Last week, the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago issued a statement to the Southern Baptist Convention regarding the denomination's plans to bring 100,000 missionaries to the Windy City next summer. "While we are confident that your volunteers would come with entirely peaceful intentions, a campaign of the nature and scope you envision could contribute to a climate conducive to hate crimes," the letter said. According to the Chicago Tribune, the statement was "prompted by the concerns of local Jewish leaders" who are already upset about the Southern Baptists' September campaign to pray specifically for the conversion of Jews during the Jewish High Holy Days. And, though Southern Baptist leaders have been careful to promise the missionaries will not target specific religious groups, many of the negative comments about the plan focus on targeted evangelism.
Targeted evangelism, particularly targeting Jews, has always been controversial. The archives of Christianity Today are filled with discussions of the topic. See, for example, Billy Graham's famous statement in a 1973 issue of CT that he "never felt called to single out the Jews" for evangelism and his reiteration of that stand in a speech before the American Jewish Committee four years later. Both thestatementand our coverage of Graham'sspeechare being republished today at ChristianityToday.com. We are also publishing one of our earliest editorials touching on the subject: "Christmas and the Modern Jew" from December 8, 1958. In that same issue, we ran an article by Rabbi Arthur Gilbert, then director of Interreligious Cooperation for the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, on the "Christian Approach to the Jew." Thirty-one years later, we turn again ...1