Plastic statuettes of 16th-century Protestant reformer Martin Luther, which are part of the art installation "Martin Luther - I'm standing here" by German artist Ottmar Hoerl, are pictured in the main square in Wittenberg, eastern Germany, on Aug. 11, 2010. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Fabrizio Bensch *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-LUTHERAN-JEWS, originally transmitted on Nov. 17, 2016.

German Protestants officially renounce converting Jews to Christianity

(RNS) Tackling a delicate issue as it begins its yearlong celebration of the Reformation's 500th anniversary, Germany’s main Protestant church has officially renounced its mission to convert Jews to Christianity.

In practice, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), made up of 20 regional Lutheran, Reformed and United churches, mostly gave up efforts to convert Jews in the decades after the Holocaust, and closing that chapter should have been a formality.

But officially abandoning the “Judenmission,” or Mission to the Jews, turned out to be theologically complicated.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gave his Apostles the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations.” And small groups of evangelicals in a few member churches have long opposed an official statement against conversion, despite calls from Jewish groups to issue one.

The EKD’s annual synod, which it calls its “church parliament,” finally drew up a resolution that was passed unanimously on Nov. 9 in Magdeburg. It said that Christians “are not called to show Israel the path to God and his salvation.”

Since God never renounced his covenant with the Jews, his chosen people, they do not need to embrace the new Christian covenant to be saved, it said.

“All efforts to convert Jews contradict our commitment to the faithfulness of God and the election of Israel,” the resolution read. That Christians see Jesus as their savior and Jews don’t is “a fact we leave up to God,” it said.

Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, welcomed the resolution, which his group had been urging the EKD to pass for several years.

"This clear renunciation of the Mission to the Jews means very much for the Jewish community. With it, the EKD recognizes the suffering that the forced conversion of many Jews over the centuries has caused,” he said.

Luther's anti-Semitism

The EKD has worked for the past decade to prepare a year’s worth of events worldwide to commemorate Luther’s 95 Theses, which legend says he nailed to the church door in Wittenberg on Oct. 31, 1517. Lutherans worldwide will mark the anniversary, but the focus will be in Germany.

Although he initially expressed concern for the plight of Jews in medieval Europe, and hoped to bring them into the Christian fold, Luther changed tack later in life and in a treatise titled "On the Jews and Their Lies," he urged his followers to burn down their homes and synagogues and confiscate their money.

The move to renounce the Judenmission was part of the EKD’s drive to deal with this embarrassing strain of anti-Semitism in their history so the Reformation anniversary could focus on Luther’s other legacies.

The EKD synod last year denounced the “undisguised hatred of Jews” in Luther’s writings and acknowledged that his anti-Semitism had inspired the Nazis centuries later.

In fact, the EKD synod broke with traditional theological anti-Semitism in 1950 by declaring that God’s covenant with the Jews was still valid. But it wasn’t until the 1990s that most member churches came out clearly against evangelization efforts.

The EKD wasn’t alone in changing its approach to Jews slowly. The Roman Catholic Church renounced its theological anti-Semitism in 1965 with the pioneering document Nostra Aetate at the Second Vatican Council.

It took another 50 years before the Vatican issued a clear statement last December that it “neither conducts nor supports any specific institutional mission work directed towards Jews.”

US Lutherans take different approaches

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest U.S. Lutheran body and a mainline denomination, denounced theological anti-Semitism in a 1994 declaration and urges its members in dialogue with Jews to “respect our neighbors’ concerns” about conversion.

The conservative Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the second largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S., has also denounced Luther’s diatribes against Jews but follows his injunction “to pray for them, so that they might become converted.”

In Germany, most evangelicals belong not to the 23 million-member EKD but to the German Evangelical Alliance, which claims over 1 million members. But some evangelicals are in EKD regional churches and have long defended some kind of mission to Jews.

They are strongest in the regional church in Wuerttemberg, the region around Stuttgart, where a group called the Gospel Service for Israel opposes outright conversion but supports “Messianic Jews” who accept Jesus as the savior of Israel.

The group claims to have over 1,000 members, including immigrants who have come from Russia since communism collapsed there in 1991.

In Bavaria, a group calling itself Confessing Christians — a name that recalls the Protestants who opposed Hitler — were against any renunciation of evangelization efforts, maintaining this would limit religious freedom by denying Jews the right to change faiths.

Messianic Jews pose a conundrum

Internal debates leading up to the synod focused on how clear the renunciation of the Judenmission should be.

The final text denounced efforts to convert Jews but did not specifically mention Messianic Jews, a group of Jews who accept Jesus as savior but who are not regarded as Jews by mainstream Judaism.

“The secret of God’s revelation includes both the expectation of the return of Christ in splendor and the confidence that God will save his first-called people,” it said.

Some synod participants felt the declaration should have renounced the Messianic Jews and worried that the failure to mention them meant the EKD was keeping a back door open to encourage Jews to convert.

Schuster, the Jewish leader, said he understood the renunciation of evangelization "also applies to the so-called Messianic Jews, who are not Jews.”

