Southern Baptists Rely on Deception in Effort to Convert Jews
Messianic Congregations Offer Reassuring Jewish Symbols
by JewsOnFirst.org, June 25, 2007
Links to articles and documents cited in this report will be found below it.
Six million Jews and only 15 Southern Baptist Messianic Churches! A Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) official's recent juxtaposition of the US Jewish population (and, by inevitable association, the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust) with the SBC's main vehicle for converting Jews raised this question: is the SBC's objective to empty Judaism of American Jews and make them all Messianic Southern Baptists?
At its 1996 annual meeting, the Southern Baptist Convention resolved to focus on converting Jews -- specifically to "direct our energies and resources toward the proclamation of the Gospel to the Jews." This year's meeting afforded a look at how the SBC goes about evangelizing the Jews through the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship.
The "messianic" -- Jesus worshipping -- congregations endeavor to appear "Jewish" in order to provide a reassuring display of Jewish symbols to potential converts. Rabbis contacted for this report deemed the Jewish facade deceptive.
Additionally, both the rabbis and Christian clergy contacted by JewsOnFirst were critical of an effort during the meeting to inculcate the messianic Baptists with end-times beliefs known as Christian Zionism.
Messianics meet under SBC wing
... Aslam Masih of the North American Mission Board [of the SBC] addressed the group about how they can better reach Jewish people with the Gospel. Masih is a national church planting missionary for Middle Eastern and southern Asian people groups.
Does that mean the Southern Baptist Convention wants to empty Judaism of all 6 million Jews and put them all into the messianic Southern Baptist faith? JewsOnFirst asked both the SBC and Masih.
John Revell, director of the SBC's Office of Convention Relations, told JewsOnFirst that the SBC "has not targeted any particular group" for evangelizing. Revell added: "the goal is not to get someone to abandon their faith, but to recognize who Jesus is."
Aslam Masih, who made the statement about six million Jews, professed not to immediately know what he had meant by it. Reached at his home on June 22nd, Masih took several minutes to open the web page of the Baptist Press report about his speech and locate his statement, saying that he needed to see "the context" of his statement.
As he seemed to be perusing the statement, JewsOnFirst asked: "Did you mean that all six million Jews should be removed from Judaism and converted to the messianic Southern Baptist faith?" Masih replied, "No, no, I did not say 'converted.' What I'm trying to say here, I'm trying to understand who was there. I still need to look at it in what context I said it. Let me check it out and see what context it was in."
After several more requests to comment on the statement were met with the same reply, JewsOnFirst asked Masih if his remarks had been written or off-the-cuff. He said he had not written his remarks.
A question unanswered
The Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship understood Masih to be advocating proselytizing. In a posting about its annual meeting on its website, it talks of a working lunch with Masih and another North American Mission Board (NAMB) official in which "we were able to illustrate the call to us to preach the Gospel to the Jewish people."
The MSBF webiste author talks about an earlier meeting with a Mission Board official at which "[w]e spoke about the vision of the SBMF and our outreach to the Jewish communities all over the USA." The writer also says that Masih and other NAMB personnel "are working closely with us to resource our SBMF ministries."
John Revell of the SBC Office of Convention Relations said the SBC provides no financial support to the SBMF and has no authority over it. He said the entities of the SBC do not endorse congregations.
The SBC is the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., claiming more than 16 million members.
According to the SBC-controlled Baptist Press: "The Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship was created in 1990 by a group of Southern Baptist leaders seeking to reach out to Jewish people with the Good News of the Messiah from a biblically Judeo-Christian perspective."
During a recorded conversation with JewsOnFirst.org Rabbi Barry Block of Temple Beth-El in San Antonio connected the messianics' activity with the SBC's 1996 resolution on Jews. "I'm not at all surprised that the Southern Baptist Convention is ... behind all of their efforts," Block said, "because in 1996 the Southern Baptist Convention resolved that it would target Jews specifically for conversion to Christianity. That's what so-called messianic Judaism is all about."
The SBC included photos (shown here) of the Messianic Fellowship ordaining "rabbis" during their San Antonio gathering in the SBC "gallery" of photos of the convention (here, toward the end).
