A Challenging Quotation: But Who Will Heed It’s Call?

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?

About Stuart Dauermann

The blog of Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann, teacher, mentor, radio talk show host, denizen of Los Angeles, and a visionary with a long career in Messianic Jewish activism. You can hear Rabbi Dauermann as he hosts Shalom Talk, a weekly radio show, and even listen online at ShalomTalk.com. Rabbi Dauermann spends time traveling nationally and internationally, and throughout the year is in Israel as a Scholar in Residence at the MJTI Jerusalem Center. He has plenty to say about Jewish-Christian relations, the need for shalom in the world, and the agenda of Messiah, the Son of David.
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2 Responses to A Challenging Quotation: But Who Will Heed It’s Call?

  1. Brother Stuart, I can never affirm enough how much I love and respect you as a Brother. I am in total agreement with all you say here and am so thankful you shared this on your blog. I have shared it on my Facebook page as well. I hope I have the privilege of meeting you in person someday as the LORD opens that door of opportunity. Thanks so much for making us aware of this BRISTOL DOCUMENT. It is a deep shame that the World Council of Churches never accepted it. Can we view it in full online somewhere. I affirm and support all your conclusions 110%. I DEEPLY love all my Jewish brothers and sisters throughout the world, and especially those here on Facebook. I also affirm you viewpoint concerning our Christian mistakes in attempting to “evangelize” our Jewish brothers and sisters, and I have the same respect for all my Jewish brothers and sisters be they Orthodox/Hasadic or Messianic in their practices and theology. Thank you, Brother Stuart, for all you discernment and Godly understanding and wisdom.

    • David, thank you for your warm affirmation. However. I am afraid you misunderstand MY position which differs from the World Council of Churches position. I believe in the continued chosenness of the Jewish people as a people, as Paul himself says “they are beloved for the sake of the fathers for the gifts and call of God are not to be repented of.” But I also believe in the imperative of sharing the good news of Yeshua with Jewish people because Yeshua is not just someone else’s Savior: He is the Son of David, through whom and in whom God’s consummating purposes for Israel go forward. Therefore, we ought to share Yeshua with the Jewish people because he is good news for the Jews! I also name a cluster of reasons which associate mneumonically with the Lord[s Prayer: (1) We should want to share the intimacy of relationship with God which we enjoy through our Yeshua faith (:”Our Father who is in heaven”); (2) We should want to bring honor to God through sharing the good news of Yeshua and believing in HIm (“Hallowed be your name)l (3) We should want to hasten the coming of the Kingdom, as Israel enters into its fullness (may your Kingdom come); (4) We should do so out of obedience (your will be done on earth as it is in heaven). In addition, e should want to share the knowledge of Yeshua with our Jewish people because “We shall all give an account of ourselves to God” (Ro 14:!2), or as Paul says it elsewhere, “We shall stand before the judgment seat of Messiah:), The Bible reminds us that “our God . . . the God of Jew and Gentile, of Israel and the Church . . . is a consuming fire (Dt 4:24l 9:3; He 12:29), and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God (He 10:31). I for one tremble at the prospect of my accountability to God, and none of us can escape that eventuality In view of that, I consider it an act of love and friendship to share with Jewish people that in Yeshua, we have an Advocate with the Father who is the propitiation for our sins, and not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world (1 Jn 2:2; Ro 3:35; He 2:17). IT is GREAT news that Yeshua is the Son of David who is bringing all Israel into her eschatological inheritance, and it is extremely relevant and comforting news that He stands ready to be our Advocate in that Day when all of us will have to give an account of ourselves. So for all these reasons, I am enthusiastic about sharing the good news of Yeshua with the Jewish people. But I insist it should be done in a manner which preserves Jewish community continuity, the perpetuation and veneration of Jewish life, and respect for the holy patrimony of the Jewish people. And it should never be done in smugness, or as if “I have it all, and unless you believe as I do, you have nothing/” No: we shall ALL stand before the Judgment seat; we shall all give an account of ourselves to God; and we all should be desperately grateful for an advocate like Yeshua to stand up for us in that Day. This is good news about which we ought not to be ashamed, while always being sure to share this news in the deepest humility. So if I gave the impression that it is superfluous or in poor taste to share the good news with the Jewish people, I repent in sackcloth and ashes! For the reasons stated, I think it is an excellent idea! And I could say more . . . but not now 🙂

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