German Christians Give up Witnessing to Jews, Citing History of Anti-Semitism

Guilt over anti-Semitism drives one of the largest denominations in Germany to ban witnessing to Jews.

By Nancy Flory Published on November 25, 2016

Some Christians in Germany have decided to stop evangelizing Jews. The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) unanimously voted at the close of their annual Synod in early November that the Church would no longer attempt to reach Jews for Christ. Christians are “not called to show Israel the way to God and his salvation.”

The EKD, formed in 1948, is a federation of Lutheran and Reformed (or Calvinist) churches. (In Germany, “Evangelical” means “Protestant” rather than a type of conservative Protestantism as it does in America.) About one-third of Germans are members, though only a small number attend. The great majority of its members, according to the EKD’s website, hold that “God chose the Jews as his people and therefore Christians are not called upon to convert Jews to faith in Jesus Christ.”

Retreat and Repentance

The Synod statement, adopted November 9, said in part:

We reaffirm that the election of the Church has not taken the place of the election of the people of Israel. God is faithful to His people. Christians, notwithstanding their mission into the world, are not called to point out the way to God and his salvation to Israel. All efforts to persuade Jews to change their religion contradict the confession of God’s faith and the election of Israel.

The full statement in German can be found here.

The change follows decades of discussion of Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic statements and German anti-Semitism over the years, which culminated in the Holocaust but has not been eradicated. Synod president Irmgard Schwaetzer commented that:

We are taking a further step on the road to reflection and reversal in our relationship with the Jews. … It is an important contribution to the fact that the gesture of recognizing guilt and taking responsibility for our Jewish brothers and sisters is planned for the opening of the week of brotherhood in Frankfurt in 2017.

In her 2015 Synod Declaration, Schwaetzer called witnessing to Jews “customary Jew-baiting,” among other seemingly anti-Christian statements throughout the talk.

Increasing Anti-Semitism

The concern felt by Schwaetzer and others in Germany over the persecution and murder of Jews is understandable in light of German history from the anti-Semitic attacks on Jews during the early Middle Ages to the Holocaust, and the fact that anti-Semitic acts and thinking continued even after World War II, and may even be increasing.

Only in 2003 did the Chancellor of Germany signed an agreement with the Central Council of Jews in Germany that officially raised the legal status of the Jewish community to the same level as the German Catholics and Protestants. This agreement, signed on the anniversary of the release of the survivors held at Auschwitz, provided that Germany owed the Jewish community reparation for the horrific crimes perpetrated against them during the Holocaust.

“Anti-Semitism is more widespread than we imagined,” German chancellor Angela Merkel said earlier this year. “We must take care, specifically also in youth [from] countries where hatred of Israel and Jews is widespread,” she added, without naming the countries. As of January, 2016, Germany has accepted over 1 million refugees from mainly Muslim countries

“We are no longer safe here,” Jewish community spokesman for the northern city of Hamburg, told news outlet that deteriorating security in Germany has resulted in an extremely dangerous situation for Jews. Daniel Killy cited “the disintegration of state power, excesses of the extreme right-wing, the loss of political credibility, and ‘the terrible fear of naming Islamism as such'” as factors contributing to an insecure environment for Jews.

Jewish Germans have reported specific incidents of anti-semitism. In 2014, for example, Eliot Reich participated in a pro-Israel demonstration in Berlin and was shocked at the response by counter-demonstrators. They shouted angrily, “Hamas, Hamas! Jews into gas!” The president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, “encouraged German Jews to look less Jewish when walking through predominantly Muslim neighborhoods in Berlin,” reported the Independent.

The Jerusalem Post reported that 500 German Jews moved to Israel in 2015 due to anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitism By Another Name

With a history so permeated with anti-Semitism, it is little wonder that EKD president Schwaetzer wants to distance herself not only from the ugliness but also from what she perceives as imposing ideologies onto the Jewish people. But by doing so, some say Schwaetzer and the EKD are embracing another, perhaps an even more insidious, form of anti-semitism.

Stream author Michael Brown, nationally syndicated radio host and author of Our Hands Are Stained with Blood: The Tragic Story of the “Church” and the Jewish People, is widely considered to be the world’s foremost Messianic Jewish apologist. He believes the EKD’s efforts to exclude the Jewish people from the gift of salvation is tragic.

“I understand that the Holocaust could never have taken place without centuries of Church-based, European anti-Semitism, and I understand why many Jews associate the Holocaust with Christianity,” he told The Stream.

Because of this, after World War II, many church groups renounced ‘conversionary’ efforts towards the Jewish people, wanting to honor the Jewish faith and to repent of their anti-Semitic past. Now, the Evangelical Church of Germany, which is more liberal than conservative, has followed suit. The correct thing to do would have been renouncing efforts to convert Jews to Christianity and instead helping them find Yeshua (Jesus) as their Messiah. Ultimately, in the interest of denouncing anti-Semitism, this denomination has engaged in a more subtle form of anti-Semitism, namely, withholding the good news of Jesus from the Messiah from the Messiah’s very own people.

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