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Looking for a Church that's not Supersessionist

Discussion in 'Looking for a Church' started by jamespyles, Feb 20, 2012.

  1. jamespyles

    jamespyles Active Member

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    That's probably a tall order and I don't know if I'll ever find one, but let me explain (sorry, but this could get a little long).

    I'm a Christian man married to a Jewish woman. When my wife & I were first married almost 30 years ago, we were both atheists. I knew she was Jewish, but that had little or no impact, since neither of us was religious. About 15 years or so ago, we both became Christians (long story) but quickly progressed into what most people refer to as "Messianic Judaism" (another long story).

    We never went back to the church we were attending or any other church (we had a bad experience with the "cliques" in the church) but there was a lot of moving around among congregations/traditions in the years that followed. I spent some time with our kids in the local Reform synagogue while my wife left and went back to the Messianic Jewish congregation. Eventually, we switched places and I went back to the MJ group while she became involved, first with the Reform synagogue and then the Chabad group. She has since renounced Jesus and is religiously Jewish, spending her time, both in worship and in social fellowship, with both synagogues.

    In the meantime, I ended up on the board of the MJ congregation and did a bit of teaching and writing for them for a number of years. But as I continued to study and learn, I realized that Jesus never intended non-Jews to obey all of the laws in the Torah as he did the Jewish disciples (I know I just contradicted most of Christian theology that says the law is "dead" for everyone, not just the non-Jewish Christians). Morally, I didn't feel I could teach from a "One Law" perspective anymore and turned in my resignation about 9 months ago. Another reason I quit the MJ group is that I missed worshiping with my wife and thought that, after leaving MJ, I might be able to (even occasionally) attend synagogue and/or classes with her.

    (I should say at this point that our kids are all grown and none of them has a strong religious identity, although they call culturally and ethnically consider themselves Jewish).

    My plan to start worshiping with my wife didn't work out the way I had planned. I think, because she became religiously Jewish rather late in life, she doesn't know how to manage being "suddenly" in an interfaith marriage. The other interfaith couples she knows in synagogue have one religiously Jewish spouse, but the Gentile spouse isn't specifically Christian. I think she thinks I'm going to embarrass her or something because I'm a Christian. Although I've approached her on several occasions and asked if I could share that part of her life, she has (gently) continued to put me off.

    Anyway, I've been considering attending a church, maybe occasionally at first, since I'm feeling rather isolated and would like to have some fellowship. The problem is, given my background, I don't conceptualize Jesus, God, and the Bible in a "typical" Christian fashion. For one thing, I don't think the church has replaced the Jewish people and Judaism in all of the OT covenant promises (please don't try to convince me otherwise...my blog is full of people who have tried to do this to no avail). One of the barriers to even the thought of going to a church again is that they will preach some sort of anti-Jewish/anti-Israel message and I'll be out of there like a shot.

    My wife will never, ever go into a church to worship, so that isn't an option. I am concerned that eventually, should I go to a church, when it comes out that I am "unequally yoked", either I, my wife, or both of us, are going to come under a lot of condemnation of one type or another. I'd prefer to worship/fellowship with folks that don't feel as if they have to try and force Jews to give up being Jewish in order to worship the Jewish Messiah. I hope to one day be able to worship with Christians who could attempt to try and meet me at the level of a fellow disciple of Christ.

    Rather than me continuing to drone on, you can learn more about me in ten minutes by reading my blog (I call it "morning meditations" so I write with a ridiculous frequency...at least once a day) than you will by me writing another ten minutes here in this thread. Since I can't post links yet (I need to have 50 posts here in this discussion forum), you can go to my profile and find a link to my blog if you're interested.

    If you have any ideas, I'd love to hear them. If not, thanks for at least letting me get this off my chest.

    -James
     
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  2. Sander

    Sander Newbie

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    "It was said concerning Abba Agathon that some monks came to find him having heard tell of his great discernment. Wanting to see if he would lose his temper they said to him 'Aren't you that Agathon who is said to be a fornicator and a proud man?' 'Yes, it is very true,' he answered. They resumed, 'Aren't you that Agothon who is always talking nonsense?' 'I am." Again they said 'Aren't you Agothon the heretic?' But at that he replied 'I am not a heretic.' So they asked him, 'Tell us why you accepted everything we cast you, but repudiated this last insult.' He replied 'The first accusations I take to myself for that is good for my soul. But heresy is separation from God. Now I have no wish to be separated from God.' At this saying they were astonished at his discernment and returned, edified." (Sayings of the Desert Father)

    The Old Testament is superseded by the New Testament. The Church is the New Israel and all early Fathers testify to it. Who knows the faith better, the Early Christians or you? You have to choose between Christianity and Judaism.
     