Regarding Revell's statement that the SBC is not specifically targeting Jews, Rabbi Allen Maller (www.RabbiMaller.com), an authority on messianic Jews who recently retired as rabbi of Temple Akiba in Los Angeles, said that the SBC might truly believe that "they don't want to discriminate against Jews by not sharing their good news."
That the SBC is engaged in equal-opportunity evangelizing might not comfort Jews. "We Jews have a history of being persecuted, so we are touchy" about being evangelized Maller said during a telephone interview.
Use terminology that emphasizes the Jewishness of our faith. For example, instead of “Christ,” which is based on the Greek word for “the Anointed One,” use “Messiah,” which is based on the Hebrew. Instead of the “Old Testament,” refer to the “Hebrew Scriptures.”
The SBMF clergy ordained at the San Antoinio meeting were referred to as rabbis in the SBC photos and a news account. Revell said whether they were called rabbis or pastors would be up to their congregations, not the SBC.
Maller and two rabbis who participated in a recorded conversation with JewsOnFirst co-director Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak said they regard the messianic clergy as Christian.
"There are kosher delis and kosher-style delis," said Maller. These are "rabbi-style people" for those who want to be "Jewish-style Christians." He described the training of some messianic clergy as "like all other Baptists but they took a couple of courses about missionizing Jews."
Rabbi Neal Katz of Congregation Beth El in Tyler, Texas said that messianics with whom he was familiar referred to themselves as "rabbi." However, he said "they are not rabbis at all" but Christian preachers who have found a way to misuse Judaism for their purposes. He noted that the messianics also gave their "temples" Hebrew names and used Jewish rituals and accoutrements.
Katz said he has had to explain to local Christians that he and the messianic pastor who calls himself a rabbi are not the same. Following an explanation, the local newspaper stopped listing messianic worship services in the same section as Jewish services.
The Rev. Tony Richie, a Pentecostal pastor in the Church of God in Knoxville who participated in one of the recorded conversations, deplored deceptive tactics aimed at converting Jews. But Richie, said, "there ought to be a way for Jews who convert to Christianity to preserve their Jewish roots in their new congregations.
"Christians masquerading as Jews, I would have trouble with that," said Richie. "While at some level I would agree that you can't be both a Jew and a Christian. I wouldn't take that so far as to say you can't be a Jewish Christian." He added: "The Jewish heritage is a rich, full-orb reality that affects all of life, and a Jew who becomes Christian shouldn't be forced to leave that all behind."
But are they converting Jews?
Maller believes that only about one-third of the members of messianic congregations are Jewish. "One-third are gentiles, and one-third are half Jewish but were raised as Christians" he said, adding that the latter may "feel a Jewish heritage." In some messianic churches, said Maller, "if you have Jewish ancestry, you have prestige."
Rabbi Barry Block said that in his 15 years in San Antonio none of his congregants has left for either of the two messianic congregations in that city.
Rabbi Neal Katz said: "This movement is less of a threat to us than some people might imagine. I think the press has to work fairly hard to find real Jews in some of these congregations."
The Washington Post reported on June 30th that Jewish groups opposed to missionizing estimate that 200,000 U.S. Jews have "become believers in Christ" over the past 30 years.
Messianic Jews and Christian Zionism
Christian Zionists such as Kinsella believe, based on cherry-picked biblical passages, that Jesus will return at the culmination of an end-times battle against the forces of the anti-Christ to take place in Israel -- at which point Jews can decide to convert to Christianity or burn in hell. (You can learn more at the website of the Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism, three of whose members participated in a recorded conversation with JewsOnFirst.)
Kinsella was quoted telling the SBMF: "Our obligation to Israel is to bring as many people as we can to the knowledge of who their Messiah is before the anti-Christ shows up to deceive them."
Was he suggesting that the anti-Christ might be Jewish? JewsOnFirst asked John Revell of the SBC. "I don't know of anyone of that belief system who believes the anti-Christ is going to be Jewish," Revell replied, adding that nevertheless, "a number of Southern Baptists believe there will be an anti-Christ."
Rabbi Allen Maller said the anti-Christ is "a personification of everything people believe is bad."
Rabbi Barry Block interpreted Kinsella's statement about the anti-Christ to mean that "Jews will be susceptible to the anti-Christ when the time comes... Sooner rather than later, there is going to be the Apocalypse and those who believe in Jesus will be saved, and maybe we Jews, will be given one last chance but then it's curtains for us."