Detlef Klahr, a senior synod official, told journalists there was “no loophole” in the resolution. Evangelization of Jews was clearly ruled out by the resolution, he said.


  1. Well, Jesus the Christian’s Messiah did say he is the way the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except by him.

  2. wacky decision on their part. I want Jews in Heaven.
    Jesus came for the Jews, so I would say that yes, they need to follow Him. One needs to become a new creation in Christ to see Heaven. (John 3:3) Nicodemus -a Jew – was told that he needed to become born again.

    Matthew 23;37 New International Version
    “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.

  3. Well, isn’t that special. Certainly makes up for all the pogroms and the Holocaust, now doesn’t it.

    Once again Christians think they’re being good simply because they’ve decided to stop being horrible.

  4. Quoting the New Testament to Jews is like a hippie threatening to punch you in the aura.

  5. Obviously this has long been a point of contention, not just in Germany but elsewhere in the world as well. As Christianity is at its heart exclusivist in its claims about what is required for salvation, to wholly abandon that effort to assuage the feelings of any group or people who hold a different spiritual perspective betrays the instructions of Christ to His followers. Christianity owes a great debt to the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; I can think of no better way to repay that debt than by dialoguing with the Jewish people about the claims of Christ in a kindly and God honoring fashion.

  6. Isn’t this the same Jesus who also said he came not to overturn the old law but to fulfill it?

  7. A fault Christianity shares with Islam. Spread the word to all the heathens – our religion is the only correct religion and the only way to eternity. Although Jesus didn’t teach it, they used the sword quite well in the early days. Now we have a subset of Islam that wants to turn the world into an Islamic paradise!

  8. Instead of these “recruitment” efforts, why aren’t the cleaning out the abuses within their own religion?

  9. Matthew 5:17-King James Version (KJV)

    17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

    18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

  10. Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. So writes the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:1. That is just one quote but the whole New Testament is very very clear that Jews are only saved through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the fulfilment of all the Old Testament. Jews can no more reject Jesus than they can reject Moses or Isaiah. The reason the EKD has changed its mind is the same as why it has accepted Roman Catholicism. Simply the EKD has gone off the rails. The attempts it uses above are shameful distortions of the Bible based on unbelief. As Jesus said to Nicodemus, the Jewish leader who came to see him in John 3, “You must be born again”, and by the time of Jesus’s death it looks like Nicodemus was indeed born again through faith in Christ.(John 7:50,51; 19:39)

  11. I don’t think so. God’s truth, is God’s truth. If He has prepared their heart for it, it should not be a problem.

  12. That’s the funniest thing I’ve heard in a while–thanks for making my day.

  13. Interesting discussion on the word “jew”. “The meaning of the word “Jew” in the Bible is not the same as the commonly held modern view. In the Bible the word “Jew” is meant to refer to a resident of the land of Judaea. Moreover, it is a reference regardless of tribe, race or religion. Anyone who was an inhabitant of Judaea was a “Jew” and need not be a member of the tribe of Judah (Judahite) or one who followed the Judaic religion. Thus, “Jews” and “Jewry” in the Bible not only refer Judah (i.e. Jehudah or Juttah) but also a part of (or place in) Palestine and any other peoples who dwelt there. In the modern, colloquial idiom “Jews” are descendants of Judah while in the Bible it means anyone dwelling in Judaea regardless of lineage or ethnicity…”
    What we are really talking about here are Hebrews. Or Israelites. Or……..Adamites.
    Jesus said that He came for the Lost Sheep of the House of Israel. This is important to keep in mind.
    Many believe Jesus was a Jew. But in fact this is incorrect. Jesus was a Galillelean of the Tribe of Judah.

  14. Talking with people about their faith and yours seems entirely within the realm of the document. It also seems much more Christ-like than Torres conversion, which is really no conversion at all. Good point Edward.

  15. “Since God never renounced his covenant with the Jews, his chosen people, they do not need to embrace the new Christian covenant to be saved, it said.”

    That’s a very interesting take that I haven’t heard before. “I will be your god and you will be my people,” through Sarah, Rebecca and Rachel and finally to Jesus. I think the EKD has a point.

  16. So how do you reconcile this with your condemnation of Jews?

  17. I don’t condemn Jews. I don’t want them to go to Hell. What about you?

  18. He didn’t need to renounce them, they rejected Him, Her.

  19. That seems to me to be an odd semantical distinction. Further, this is the first time I’ve heard Jews defined in the way that you have described. I’m not contesting it, mind you, but I’ think I’d like to research it just a bit more, what is the source for the quoted portions of your post?

  20. Sandi, God has prepared us for a different path. We don’t need or want your path. I have read most of the “New” Testament. It leaves me filling nauseous and hated.

  21. We didn’t have to reject Jesus. He was not the Messiah. Nothing that Jesus prophecies has happened yet. That seems to me to be a good enough reason.

  22. The EKD, the German churches, apparently agree with you.

    That’s why they have ditched their own New Testament, and abandoned their own Christ’s command and promise in Matthew 28:18-20 (commonly called the “Great Commission.”)

