Messianic Jews are increasingly building their own institutions apart from Gentile Christians and also suffering disaffection from younger generations, according to several reports.
Jews who have adopted faith in Christ and yet retain their Jewish traditions are growing in numbers, particularly in the U.S., according to Christianity Today magazine (Sept. 7). Today there are over 350 Messianic Jewish congregations around the world. Increasingly, the tendency for these congregations, or synagogues, is to de-emphasize Christian symbols and identity — for instance, not displaying a cross or celebrating Christmas or even calling themselves Christian — and stressing the role of Jewish traditions and practices, writes Gary Thomas. Some of these Messianic Jews also follow the strict practices of Orthodox Judaism, including kosher food preparation.
There are sharp differences among the Messianic Jews in regard to their identity. The largest Messianic “denomination,” the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA), with 90 congregations, pushes the envelope the furthest in adopting Jewish practices, while the smaller Federation of Messianic Congregations (FMC) and such missionary organizations as Jews for Jesus take a more assimilationist approach and have strong ties with Gentile churches. Nevertheless, Gentile Christian leaders criticize the growing tendency of Messianic Jews to discard mainstream Christian practices.
While a conference is in the works that would seek to repair the breach between the two groups, the trend seems to be toward more separation. The first seminary for Messianic Jewish rabbis is opening this Fall in Tampa, Florida, reports the Tampa Tribune (July 18). Although it will be sponsored by the St. Petersburg Theological Seminary, the school will be independent. Students will take courses such as Messianic Apologetics, Zionism, and the Gospels in Their Jewish Context and, upon completion, will be eligible for ordination in one of the approved Messianic Jewish organizations.
Although a young movement, Messianic Judaism is also having problems keeping the young in the fold, according to a report from the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations, another denomination with 70 congregations. Marty Waldman, president of the group, says the small number of Messianic Jews combined with the antagonism from Christians and Jews are causing increasing number of young Messianic Jews to leave the movement, reports the National Catholic Register (Aug. 9-15).
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