The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) last week officially renounced its centuries-old mission to evangelize and convert Jews after a resolution on the topic received unanimous approval at the EKD’s annual synod.
The central decision-making body for Germany’s main Protestant church, encompassing 23 million members, passed the resolution declaring that Christians “are not called to show Israel the path to God and his salvation” on November 9 in Magdeburg, Religion News reported.
“All efforts to convert Jews contradict our commitment to the faithfulness of God and the election of Israel,” read the resolution.
It explained that since God never renounced His covenant with Israel, Jews do not need to embrace the Christian covenant to be saved.
The abandoning of the EKD’s “Judenmission” – Mission to the Jews – began after the Holocaust, but the church had never adopted an official position. Now, as Lutherans worldwide gear up to celebrate 500 years since Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation began in 1517 with the 95 Theses, the movement is eager to distance itself from its founder’s anti-Semitic views.
The Judenmission began with Luther, who first encouraged his followers to pray that Jews convert to Christianity. However, later in his life he grew increasingly antagonistic towards Jews, publishing a pamphlet in 1543 entitled “On the Jews and their Lies” which called for the burning of synagogues, forcing of Jews from their homes and confiscation of their prayerbooks.
Last year at its 2015 synod, the EKD officially denounced Luther’s anti-Semitism, expressing “sorrow and shame” and acknowledging that Protestantism’s “far-reaching failure” with regard to the continued suffering of the Jewish people over the centuries had partly contributed to the rise of Nazism.
“In the 19th and 20th century Luther was a source for theological and ecclesial anti-Judaism, as well as for political anti-Semitism,” admitted the resolution.
Though the EKD declared that God’s covenant with the Jews was still valid as early as 1950, it had not officially renounced the Judenmission until now.
The move was met with approval by Josef Schuster, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. The Central Council had been urging the EKD to pass such a resolution for several years.
“This clear renunciation of the Mission to the Jews means very much for the Jewish community,” he said. “With it, the EKD recognizes the suffering that the forced conversion of many Jews over the centuries has caused.”