Participants in both recorded conversations noted that mainline Protestants do not engage in aggressive, deceptive evangelizing.
Rabbi Allen Maller said he invites messianic Christians to talk to his 10th-grade confirmation classes as an innoculation. "I don't invite liberals," he said. "They don't try to convert you. Fundamentalists do."
Conversation moderated by Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, co-director of JewsOnFirst.org, June 23, 2007
Guests Rabbi Neal Katz of Congregation Beth El in Tyler, Texas, and Rabbi Barry Block of Temple Beth-El in San Antonio. Click here to listen.
Conversation moderated by Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, co-director of JewsOnFirst.org, June 23, 2007
Click here to listen to this discussion with members of the Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism includes the following participants:
Click here to listen to the conversation.
Baptist Press reports on Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship
The following three reports were the starting point for participants in recorded conversations with Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak
Messianics affirm 5 congregational leaders
By Tim Ellsworth, Baptist Press, June 18, 2007
San Antonio (BP)--Jay Fielding grew up in New York in Conservative Judaism. He went to Hebrew school, studied the Torah and learned most of the stories of the Old Testament.
But as he grew older, Fielding said, "There seemed to be one thing missing. It was really about what I did and doing spiritual things, rather than having a relationship with the Lord."
When he was 28, Fielding finally came to understand the truth of Christianity and gave his life to Jesus Christ.
"At that time I felt this incredible release of the sins in my life," he said. "I didn't totally understand it, but I fell to the floor crying. I felt like I had been truly forgiven."
Fielding, who now serves as messianic rabbi and founder of Congregation Beth Chaim in Marietta, Ga., was one of five men ordained to the gospel ministry June 9 by the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship at the group's annual meeting in San Antonio.
In addition to the ordination, the group held a worship service and heard speakers address the topics of prophecy and evangelism to Jewish people during the two-day meeting. Continue.
Messianics focus on Jewish evangelism
Baptist Press, April 27, 2007
SAN ANTONIO (BP)--Aslam Masih, a church planting missionary with the North American Mission Board, and Jack Kinsella, editor of The Omega Letter website, will be the featured speakers at the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship's June 8-10 meeting in San Antonio.
"Continuing to Bear Fruit and Build up the Saints" is the theme of this year's meeting, which will open with a 7 p.m. Shabbat service in the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, Room 008A on the river level.
"We're working on developing relationships with local churches and associations and state conventions to promote a lifestyle evangelism effort because as Messianic Jews we have to relate to the Jews in a way that they understand," Ric Worshill, president of the fellowship, told Baptist Press. "One of the ways to do that and to prove that we understand is to actually exhibit the biblical facts that they recognize as truth so that they can see -- once they get to know us -- who the real Messiah is. Continue.
Content & context key to reaching culture, Stetzer tells Messianics
by Erin Roach, Baptist Press, June 12, 2006
GREENSBORO, N.C. (BP)--Believers must strike a balance between contending for the Gospel and contextualizing it to fit the culture they’re trying to reach, Ed Stetzer, a missiologist for the North American Mission Board, said at the Southern Baptist Messianic Fellowship meeting June 10 in Greensboro, N.C.
Jude 3 exhorts Christians to contend for the faith, or fight for the Gospel, and 1 Corinthians 9:22-23 says the Apostle Paul had “become all things to all men” so he might save some, Stetzer noted during a talk on “Redeveloping a Missional Mindset.”
“So we have to contend, but Paul also reminds us we have to contextualize,” Stetzer, senior director of NAMB’s Center for Missional Research, said. “The challenge is when we do one without the other. Our call is to both contend and contextualize. The mission that God has laid upon your heart is to contextualize into Jewish culture so that you can contend for the true faith there.” Continue.
