Evan­gel­i­cals re­new calls to con­vert Jews

The Jewish Chronicle - - News - BY SI­MON ROCKER

A MA­JOR Bri­tish evan­gel­i­cal move­ment, which last year hosted the Chief Rabbi as a guest speaker, has en­dorsed a call to spread the gospel among Jews.

The World Evan­gel­i­cal Al­liance (WEA) urged mem­bers to re­new their “com­mit­ment to the task of Jewish evan­ge­lism” in a doc­u­ment is­sued af­ter a re­cent meet­ing of a spe­cial task force.

Justin Thacker, head of the­ol­ogy of its Bri­tish af­fil­i­ate, the Evan­gel­i­cal Al­liance (EA) — which rep­re­sents around 750,000 out of the UK’s es­ti­mated two mil­lion evan­gel­i­cal Chris­tians — con­firmed: “As a body, we sup­port it.”

Last Novem­ber, Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks was the key­note speaker at an EA event, giv­ing the an­nual “Tem­ple Ad­dress” at the launch of its cam­paign on tol­er­ance. Sir Jonathan was un­avail­able for com­ment this week.

The WEA’s doc­u­ment is known as the Berlin Dec­la­ra­tion — the venue of a four-day meet­ing to dis­cuss the “unique­ness of Christ and Jewish evan­ge­lism in Europe to­day”.

The dec­la­ra­tion re­grets “the all-toofre­quent per­se­cu­tion of Jewish peo­ple in Je­sus’s name” and states that most Chris­tian be­liev­ers were si­lent dur­ing the Holo­caust.

It also ac­knowl­edges within the “sad record of Euro­pean Chris­tian his­tory” the teach­ing of con­tempt, and in­tol­er­ance to­wards Jewish peo­ple.

It says that Chris­tians should stand in sol­i­dar­ity with Jews, “op­pos­ing an­tisemitism, prej­u­dice and dis­crim­i­na­tion”, com­ment­ing: “This sin­ful be­hav­iour is ir­rec­on­cil­able with the call­ing of Christ’s dis­ci­ples.” But it also men­tions that be­cause of re­cent his­tory, “there is an ev­i­dent in­se­cu­rity about re­la­tions with Jewish peo­ple. Also, there is a ten­dency to re­place di­rect gospel out­reach with Jewish-Chris­tian di­a­logue.”

I t g o e s o n : “Chris­tians ev­ery­where must not look away when Jewish peo­ple have the same deep need for for­give­ness of sin and true shalom, as do peo­ple of all na­tions. Love in action com­pels all Chris­tians to share the gospel with peo­ple ev­ery­where, in­clud­ing the Jewish peo­ple of Europe.”

Dr Thacker ex­plained that, while he re­jected “co­er­cive pros­e­lytism”, he be­lieved di­a­logue in­volved shar­ing one’s be­liefs. “We can’t pre­tend that all the dif­fer­ent faiths have ex­actly the same view of Je­sus Christ,” he said.

“Chris­tians be­lieve one thing about Je­sus, that he was the Mes­siah, that he was Lord, that he is son of God, in­deed that he is God. Jews don’t be­lieve that about Je­sus. There is a gen­uine dif­fer­ence of opin­ion. Part of di­a­logue is ex­plor­ing that dif­fer­ence.”

He added: “In the same way that a Jew, or a Mus­lim, or a Hindu will be try­ing to per­suade me that their view of Je­sus is the right one, then I would also want to try and say that th­ese are the rea­sons why I be­lieve th­ese things about Je­sus.”

But David Gif­ford, the chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Coun­cil of Chris­tians and Jews, de­cried the doc­u­ment as “un­for­tu­nate”. He said: “In the past, the Chris­tian churches have had a che­quered his­tory in their re­la­tions with the Jewish com­mu­nity on the is­sue of con­ver­sion. Al­though we have made a lot of head­way, there are still groups who see the Jewish com­mu­nity as need­ing to ac­cept Je­sus Christ.”

He said it was time for the Evan­gel­i­cal Al­liance to “move on” and recog­nise mod­ern the­o­log­i­cal think­ing which ac­cepts “the va­lid­ity of the Jewish faith and its re­la­tion­ship with God”.

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