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    Introducing Your Jewish Friend to Yeshua, by Nessim and Surey

Conversions to Messianic Judaism? Maybe So.


A controversy that I should have seen coming – Conversions from Christianity to Messianic Judaism.

In this blog I am exploring the topic. Your comments and criticisms will be helpful.

The first time I heard of Messianic Jews offering conversion to Messianic Judaism I was completely dismissive. Absolutely crazy. They’ll think we are nuts. Who would recognise a Messianic conversion anyway?

Then I had a chat with my good friend Eleanor, and then I learned some more, read some more, and met my new friend Derek. Derek is sane, believe it or not! A sane prospective convert to Messianic Judaism. Would I tell him he’s all washed up? Do I think he’s driven by an identity crisis? Do I think he woudl discredit us? No.

What do you think? I think we need to keep studying this issue and thinking about it.

We are in danger of being reactionary. Here in the UK there is a group called the Union of British Messianic Jewish Congregations. I believe it is fair to say that they see themselves as more true to the ideals of historic Messianic Judaism than the majority of members of the British Messianic Jewish Alliance (est. 1866!). Maybe in some ways they are right, but BMJA members would counter ‘show us the Jews!’. The UBMJC’s membership is less Jewish in composition than that of the BMJA which requires Jewish parentage of its voting and office-holding members.

I would be very pleased if Rabbi Dr Ruth Fleischer was willing to comment on these observations. I hope that I am being fair and am open to being corrected. However, given that the BMJA sees itself as more Jewish, and the UBMJC sees itself as more Messianic, we have a stand-off in the makings. To BMJA members, the UBMJC conversion process is questionable. The lack of communication between the two groups intesifies the lack of mutual understanding.

I am not alone in being concerned that conversions could become a ‘Trojan horse’ that could turn some Messianic groups into completely Gentile, fraudulent copies of what Messianic Judaism initially set out to be. On the other hand, if Messianic Judaism is truly a Judaism it must have a means of admittance! (Maybe the root of the BMJA’s issue with the UBMJC is that it is seen as non-Jewish and therefore an inappropriate body to offer conversions). A way to keep conversion from being a Trojan horse would be to make the conversion process and expectations as rigorous as those of the orthodox community…

Is Messianic Judaism a form of Christianity or Judaism? Some would assert that we are both 100% Jewish and 100% ‘Christian’, although we might eschew the word Christian. That’s a difficult position to hold – theologically or sociologically.

Our identity in Messiah is distinct from our form and traditions of worship – which are rightly called religion. If we call ourselves Messianic Judaism, and Messianic Jews, then we have to say the latter. It is no wonder that there was such disharmony on the name change from Hebrew Christian Alliance to BMJA in days past. It was appropriate!

Most of us would agree that there are ‘true believers’, the ‘saved’, in both Christianity and Judaism. There is no doubt that these are different religions, but the key issue is whether or not an individual’s heart belongs to God and Messiah Yeshua – it is our relationship to Messiah that matters.

There is and must be a dichotomy between religion and relationship with God. Then it is OK to say that we and Christians have different religions but the same Lord and Messiah. Then it is OK to provide conversions, too – with the proviso that people clearly understand that there is nothing soteriological about the conversion’s meaning!

Last rambling thought… for the BMJA the question is whether toaccept conversions in general, and whose it should not accept (e.g. what if we accept UMJC conversions but not UBMJC?). For the BMJAF, the BMJA’s congregational network, the question is both that and whether we should consider offering a conversion path ourselves, and I don’t think we can even think about doing so at this point!

Shalom,

Daniel

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