More documents and reports on Southern Baptist Messianics
Interfaith Evangelism Belief Bulletin on Judaism
North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, 1998 and 2001
Who Are the Jewish People? According to Scripture (see Gen. 12:1-2; 17:20-21; 21:12; 28:3-4, 10-17; Acts 7:8), they are the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and of those who have joined themselves to the Jewish people as proselytes. They are not to be defined, therefore, in terms of race, politics, or religion. They constitute an ethnic group, or, to use a biblical phrase, “the house of Israel.” Although the lineage in Scripture was patrilineal, in the intervening centuries, lineage has been based upon the mother. Most unsaved Jewish people would further exclude from their definition those who have accepted Jesus as Messiah. Messianic Jews (or Jewish Christians) would not, of course, agree. They would argue that faith in Jesus (in Hebrew, Yeshua), the hope of Israel and the King of the Jews, rather than diminishing their sense of Jewishness, enhances it. Some would add that since the synagogue did not confer Jewishness upon them, neither could it take it away. Continue reading this PDF document.
Great Commission Prayer Strategy Booklet
Beginning and Growing A Great Commission Prayer Ministry
North American Mission Board website, undated
This pamphlet begins: "Everywhere you look signs point to this fact—God is calling His people to heartfelt prayer. As believers answer this divine call to prayer, two things begin to happen. First, God’s people begin to return to Him in revival. Second, the church begins to be reclaimed as a house of prayer for all the nations (see Mark 11:17). A Great Commission Prayer Ministry will provide a way for churches to become houses of prayer with a passion for the lost."
Near the end, the pamphlet states: "Lead churches to join Southern Baptist International mission prayer efforts for specific people groups (presently four groups are targeted-Jews, Muslims, Hindu, and Buddhists)." Click here.
ADL to Southern Baptist Convention: Stop Efforts To Convert Jews
News release, Anti-Defamation League, September 21, 2005
New York, NY, September 21, 2005…The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today condemned as "insulting, disgraceful and dangerous" plans by leaders of Southern Baptist Convention – the nation's largest Protestant group - to consider forming a partnership with a Messianic Jewish group in order to missionize Jews in the United States and around the world. The League called on the Southern Baptist Convention to stop their efforts to convert Jews.
On September 20, the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention approved a proposal to study whether the SBC's North American and international mission boards should formally recognize the Southern Baptists Messianic Fellowship – a Messianic Jewish group – as "an evangelistic mission to Jewish people in the United States and throughout the world." Continue.
The SBC's 1996 resolution on converting Jews
Baptist conversion effort is `open hunting' of Jews
Debra Nussbaum Cohen, Jewish Telegraphic Agency via Jewish News of Northern California, June 21, 1996
NEW YORK -- From the perspective of many Jews, it was bad enough when the 15.7 million-member Southern Baptist Convention last week appointed a minister to head up its effort to evangelize the Jews.
But it signaled a new and dangerous era to many in the Jewish community when the largest Protestant denomination in America then adopted a resolution singling out the Jewish people as a target for Christian evangelism.
It is now "theological open-hunting season on Jews," said Rabbi James Rudin, the American Jewish Committee's director of interreligious affairs.
He described the development as a "form of spiritual arrogance of the highest order."
The resolution adopted by the 14,000 Southern Baptists attending the group's annual convention, held last week in New Orleans, said, in part: "Our evangelism efforts have largely neglected the Jewish people, both at home and abroad." Continue.
Introduction of Guest Speaker, Dr. Buckner Fanning
by Rabbi Barry H. Block with a message from Rabbi Samuel M. Stahl, San Antonio,1996
Last week, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution urging its members to target Jews for conversion to Christianity. When we heard this, we in the Jewish community were both angry and sad. We were not, however, afraid. Our faith in God is secure. Our commitment to Judaism is resolute. Even the most ardent conversionary campaign will attract only the very few most vulnerable among us. No, we have nothing to fear. Instead, we were angry that a major religious movement in 1996 would say, in effect, “It’s not O.K. to be Jewish.” Some in our society will infer that Jews are now legitimate targets for discrimination and persecution, since we really ought not be Jews at all. Most of all, we were sad. Many Southern Baptists have been our friends. We are hurt that they so disrespect us that they want to convert us.
One voice, though, rang out in San Antonio, soothing our anger and healing our wounds. How fortunate we are that the voice belongs to Dr. Buckner Fanning, Pastor of Trinity Baptist Church, surely the most influential Protestant minister in our city. In last Saturday’s San Antonio Express-News, Dr. Fanning distanced himself from the Southern Baptist Convention resolution. He thereby assured us that a leading Baptist voice would speak out in support of our Jewish community. He helped us to know that we are not alone. Continue.
