer also recruits and trains young people to advance the LGBTQ agenda. One of his LGBTQ training programs is called “LGBT University.”

Why do Covenant Journey and Passages sound similar? Cary Summers, the President of the Museum of the Bible, and Steve Green, the President of Hobby Lobby and Chairman of the Museum of the Bible, wanted a partnership with a Jewish philanthropist to develop support for the Museum of the Bible. They met with Paul Singer in New York to discuss the Museum of the Bible, but he was not interested. However, when Cary Summers and Steve Green proposed a joint funding partnership of Covenant Journey, Singer became interested. Except for the Museum of the Bible and Steve Green, Paul Singer did not want other major funders involved. His representatives also wanted governing board control of Covenant Journey and control of the program’s content. Mat Staver refused to accept funding from Paul Singer because of his pro-LGBTQ agenda and because he wanted board and content control. Cary Summers and Steve Green then created Passages in 2016 as a joint funding partnership with Paul Singer and used the language and concepts already developed and written by and for Covenant Journey.

What is the difference between Covenant Journey and Passages? On the surface, they both sound similar – Christian college students who are leaders are provided a life-changing experience in Israel for only $500. But, the mission and substance are different. While Passages uses the language developed by and for Covenant Journey (to strengthen the students’ Christian faith and equip them to be goodwill ambassadors or advocates for Israel), the respective programs are very different. The emphasis of Covenant Journey is to provide a spiritually transformative experience. The primary mission is to strengthen the students’ Christian faith. To that end, Covenant Journey takes great care to ensure each group has the best spiritual leaders and mentors who are trained and have a passion to work with young people. Each group also has at least one or more Covenant Journey alumni (called a Covenant Journey Ambassador), who participated in a prior Covenant Journey experience and exemplifies spiritual maturity and peer-to-peer leadership. Covenant Journey also carefully selects the best worship leaders from among the group of students or brings a worship leader from a prior group in order to provide powerful praise and worship throughout the experience. Covenant Journey is also highly selective of the Israeli tour guide to provide the best possible experience for the students. Covenant Journey places strong emphasis on spiritual transformation because of the belief that when the relationship with Jesus is strengthened and the love for the Word of God ignited, everything else falls in place. The first and primary mission is to strengthen the students’ Christian faith. The second flows from the first – to inspire a love for Israel and equip them to be goodwill ambassadors for Israel. The latter grows out of the former, but if we only accomplished the latter, we would consider our mission and purpose a failure. The students who participate in Covenant Journey develop a love and passion for Israel and the Jewish people and are able to advocate for Israel upon their return. In addition to the experience in Israel, Covenant Journey continues to work directly with students upon their return to mentor them, and to provide networking opportunities and internships in Israel and the United States.

While Passages uses similar language borrowed from Covenant Journey, the mission is much less spiritual. In the words of a Passages staff member, Passages is “secular” while Covenant Journey is “spiritual.”  Regarding Israel, some Passages students report conflicting and confusing messages from speakers. “Going to Israel has complicated my narrative and given me more questions than answers,” a Passages student declared. After returning from a Passages trip, this student said she can no longer be “pro-Palestine or pro-Israel” and admitted being confused with no solutions. Other students have reported similar confusion. One person who spoke to a Passages group was Dr. Mustafa Abu Sway, a professor at Al-Quds University in “Jerusalem, Palestine.” Abu Sway raises funds for the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock. According to the Middle East Media Research Institute, the Al-Aqsa Mosque “is a steady stream of call for jihad and martyrdom, venomous attacks on Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims, and praise for al Qaeda, Islamic State, or ISIS, and other jihadist groups.” Abu Sway was the president of the Islamic Society of Boston from 1990-1992, which has been associated with a number of suspected terrorists, including the Boston Bombers. According to Middle East expert Dr. Daniel Pipes, Abu Sway is a known activist for the terrorist group Hamas. Hamas publishes articles by Abu Sway on its website.

Covenant Journey leadership personally review and screen every applicant. The review process begins with an online application that solicits a variety of information, including school, major, GPA, graduation date, a personal statement that addresses Christian faith and Israel, leadership, and three written references. The review process also includes electronic, social media, personal communication, and a group telephone conference call.  Students selected for each group represent a wide range of colleges and universities, careers, talent, and leadership. Covenant Journey believes it is important to have the right quality and dynamic of students in each group because they live life together during an intensive, immersive experience in Israel. The Covenant Journey students are high caliber with leadership potential, and many become life-long friends. Passages prefers large numbers of students from colleges and universities, generally deferring the selection process to someone at the college. Each tour guide selected for Covenant Journey has first been personally approved and examined by the Covenant Journey leadership. The tour guide must be very knowledgeable of the Bible, Israel, geo-politics, and must be able to communicate well with young people. Passages does not require the same level of selection criteria for its tour guides. Guides on a Passages tour are more likely not familiar with Christian groups or Christian millenials. Covenant Journey uses Sar-El as the ground tour operator in Israel. Sar-El is the largest ground tour operator for Christian tours and represents some of the best known Christian leaders and ministries. Passages uses Authentic Israel as the ground tour operator in Israel. Authentic Israel is the largest tour operator for Birthright, a tour program for Jewish young people. 


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