On June 13, 1996, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution which called for the Baptists to direct their "energies and resources toward the proclamation of the gospel to the Jewish people." In essence, this puts the force and power of the largest fundamentalist Christian denomination with over 37,000 churches and 15 million members in the U.S.- squarely on the side of bringing Jews to Christianity.
But haven't Christians wanted to make Jews into Christians for almost 2,000 years? Why are Jewish groups so upset about this resolution? There is nothing really new here or is there?
The reality is that while the Baptists have been attempting to downplay it's impact, the resolution has major implications for both the Christian and Jewish communities.
In the U.S. today there are approximately 200 Hebrew-Christian congregations. They call the congregation a "synagogue", the leader "rabbi", and there is never a cross in plain view - it looks too Christian. Of these 200 congregations, over 30 are affiliated with the Southern Baptist church. In fact, the only other denomination that has more affiliated congregations is the Assemblies of God.
The Baptists have indicated that they are "only" committing $50,000-$100,000 of national church monies to "bring the gospel" to the Jews. This basically represents the salary of the full-time missionary that they have appointed to spearhead this ministry.
So how much of an impact can this have? Significant impact.
The role of this missionary is to encourage each individual Baptist church to get involved in "reaching" the Jews. But not honestly or in a straight forward manner. Rather, the churches are encouraged to use the deception of telling Jews that they can be Jewish and Christian at the same time. They are encouraged to create Baptist affiliated, Hebrew-Christian congregations. And while the national church body hasn't allocated a significant amount of money for this effort, the individual churches have not weighed in as yet.
If only 25% of the 37,000 Southern Baptist churches take this on as a project, and contribute only $1,000 that amounts to $9.25 million. If only 1% of the affiliated churches sponsor a Hebrew-Christian congregation, the number of congregations will triple. And if there are approximately 250,000 Jews involved in Hebrew-Christianity today, what is the impact of close to 1 million Jews on our community and our families?
The resolution also makes a statement. One which sounds frighteningly familiar. Jews are lacking something. They aren't as good as Christians. Their belief is invalid - after all, the Rev. Bailey Smith, at that time leader of the Southern Baptists, said in the 1980's, "G-d doesn't hear the prayer of a Jew." This is one of the worst forms of anti-Semitism, and is typical of the mindset that existed in Germany in the 1930's.
The Baptist resolution also sends a message to the rest of the Christian community. Put away your "interfaith councils", "ecumenical services" and statements of mutual respect. It's open season on the Jews. This is the real danger of the Baptist resolution.
What was interesting as well, was the absolute silence of the remainder of the Christian community. Perhaps they were silently saying: "Amen"?
It's time that the Jewish community woke up to the reality of this threat. Jewish survival is at stake. We need to spend more time, effort and money in preventive education. It is our basic line of defense against what the Baptists have in mind. As the only full-time counter-missionary organization in North America, Jews for Judaism needs your help and support NOW. Help us send the Baptists a message:
We will not be a target! One cannot be a Jew and a Christian at the same time and we're proud to be Jews!