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2012
  3. jamespyles

    jamespyles Active Member

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    Sander, I have no idea where your quote is from, but I assume it's meant as some sort of commentary on my particular theological perspective. I'm sure we could go round and round as far as the validity of supersessionism, replacement theology, or fulfillment theology (or whatever you want to call it), but I've been there before. Also, my intent in creating this thread was not to enter into such an argument but to see if there was a valid and reasonable church that could be at least tolerant of my perspective if not actually accepting.

    Your response if off topic.

    Anyone else have something to suggest?
     
  4. jamespyles

    jamespyles Active Member

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    I must admit to being disappointed that no one (besides one person) took a stab at this one. It's difficult to believe I'm the only believer around who confronts this sort of issue. Either all you intermarried folks are deep undercover or the concept of a non-supersessionist church just doesn't exist.

    In either case, I'm sorry.
     
  5. Albion

    Albion Facilitator

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    James, I am not 'up' on some of what you were mentioning but I appreciate your problem and need, I think, and two thoughts come to mind.

    One would be to try a Christian church that is at the liberal end of the spectrum in the belief that 1) tolerance will reign among the members, thus solving one problem you clued us to, and 2) all non-essential doctrinal matters such as the relationship of Judaism to Christianity are not going to be causes of friction. The United Church of Christ was the first one to come to my mind.

    Another would be to seek out a Christian denomination that is somewhat attuned to your Judaism/Christianity perspective, but because I am not clear on exactly what that is, I am reluctant to say more. The several churches I thought of in this "category" stand out among Christian denominations for thinking that the OT regulations are still binding on us non-Jews who have accepted Christ, but I think that's the opposite of what you were telling us.

    Don't be disappointed that there hasn't been a bigger response; it sometimes takes awhile for your thread to be noticed. AND, if you straighten me out about what I have gotten wrong here, it might clarify things so that others will jump in.
     
  6. jamespyles

    jamespyles Active Member

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    Hi Albion,

    It's kind of hard to articulate what I'm looking for. I'm not sure a liberal church would go over well because, except for my rather non-typical way of looking at the Bible and Judaism, I'm a fairly conservative guy. Actually, I just finished posting a bit more about my "requirements" (I know that probably sounds terrible) on my blog (which I can't link to yet, because I don't have enough posts here) so that might help you better understand what I mean.

    Part of my problem is that I'm just unfamiliar with the "variety" of churches available, and given my anti-supersessionist bent, I don't know which my be more tolerant of that perspective, or at least not quite so "in-your-face" about being opposed to Jewish people.

    Anyway, thanks for chiming in. This may not be a "solvable" problem, but my only other option is to be a "church of one", which may make a great slogan for the Army, but doesn't do a lot for me.
     
  7. parsley

    parsley .

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    I've been to lots of churches in my life, but have never heard a sermon that insults Jews. Yes, I have heard some replacement theology, but spoken in a very considerate way.

    There are a lot of non-denominational and Full Gospel churches these days that participate in pro-Israel activities. To get a start on where to look, you might want to type a search for "support Israel + town" and see if certain churches are sponsoring events.

    Insights on your wife... I don't know the whole situation, but after doing things together for many years she has observed how you like to get involved. She might be feeling right now like she wants her own space, where she can worship without thinking about how you will react, what you will say after the service, or how you will get involved.

    I think you should look at this tendency when selecting a church. You seem to like to dive in and become an influence, so it might be more important to find a place that will welcome your activity.
     
  8. lismore

    lismore Legend

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    Hi James:wave:

    thanks for sharing your heartfelt question with us.

    At the moment I also am looking for a good church. It can be a lonely process, but sometimes you just have to visit until you find one that suits:)

    There can be wide differences from church to church even in one denomination.

