The Church in Germany
By: Vladimir Pikman
Approaching the Anniversary of the Reformation
In 2014, in preparation for the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation, Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD, lit. translation “Evangelical Church in Germany”), which consists of Lutheran, Reformed, and United churches, officially distanced itself from Martin Luther’s antisemitism and emphasized that Luther’s attacks against Jewish people are incompatible with God’s fidelity to His people. In 2015, the synod mentioned the need for further steps of repentance and renewal in its position regarding Jewish people, and in November 2016 the synod clarified its position on the issue of mission to the Jews. The synod emphasized that the Church did not replace the people of Israel, with whom God remained faithful in covenant. The synod emphasized the necessity to fight against antisemitism and the distortion of Judaism. The dialogue with Jewish communities in mutual respect is encouraged. At the same time, the synod stated that Jewish evangelism contradicts the divine faithfulness to the people of Israel. According to EKD’s leaders, especially considering the history of antisemitism and the Holocaust, the Church should rethink its commission regarding the Jewish people. They believe that even though Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, it is for God to bring the Jewish people to Himself in His way and in His timing.
Although the Messianic Jewish movement and Jewish outreach ministries in Germany welcome the desire of the EKD to break with Luther’s antisemitic legacy and to emphasize the covenantal fidelity of God to the people of Israel, it is disturbing to observe the Church leadership opposing any attempts of Jewish evangelism and actively segregating Jewish believers in Jesus. The Gospel is treated as the “Good News” for everybody except its original receivers, the Jewish people. By officially disassociating with Jewish believers in Jesus and disinviting them from Christian events that are open for everybody, the Church commits (hopefully unintentionally) discrimination of these Jewish people based on their belief in Jesus. It is as if they were disassociating with and disinviting the Apostles themselves, who were Jewish.
Thus, 500 years later, the Church of the Reformation needs another “reformation” regarding its view on the Jewishness of the Gospel, understanding of Jesus’ heart for the salvation of His people, Israel, and appreciation of the apostolic Jewish belief in Jesus. Prayer for revival is needed, as is any and all support for Jewish believers and missions in Germany, especially in the current climate of growing segregation.