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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan

                       June 28, 1996 V4, #116
All the News the Big Guys Missed

Jewish Agency Votes to Keep Status Quo

The Jewish Agency Assembly accepted a compromise resolution Thursday on the issues of religious legislation and the Law of Return. The resolution calls on the government not to change the status quo in either issue, and emphasized the utmost importance of the preservation of the unity of the Jewish people. The vote was taken in the assembly's final session, which convened this week in Jerusalem.

Southern Baptists Vote to Convert Jews

By Deborah Cooper (VOA-Washington)

The Southern Baptist Convention, the United States' largest Protestant religious group with more than 15-million members, has adopted a resolution to seek out and convert Jews to the church faith.

Southern Baptists have encouraged the evangelizing of Jews for more than 100 years, but Jewish leaders as well as many Christians consider this latest move an attack on the Jewish faith.

The Southern Baptist resolution calls on its membership to direct its energies and resources toward proclaiming the gospel of Christ to the Jews. To aid in the effort, the church has named a new missionary whose only assignment is the conversion of Jews. Rev. Larry Lewis, president of the denomination's Home Mission Board, says the resolution has simply revitalized a long-term commitment of the Southern Baptists to members of the Jewish faith.

"We have worked and ministered among all ethnic groups for many, many years, and, in fact, we've worked among Jewish people for a number of years dating back to 1920, when the first missionary in Jewish evangelism was appointed and served for 29 years. That position had been suspended for a few years but we've put it back in place now. We believe we are under the mandate of the Lord's great commission to share Christ with every person and with all nationalities."

Lewis says the missionary for Jewish evangelism will train Southern Baptists how to share their faith and how to establish congregations in predominantly Jewish areas. These churches could maintain Jewish traditions and practices as long as the members accepted Christ as their savior.

The reaction from American Jewish leaders has been strong. Rabbi James Rudin, national interreligious affairs director of the American Jewish Committee, says he is outraged by the Southern Baptists' action.

"This is a spiritual attempt at genocide. One thing we Jews have learned after 3,500 years -- we've learned at least two things: one - the covenant with God is eternal and that means we don't convert to another religion. And the covenant is forever. The other thing is this is just arrogance. This is targeting Jews. This is open season on Jews. After 1,900 years the Jews are weary and tired of both physical annihilation and attempts at spiritual annihilation. This attempt will fail. We will work every way we can to make sure it fails. And the question I would ask Larry Lewis is, does the success of his religion have to depend on the destruction of my religion? I think it is a form of arrogance and I think that Southern Baptists ought to really look in the mirror and decide that God is the ultimate judge, not them."

Lewis responds that it is not arrogance, but a sharing of the gospel. "It certainly is not arrogance at all. It's love. We have a deep love for the Jewish people, and deep appreciation for the Jewish people. In fact, our entire heritage is Jewish. We were born out of the Jewish religions. Jesus himself was a Jew. All the disciples were Jews and it was Jewish believers that brought the gospel to the gentiles. Now we in turn want to share that gospel with not just Jews but everybody in the world. This is our command, this is our mandate. We want to be faithful in doing that."

Lewis cannot understand why Jews might be offended by the attempt to convert them. Jewish leaders and Christians involved in interfaith dialogue were concerned that the Baptists had singled out Jews for conversion in a way that could be viewed as anti-Semitic.

Rudin says the move by the Southern Baptists has caused a great setback to interreligious dialogue and relations. "Let me say it again. Jews are not to be animals licensed to be hunted. We are not some theological two-dimensional characters -- how many notches do you get on your Christian belt for converting Jews. This is a religion of 3,500 years. It's an eternal religion, it's covenant is forever, and we're not open to assault, theological or physical. That's what we mean. To single out Jews is unacceptable, and it's something we will resist."

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