    :)
     
  9. theDevolutionist

    theDevolutionist Newbie

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    As has been said already in this forum, you will find a lot of variation, even within single denominations, but I would suggest trying out a few evangelical churches (Baptist, Calvary, Christian Reformed, Grace…) in your area. As a general rule, evangelical churches tend to hold to dispensationalist or covenant theologies. Most believe in an imminent, literal return of Christ and a subsequent judgment (hence the emphasis on evangelism). Virtually every Baptist church I have visited holds that Romans 11 indicates a literal fulfillment of the promises to Abraham, and that God will someday draw Israel back to Himself. They tend to believe in a literal millennial reign, centered in Jerusalem, and that the church age represents a planned and temporary transfer of responsibility for bringing the light of God's Word to the world. There are some exceptions (especially when it comes to non-affiliated, independent churches).

    On the other hand, liturgical and "Kingdom Now" churches tend more often to hold to a dominionist theology that is very compatible with the idea of supersessionism. Liturgical churches tend to place a heavy emphasis on sacraments and works and - often - an organized clergy with special authority to bind on earth and in heaven. Many view this structure as a replacement for the Levitical priesthood and O/T sacrificial system. Dominionist churches tend to hold to a non-literal return of Christ, or at least separate it from the millennial kingdom, which they hold is fulfilled in the church age. These churches tend more often to view themselves as moral agents of God, charged with making earth more like heaven through political and physical philanthropic action.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2012
  10. theDevolutionist

    theDevolutionist Newbie

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    As an aside, after re-reading your post and getting a sense of your discouragement, I would encourage you to make a special study of the Letter to the Hebrews (especially 9, 10, and 11) and of the crucifixion accounts and the Sermon on the Mount. They might help to resolve your conflict with law-keeping as it applies to Jews and Gentiles.

    All make it clear that God's standards are impossibly high for humans to attain to, and all make it clear that the O/T system of sacrifice is no longer needed, which is why the Gospels report the occasion of the veil to the Holy of Holies being torn from top to bottom at Christ's death. Christ uttered the words "it is finished" on the cross, indicating that the Law had been fulfilled. Christ Himself fulfilled all of the righteousness that would ever be needed for salvation. That is not to say that Christians are not called to live righteously; it is only to say that such effort does not, nor has it ever, lead to salvation. Salvation has always come through faith - even in the time of the Patriarchs (Genesis 15:6). Even the O/T system of sacrifice testifies to the impossibility of pleasing God through attempts at righteous living. Moses sprinkled the Israelites with the blood to seal them under the Law after they testified that they believed and would obey - in a preview of what Christ would do for all who would believe in the coming (church) age. In the first instance, the blood was a temporary stay of execution, coming from an imperfect sacrifice. In the second, the blood is a full pardon, coming from the perfect sacrifice. In both cases, faith is required in order to receive the benefit from the sacrifice.
     
  11. Catherineanne

    Catherineanne Well-Known Member

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    I think it depends on how much acceptance of Judaism you are looking for. I think it is increasingly the case that Christian churches can and indeed do accept Judaism as a living faith, and one which can complement Christianity, to the extent that we can learn about Our Lord from it, and indeed learn about devotion to God from those who follow the Torah.

    There are some NT readings which indicate the supersessionist pov, but I think few mainstream churches would emphasise them, and mine certainly would not.

    I am an Anglican. (Episcopalian.) You might like to have a chat with an Anglican priest and see how you get on.

    I wish you well.
     
  12. jamespyles

    jamespyles Active Member

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    I've been trying to go through an audio series published by First Fruits of Zion some years ago on the book of Hebrews, but with my other priorities getting in the way, I've only made it through the first chapter (which is why I prefer text to audio, since I can read much faster than a person can speak). I don't believe the Law in incumbant upon the non-Jewish disciples of Jesus, but I do believe that a Jew doesn't have to give up being Jewish and turn into a non-Jew, in order to be a disciple of the Jewish Messiah and to worship the God of Israel. There is amazing beauty and meaning in welcoming in the Shabbat, preparing for Passover, and reciting the Modeh Ani blessing, thanking God for restoring my life each morning. I cannot believe that a Jew must surrender that spiritual depth to follow their own Messiah, nor do I believe those practices are in any way inconsistent with a Jewish worship of God.

    I tend to think that's an assumption and not a fact. Jesus could have as easily meant that this suffering was finished or that the act of his dying as an atoning sacrifice was finished.