Some of Their Best Friends Are Jews
By Jeffrey Goldberg, The New York Times, March 16, 1997 via Goldberg's website
The Rev. O.S. Hawkins is promising me eternal damnation, and we haven’t even ordered lunch yet.
It’s not his choice: all he can do is lay out my options, and until I accept Jesus, there are no options.
He wishes it were otherwise. “I know how this sounds to your people,” he says, “but literally some of my best friends are Jewish.”
Hawkins, a lean, sunburned man with the jocular air of a winning football coach, is pastor to the 28,000 members of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, the largest Southern Baptist congregation in the country. We are having lunch in an upscale Tex-Mex restaurant connected by tunnel to the church’s 20-building complex.
I am in Dallas to meet James Sibley, a congregant and colleague of Hawkins. Sibley is also the man appointed by the Home Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention as its missionary to the Jews, and, as such, is a premier bogyman of American Jewry. Sibley’s mission received resounding approval in June at a Southern Baptist conclave in New Orleans; 14,000 “messengers” endorsed a resolution that Sibley wrote calling for Baptists to direct their “energies and resources toward the proclamation of the Gospel to the Jewish people.” Continue.
Baptists Move on Two Fronts In New Effort to Convert Jews
Gustav Niebuhr, The New York Times, June 14, 1996
The Southern Baptist Convention today adopted a resolution calling for efforts to convert Jews to Christianity. And, for the first time in many decades, the denomination's domestic missionary agency has appointed a missionary to undertake such work.
Early reaction to the Southern Baptists' resolution, adopted by nearly 14,000 delegates at the close of their three-day annual meeting here, suggested that it was certain to strain relations with Jewish groups.
The resolution said the 15.6-million-member denomination, the largest in American Protestantism, would "direct our energies and resources toward the proclamation of the Gospel to the Jews." Continue.
ADL: Southern Baptists Effort To Convert Jews Is An Insult To The Jewish People
News release, Anti-Defamation League, June 14, 1996
New York, NY, June 14, 1996. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today called the action taken by the Southern Baptist Convention to convert Jews to Christianity "an insult to the Jewish people and a setback for the cause of interfaith dialogue and understanding." A resolution adopted by the Southern Baptists stated that they would direct their "energies and resources toward the proclamation of the Gospel to the Jews." A missionary has been appointed to lead the conversion initiative. Continue.
Evangelicals Strengthening Bonds With Jews
Richard Bernstein, The New York Times, February 6, 1983
After years of mutual alienation and distrust, evangelical Christians have been meeting with Jewish leaders in New York and elsewhere to offer support for Israel and to forge a new relationship with Jewish groups.
Jewish leaders are talking of a surge of support from a wide range of conservative Christians, including fundamentalists. Jewish leaders who want to build ties with evangelicals also point to pro-Israel editorials in evangelical magazines and to theological pronouncements by Christian preachers eschewing proselytizing among Jews. There have been rallies and newspaper advertisements supporting Israel, participation of evangelicals in synagogue services and the creation of pro-Israeli organizations among Christians.
But while many Jewish leaders have openly welcomed the evangelicals' eagerness to build ties, others say they are uneasy. They say they harbor deep doubts about the wisdom of alliances with conservative Christian groups that, they feel, want ultimately to convert the Jews and, on many political issues, often hold profoundly different, more conservative points of view. Continue.
Baptists' Evangelism Concerns Jews
Gustav Niebuhr, The New York Times, September 25, 1999
In a polite but pointed exchange of letters over the last two days, a Jewish organization in New York has protested the decision by the president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination, to help convene a conference in Manhattan on evangelizing Jews.
The letters, between the convention president, the Rev. Paige Patterson, and Philip D. Abramowitz, director of the Task Force on Missionaries and Cults, of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York Inc., were exchanged as Mr. Patterson arrived to take part in the conference, titled, ''To the Jew First in the New Millennium.''
The gathering has disturbed Jewish groups like the task force because the event brings together prominent evangelical Protestant academic figures and leaders of ''messianic Jewish'' organizations, who say one can be Jewish and accept Jesus as the Messiah. Continue.