The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops this week released a document titled Reflections on Covenant and Mission, which said Christians should not evangelize Jews. "[The] evangelizing task no longer includes the wish to absorb the Jewish faith into Christianity and so end the distinctive witness of Jews to God in human history," the bishops said. " Thus, while the Catholic Church regards the saving act of Christ as central to the process of human salvation for all, it also acknowledges that Jews already dwell in a saving covenant with God."
Newspapers quickly pointed out that this statement goes far beyond earlier Catholic statements on whether Christians should seek the conversion of Jews to Christianity—and that it's at odds with the theology and evangelistic commitments of most evangelicals.
But what do evangelicals really believe about the Jews? Does God's covenant with the Jews still hold? Should evangelicals give Jews more emphasis in evangelism strategies? Should the Holocaust make us rethink the way Christians relate to Judaism?
These questions were discussed at a 1989 meeting in Willowbank, Bermuda, of evangelical theologians from around the world. The document that came out of that meeting—since widely accepted by evangelicals worldwide—brought national media attention because of its stances that Jews still need Jesus, and Christians should still tell them about their need for him.
The following is Christianity Today's report following the controversy over the Willowbank Declaration. It appeared in our October 8, 1990 issue.
Adjusting Theology in the Shadow of Auschwitz
Does the Holocaust change the context for Christian evangelization of the Jews?
When thousands of evangelical pastors, theologians, teachers, and other ...1
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