Sunday, August 14, 2011

Second Helsinki Conference on Jewish Continuity in the Church

Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see much noise in the Messianic blogosphere about the Second Helsinki Conference on Jewish Continuity in the Church. If you recall, I posted last year about the first such gathering, including a link to the statement released by the conference participants (see my post from last year, Helsinki Conference on Jewish Believers in Jesus).  Well, thanks to Hebrew Catholic blogger Athol, I read about the second such conference in the conference press release, including quotes (underlined) from Dr. Mark Kinzer and Fr. Antoine Levy on the interconnectedness of the Jewish people and the Christian Church: 


Second Helsinki Conference on Jewish Continuity in the Church Affirms the Significance of Jewish Believers in Jesus

The second Helsinki Consultation on Jewish Continuity in the Body of Messiah met in Paris, France June 24-28, 2011. Building on the 2010 Helsinki Statement (see below) Jewish scholars from France, Germany, Israel, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, belonging to Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant and Messianic traditions, deepened their relationships and advanced in their discussion of crucial issues concerning the relationship of the Body of Christ to the people of Israel.

The conference was jointly organized by Messianic Jewish Theological Institute (MJTI), the Paris Istina Centre for Ecumenical Studies and the Helsinki Studium Catholicum. The participants issued a statement on “Am Israel – Our People” affirming the increasingly significant presence of Jewish believers in Jesus for both the Church and the Jewish people. The papers presented are due to be published in the journal ISTINA, the academic journal of the Dominican study centre in Paris where the conference took place. A similar event is planned for 2012.

Dr. Mark Kinzer, author of Postmissionary Messianic Judaism, Senior Scholar and President Emeritus of MJTI, said “The identity of the Christian Church is inseparable from that of the Jewish People, and the identity of the Jewish People is inseparable from the person of its crucified and risen Messiah, Yeshua of Nazareth. It follows that the Jewish people and the Christian Church are so intimately bound together that it is impossible to adequately understand one without also understanding the other. We have met to deepen our own understandings of these realities, and to encourage our people and our churches to reflect further on their mutual interdependence.”

Father Antoine Lévy, OP, Director of the Helsinki Studium Catholicum, called forgreater recognition and encouragement for Jewish believers in Jesus at an ecumenical level. "Like the interaction between men and women, the interaction between Jews and Gentiles pertains to the spiritual dynamism of the whole Church. It embraces and pervades local congregations and Church organizations. Accordingly, I see no reason to prevent Jews from developing a distinct life of worship within the Universal Church. Wherever they are, whatever their Church affiliation may be, I believe that Messianic Jews should gather and build a home within Am-Israel, a home for themselves as well as for their fellow Jews who would be willing to join." 

Here is the statement produced by this year's conference:


The theme of this year’s consultation was “Am Israel – our People”. As the many papers demonstrated, the identity of the Jewish People is complex, consisting of historical, familial, ethnic, cultural and spiritual components that are all essential and inseparable. The paradoxical nature of Jewish identity challenges us to avoid reductionist interpretation and to explore further the mystery of our people.

As Jewish believers in Jesus, we affirm our identity as part of both the people of Israel and of the Body of Christ. We recognise the pain this affirmation may cause to some of those of our people who do not believe in Yeshua. We are also aware of the misunderstanding that can occur in the Church when we state that we continue to be part of the Jewish people.

Nevertheless, we believe that we are a living witness to the mysterious and invisible bond which persists between the Church and Israel. Our dual membership brings us into a unique relationship with one another, and also entails weighty responsibilities and formidable challenges. Our two communities have been separated but belong together. We bear witness to the tragedy of their division and herald the hope of their future reconciliation.

We are exploring how this unique relationship to one another as Jewish believers in Jesus might take visible form as a wider fellowship dedicated to the service of the Jewish people and the body of Messiah.

Speakers from Europe, Russia, Israel and the United States included Father David Neuhaus, SJ, Patriarchal Vicar General for Hebrew speaking Catholics, and Boris Balter, Researcher in Physics at the Russian Academy of Sciences and member ofthe Judeo-Christian circle "Bridge of Friendship". Conference papers were given in English, FRENCH and Russian...

It seems to me that Messianic Jews were well represented at the conference: alongside Dr. Kinzer were Dr. Richard Harvey, Lisa Loden, Rabbi Vladimir Pikman, Rabbin Emmanuel Rodriguez, and Jennifer Rosner. It'd be great to be able to get a copy of the conference proceedings, as I'd love to read any and all of these papers.


Anonymous said...

You're right. I didn't hear a peep about his in the usual parts of the Messianic blogosphere I visit.


Anonymous said...

"Maybe I missed it, but I didn't see much noise in the Messianic blogosphere about the Second Helsinki Conference on Jewish Continuity in the Church."

It's all very interesting. Still, I can see why there's little interest among Messianic Jewry in this - one gets a distinct feeling that this conference belongs to another age, a time when "Hebrew Christianity" was just beginning to emerge with much trepidation as a faint voice out of the general Church environment and yet still very much remaining attached to its Christian moorings. It harkens to the time when Jewish believers were still seeking PERMISSION and APPROVAL from the Church to live as Jews. That's why Father Antoine Lévy could say words like:

"Accordingly, I see no reason to PREVENT Jews from developing a distinct life of worship within the Universal Church."

Yahnatan said...


On the other hand, I think concerns about "re-erecting the wall of partition" or separation may still exist, particularly in the historic liturgical churches. For scholarly voices in those worldwide communities to affirm the legitimacy of a distinct Jewish life of worship can help Jewish believers in those churches who are facing (and maybe even convinced by) those concerns to persevere in walking out their calling.

Anonymous said...

The divergent branches between Christians and Jews continues to exist. I recently exchanged comments with Rabbi Dixler at on the topic of God being master over all people, not just the Jews and believe me, the struggle continues as to how this is supposed to work out this side of the Messiah.