    In other words, the German churches are effectively neutralized. Done.

  23. Countless prophesies have been fulfilled Susan. I’m sorry that you cannot see that.

  24. A few more from the Talmud:

    Gittin 57a. Says Jesus is in hell, being boiled in “hot excrement.”

    “Jesus was a bastard born of adultery.” (Yebamoth 49b, p.324).
    “Mary was a whore: Jesus (Balaam) was an evil man.” (Sanhedrin 106a &b, p.725).
    “Jesus was a magician and a fool. Mary was an adulteress”. (Shabbath 104b, p.504).

  25. Maybe they should read Scripture–where Jesus said he came specifically to the Jews first, and that the apostles should focus on Judea first before widening the gospel message’s reach. How Paul was willing to go to damnation in order to save his brethren, the Jews. Why risk beatings and imprisonment and death preaching in synagogues and to Jews if it was not necessary. I pray for Israel and I pray for Jews and I hope the true church never stops reaching out to the Jews with the message that their Messiah has accomplished it, salvation for the world, and that he will come again to keep all the promises God has made to them, to us, to everyone.

    It would be so nice if these Protestants actually read the NEw Testament….

  26. “It would be so nice if these Protestants all Christians actually read the New Testament….” and then came to the rational conclusion that it is a compilation of myths/delusions/fantasies combined with some fraud, just like the Old Testament.

  27. And this is why Christian philosemitism is complete and utter bullshit. There only concern for Israel is to keep the lights on when the Messiah arrives and look towards the cultural/religious or physical genocide of the Jews.

  28. “wacky decision on their part. I want Jews in Heaven.”

    Yes I believe the Nazis were actively doing their part to make that happen en masse.

  29. And you guys claim the Nazis had nothing to do with Christian belief. LMAO!

    Its amazing how the anti-semites come out of the woodwork here.

  30. if you weren’t aware of it before, Roy is our new resident neo-nazi. You should probably take his take on the Jews with a heaping dose of salt. He quotes anti-semitic and Christian Identity (Christian racist) sources on a regular basis.

  31. By ignoring and excusing it. How else do you think anti-semites reconcile their genocidal views with polite society?

  32. I see. I visited a site he recommended and found it to be unusual but its arguments not unfamiliar. While I intend to research the particular site further, mostly to gain an insight on its “proprietors,” I found it necessary to reject a number of its doctrinal arguments as not in concord with orthodox and historical/traditional systems of Christian theology.

  33. Oh Spud. I show you wrong in a moment of hypocrisy on your part……….lol.

  34. Hey Spuddie! Excerpts from the Talmud. Not my opinion. Have you ever read the Talmud? Hoffman has a book reviewing the Talmud – Judaism Discovered. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  35. “Synagogue of Satan.” “You are of your father the devil!” Where’s that from?

  36. Is religious liberty a thing? We don’t need your permission to reject anyone.

  37. I am 100% certain you haven’t. You are not quoting it directly, accurately or in context.

    I see the same nonsense when people pretend they read the Koran when they are really just quoting an anti Islam site.

    All this does is give bigots the pretension of knowing about whom they hate without the actuality of it. Every hater wants to pretend their views have a rational basis even when reality demonstrate otherwise.

  38. Dubious, as to the extent Mark was written prior to 70, the end of the Temple was readily predictable by non-supernatural means. To the extent Mark was written after 70, it’s not really a prediction.

  39. I wouldn’t have expected any response differently. Your the best Spuddie! Love your transparency. 🙂

  40. Yes, thank you Arbustin! Every Christian should take heed to this passage and really examine just “who” Jesus was referring to. Thanks for quoting it.

  41. That’s only half the story. The term “Jew” does come from the area of Judea, and the Galilee is a different area. But the shift of ethnonym from Israelite to “Jew” meaning all Israelites happened well before Jesus’s time.

  42. Sauce for the goose. These disputations are the result of the long split of one religion from another.

  43. I am not blinded by anything. I have examined the so-called prophecies and find them more than wanting.

  44. This makes even less sense than your usual idiotic comments. Is your medication running low or something?

  45. If he actually had said that, you’d think that one of his followers would’ve remembered it before the gospel of John was written around 90-100 A.D.
    If Jeezus really did say it, then that would have been a highly important thing to tell people. Yet Mark, Matthew and Luke clearly had never heard that quote before.
    Probably because the author of John’s gospel made it up out of thin air.

  46. Well, those of us who have interacted with God, heard His guidance, and received great comfort and blessing, the Bible is priceless. For unbelievers who have never walked with Him and felt his clear presence, sure, it’s a myth. And irrelevant. But if someone claims Christianity, the Word is essential and authoritative.

  47. The greatest thing that a Christian could do for a so called Jew is to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them. Hopefully, converting and substantially delivering them from the spurious evil talmudic occult system which is commonly known today as Judaism. I am not talking about propagating the fraud called Messianic Judaism but a true Christian conversion.

    There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. – Galatians 3:28

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