Last night (7/18/12) our congregation's music team played for the opening of the Delegates section of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations' annual conference. One of the speakers was Dr Mark Kinzer, rabbi of congregation Zera Avraham in Ann Arbor, MI and President of Messianic Jewish Theological Institute. He talked about meeting a Catholic priest and theologian, Fr. Antoine Levy (French) in Jerusalem in 2008. Levy was leading an study institute in Helsinki Finland as an outreach to Jews in the Russian Orthodox church.
Kinzer: (from a 2010 interview by MJTI)
Q How did this conference and consultation originate?
A It all began with Antoine Levy, a French Jewish Catholic priest and theologian who directs a study center in Helsinki, Finland. Over the past several years Antoine has been growing in his consciousness of the spiritual significance of his Jewish identity. This led him in the summer of 2008 to bring a Finnish tour group to Israel to inquire into contemporary expressions of Jewish faith in Yeshua. They visited both Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Catholic groups, and met with key leaders.
While in Jerusalem Antoine attended a public lecture I gave that focused on the published responses to my book, Postmissionary Messianic Judaism. The lecture piqued his interest, and was followed by e-mail correspondence, transatlantic conversations by Skype, and our reading of one another’s work. In the process, we became convinced that we should do something together that would enable Messianic Jews and Jews in churches to challenge and encourage one another as we were doing in our friendly and productive arguments.
We met for a day in Jerusalem in the summer of 2009, and decided at that time to initiate the Helsinki Conference and Consultation on Jewish Continuity in the Body of Messiah.
Q It is interesting that Jewish participants in the consultation from the Church world were Roman Catholic, Russian Orthodox, and Lutheran. No Jews from non-liturgical Evangelical circles were present. Why was this particular group of people invited to participate?
A Leaders in the Messianic Jewish congregational movement are well-accustomed to relationships with Jews from the Evangelical world. Most Jewish missionaries fit in this category. When Messianic Jewish congregational leaders attend an event of the Lausanne Consultation on Jewish Evangelism, they encounter such Jews on their Evangelical home turf. The two meetings of the Borough Park Symposium (2007 and 2010) could reasonably be viewed as ecumenical gatherings of Jewish followers of Yeshua from the Messianic Jewish congregational world and from the Evangelical Christian world, held on more neutral turf.
I have attended both meetings of the Borough Park Symposium, and I think it is of great importance. Jewish believers in Yeshua need what we might call "ecumenical settings" in which to build relationships and discuss issues of common concern. These relationships express both the reality of Jewish peoplehood "our bond as Jews which transcends our theological and organizational differences" and the reality of our common union with the Messiah through the Spirit.
Thus, there is nothing novel about gathering together Jewish leaders from the Messianic congregational movement and from the Evangelical world. In contrast, what Antoine was proposing when we met in Jerusalem in the summer of 2009 was something that had never taken place before: a conference and consultation that brought together Jews from the Messianic movement and from more liturgical historically continuous church traditions.
Such an event would involve a challenging, complicated, and unprecedented encounter. It seemed best not to complicate matters further at this initial phase by adding non-liturgical Evangelical Jews to the mix.
Now that our first encounter was successful, I think it would be important to welcome Evangelical Jews to any follow-up events that might occur, so that the setting is truly "ecumenical."
The whole interview:http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&frm=1&source=web&cd=1&sqi=2&ved=0CFkQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.mjti.com%2Findex.php%3Foption%3Dcom_docman%26task%3Ddoc_download%26gid%3D76%26Itemid%3D244&ei=JBgIUOaeN8jD0AHqxIzaAw&usg=AFQjCNFTfnLe255iSLA6Cg6QvD2O_FeOEQ
This group has met every year since then and has drafted papers in 2010, 2011 and this year as well.
Link to those papers:http://helsinkiconsultation.squarespace.com/