Last time I shared some dreadful quotes from a document generated in connection with the first Assembly of the World Council of Churches (1948). From responses I received, we were all pretty scandalized by that quotation. Today I am sharing a quotation from a document generated some twenty years later, which, sadly failed to be ratified by the entire Assembly, meeting then in Uppsala, Sweden.
Prior to the 1968 Uppsala Assembly of the World Council of Churches, the Commission on Faith and Order met at Bristol (England) from July 29 to August 9, 1967, accepting the report of the Committee on the Church and the Jewish people and commending it to the Churches for further study. This report is sometimes called “the Bristol Document.” It represented quite advanced thinking on the relationship between Christians and Jews, very different from what we covered in our last posting. Listen to what it said about the relationship between the Church and Israel:
It is possible to regard the Church and the Jewish people together as forming the one people of God, separated from one another for the time being, yet with the promise that they will ultimately become one. Those who follow this line of thinking would say that the Church should consider her attitude towards the Jews as theologically and in principle as being different from the attitude she has to all other men who do not believe in Christ. It should be thought of more in terms of ecumenical engagement in order to heal the breach than of missionary witness in which she hopes for conversion.
Those familiar with popular debate today, some forty-five years later, will recognize this language as expressing fervent convictions held by postliberal theologians and others who speak of a schism destined to be healed between Israel and the church, that in reality these are meant to be one unified, although diversified, people of God. This is in large measure what Mark Kinzer speaks of in Postmissionary Messianic Judaism when he advocates a bilaterial ecclesiology, One New Man consisting of Jews living as part of the Jewish community in allegiance to Messiah, and Gentiles, living in their own context, also in allegiance to him, and both the ekklesia from among the Gentiles and that from among the Jews living in reconciled unity (not uniformity) in relationship with each other.
The quotation recommends abandoning conversionist attempts, but we must remember that for most people, this enterprise means luring Jews away from Judaism and Jewish community to the beliefs and communion of the Church. Certainly this was and is the prevailing assumption in the World Council of Churches. However, I view a wholesale abandonment of outreach to the Jewish people to be ill-advised and shortsighted. The problem with evangelism as historically pursued is not evangelism itself, but rather the assumptions of the messengers and the way they craft their message. What is wrong is their indifference or more often, their antipathy toward Jewish communal cohesion and the survival and the growth of Judaism. But what would evangelism look like if it instead embodied an insistence on the Jewish community and Judaism thriving? What if we really acted as if we believed that Yeshua is the Jewel in the crown of Judaism, and that this is a crown most precious?
What is needed is a nonsupersessionist mission theology advocating and assisting the survival of the Jewish people, the right of this people to live in the Land of their ancestors within secure borders, and the blossoming of Judaism as the religion appropriate to this people, a religion with Yeshua as the as yet unrecognized embodiment and Jewel in the crown.
Isn’t this a better message than one which disparages and discards Judaism as passé or as an obstacle to be overcome?
As mentioned earlier, the Bristol Document was never ratified by the Assembly: some people viewed it as too hot to handle. What do you think?