    In the past few weeks, I've begun to back away from the idea of attending a church, especially as both Easter and Passover are fast approaching. Since my wife is Jewish, we have a family seder in our home every year. I don't think I could tolerate an Easter service on top of that, although I did recently blog on both events. The Passover speaks to me in a way that I can't describe and I have a much greater connection to the seder than the Easter Sunday, Easter egg hunts, and a ham dinner.

    I was hoping to join a Bible study with a group of religiously "ecclectic" gentlemen as a means of fellowship, since that seems the "safer" course for now, but that seems to have fallen through. I'm faced with the reality that I may simply not fit in anywhere in the community of faith and I will always be alone. I've spent a great deal of time and energy trying to figure out how to join some sort of community where I can share my faith, but perhaps I need to set all that aside, relax, and realize that my "fellowship" needs will have to be satisfied in prayer and reading the Bible.

    As you may have gathered from my statements about Jews and the Torah, I just don't fit anyone's traditional mold or pattern for Christianity. I can't be the kind of Christian who tells Jews that they can no longer be Jews in order to follow the Jewish Messiah.

    I apologize if that offends anyone, but if my words are offensive or wrong, imagine what it would be like if I entered any of your churches. I'd either have to keep my mouth shut, thus inhibiting any type of fellowship, or open my mouth, speak honestly about my thoughts and my feelings, and most likely, get tossed out (hopefully politely) on my ear.
     
  13. theDevolutionist

    theDevolutionist Newbie

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    I would not ever suggest giving up your Jewishness! The tradition of Israel is so rich, and I am thankful for their preservation of the Law and of the blessing of the Messiah, the root and offspring of David.

    I personally think the Seder sounds like an awesome way to celebrate Christ, with its unleavened bread symbolizing the uncorrupted body of Christ and the wine symbolizing His blood. The Passover itself was an awesome preview of the redemption that God would effect through the blood of His own firstborn son.

    No reasonable church should or would ask you to give up your traditions. My only prayer for you is that you realize that, important as righteous living and observance of the Law are, they are not the means of salvation - and never have been - or Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David, and all of the other flawed heroes of the Bible would themselves have been lost. Scripture attests to the fact that it was their faith that God counted to them as righteousness - even down to Lot, whom many of us would view as detestable. The Law of sacrifice attests to the weakness of man and his inability to perfectly keep the Law of God. Christ's blood covers us, just as the blood on the place of atonement covered the sins of Israel - only Christ, as the perfect sacrifice, ascended into the real Holy Place and therefore is the last sacrifice that will ever be needed for atonement. Just as the sprinkling of the blood allowed the elders to approach God at the mountain in Exodus 24, so does the blood of Christ and the sealing of the Holy Spirit enable us to approach God in this life and come into the inheritance in the next.

    As Christ was the author of our salvation - the covenant that is His will and testament - He is the only one who had to die for us to receive our inheritance (Hebrews 9). Though we work out our our salvation with fear and trembling, the salvation itself is a gift from God - the inheritance of those who are in Christ.

    I pray that God will bless you richly and will bring you into fellowship with those who would not only accept, but would embrace your traditions and use them to reinforce the fact that God is the first, last and only, and that His redemptive story is one story - past, present and future.
     
  14. parsley

    parsley .

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    Many Christians feel that way. Some churches offer a walk-through of an unofficial Seder. The eggs are for the kids (and grownups who love it)... not a religious Christian practice, but western cultural. There's no reason you should give in to a ham! We don't do ham.

    Do you ever listen to Jonathan Bernis?
    Jewish Voice Ministries International: Jewish Voice Today Magazine
     
  15. jamespyles

    jamespyles Active Member

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    Just to be clear, I'm not Jewish. My wife and kids are. I've been exposed to both Christian and Jewish traditions and, for the most part, I'm more "into" Jewish traditions. I really enjoy the Passover sedar and putting up a Sukkah for Sukkot and the lighting of the Shabbos candles. None of that takes away from my faith in Christ.

    I personally think the Seder sounds like an awesome way to celebrate Christ, with its unleavened bread symbolizing the uncorrupted body of Christ and the wine symbolizing His blood. The Passover itself was an awesome preview of the redemption that God would effect through the blood of His own firstborn son.

