The theological arm of the World Evangelical Alliance has released a statement on Jewish evangelism in Europe with the hope of renewing commitment to take the gospel to the Jews.
The "Berlin Declaration," as the 1,200-word document is called, comes one week after the conclusion of the Aug. 18-22 meeting on how the Christian community might express genuine love for the Jewish people, especially in Europe.
The consultation in Berlin involved 13 scholars from the WEA Theological Commission, key seminaries and other organizations. It also included practitioners engaged in ministry among Jewish people, and Christians from Germany and Messianic Jews.
"[I]t is our prayer that the Berlin Declaration 2008, signed by the thirteen members of the Task Force, will prove to be equally useful in supporting the work of taking the gospel 'to the Jew first' and also the rest of the world," commented the WEA Theological Commission's executive director, Dr. David Parker, in an announcement Friday.
He said the European setting of the statement is particularly significant.
"We hope that this declaration will encourage many Christians to see the importance and biblical warrant for this important ministry," Parker stated. "We would like to see the Berlin Declaration 2008 circulated as widely as possible amongst those who are engaged in and interested in this ministry."
The declaration places emphasis on four main points – the need for repentance, the problem of sin, the solution for sin, and the call for action.
"We deeply regret the all too frequent persecution of Jewish people in Jesus' name," the declaration begins.
"During the genocide of the Holocaust, when the Jewish people were in their greatest peril, most Christian believers were silent," it continues.
"Many more today feel embarrassment and shame for the general failure to protest. As a result, there is an evident insecurity about relations with Jewish people. Also, there is a tendency to replace direct gospel outreach with Jewish-Christian dialogue," the declaration adds.
But more than a Christian problem, it is a problem of sin, which "affects all humanity, both the persecutor and the sufferer."
And the solution, the task force noted, is found in recognizing the uniqueness of Christ as the crucified, resurrected and divine Messiah who alone can save from death and bring eternal life.
"Everyone needs what God offers by his grace: forgiveness of sin and a transforming divine presence in those who respond," they stated.
"This benefit is neither earned nor entered into by birth. It is received through acknowledging our deep need for God to supply what we lack."
The task force concluded the declaration by making a call to action.
"Christians are called to share this good news, with sensitivity and humility," they reiterated.
"While respecting the views of others, we still challenge them to consider the message of the Messiah."
Therefore, as "Christians concerned for the well being and salvation of the Jewish people," the task force calls for:
• Respect for religious conviction and liberty that allows frank discussion of religious claims
• Repentance from all expressions of anti-Semitism and all other forms of genocide, prejudice and discrimination
• Recognition of the uniqueness of Christ as the crucified, resurrected and divine Messiah who alone can save from death and bring eternal life
• Reconciliation and unity amongst believers in Jesus
• Renewed commitment to the task of Jewish evangelism
While the Berlin Declaration 2008 is not an official document of the WEA, the Theological Commission is distributing it for study and consideration.
The declaration follows in the wake of earlier documents produced by the WEA on Jewish evangelism. The first was the Willowbank Declaration of 1989 which was hailed at the time as a decisive statement and continues to be referred to as a landmark document. The second was a brief statement published and endorsed by the WEA reinforcing the validity and importance of Jewish evangelism which appeared in the New York Times in 2008, with initially 54 signatures.