    I know more than a few Jewish believers who were asked to leave their churches when it was discovered they were lighting candles on Friday night for Erev Shabbat and choosing to keep at least marginally Kosher. On the surface, the church may say it "loves Israel," but scratch the surface of a lot of churches and the enmity between Jew and Christian still exists. This year, I've been commissioned to write a four-part series on supersessionism and the church for First Fruits of Zion's Messiah Journal magazine. The first article was published in their January edition and the next one comes out next month. It's not a happy story so far (but I'm anticipating a happy ending by the fourth article).

    I'm with you on that. As I said previously, I don't think the Law applies to the non-Jewish disciple. We're not expected to take on board the unique commandments God issued to Israel at Sinai. However, I don't find anything that Jesus taught being inconsistent with Jewish Torah observance. Jesus certainly behaved without sin which, for a Jew, means Torah obedience. So did Peter and Paul and the rest of the Jewish disciples (and I probably know how you'll respond to this).

    No, blindly going through the motions of keeping kosher and resting on Shabbat won't save you and I agree that it's faith. But as James said, faith without action is dead. A relationship with God is not just in your head or heart or spirit. If you aren't also moving your arms and legs, feeding the hungry, visiting the sick, and showing living grace to your neighbor, you may still be saved, but it's a selfish faith devoted only to your salvation (which is another thing that sometimes bugs me about the church...some folks make it sound like it's all about "me and Jesus" and not, "how can I live out a Christian life in the world around me, spreading the word and showing grace to others").

    While a Jew may not gain or lose salvation by what they do or don't eat, God gave them a unique lifestyle for a reason. Salvation is only the beginning of the journey. It's what you do, either as a Gentile or Jewish disciple, that really matters in this world and to some degree, the world to come.

    Thanks for listening.

    , whom many of us would view as detestable. The Law of sacrifice attests to the weakness of man and his inability to perfectly keep the Law of God. Christ's blood covers us, just as the blood on the place of atonement covered the sins of Israel - only Christ, as the perfect sacrifice, ascended into the real Holy Place and therefore is the last sacrifice that will ever be needed for atonement. Just as the sprinkling of the blood allowed the elders to approach God at the mountain in Exodus 24, so does the blood of Christ and the sealing of the Holy Spirit enable us to approach God in this life and come into the inheritance in the next.

    As Christ was the author of our salvation - the covenant that is His will and testament - He is the only one who had to die for us to receive our inheritance (Hebrews 9). Though we work out our our salvation with fear and trembling, the salvation itself is a gift from God - the inheritance of those who are in Christ.

    I pray that God will bless you richly and will bring you into fellowship with those who would not only accept, but would embrace your traditions and use them to reinforce the fact that God is the first, last and only, and that His redemptive story is one story - past, present and future.[/quote]
     
  16. jamespyles

    jamespyles Active Member

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    Yes, I have. If I have any real relationship with the "formal" Messianic Jewish community, it's through Boaz Michael and First Fruits of Zion.

    My situation is rather complex and it would take a lot of space to accurately describe it (and I'm sure most folks wouldn't want to read that much). I've explained it in various online venues in the past, but one of these days, I'll have to create a specific page on my blog for "the explanation" as to who I am and why the whole "fellowship" thing is such a problem for me.

    Suffice it to say that I started out in a "regular" Christian church, spent time in a "regular" Jewish synagogue, spent more time in a "Messianic" congregation (though it was made up mostly of non-Jews and had only a fair grasp of Jewish religious practices) and finally, I've shot out the other side and am unaffiliated, attempting to negotiate my relationship with God as an intermarried/interfaith husband and father.
     
  17. parsley

    parsley .

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    But you have sought G-d, and that is what He's looking for.
     
  18. jamespyles

    jamespyles Active Member

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    We're all seeking God, but I find that we all do so in a wide variety of different ways. Mine just seems a little more "different-er" than most folks. ;)
     
  19. theDevolutionist

    theDevolutionist Newbie

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    Ahh, sorry for the misunderstanding.

    I am truly sorry for you experience here. As long as law-keeping doesn’t become a point of pride / arrogance, no one should ask you to do differently. In fact, Scripture directs us not to ask other believers to violate their conscience, as this counts as sin (1 Corinthians 8, 10).

    I think I am mostly with you here, if you mean that the disciples tried to keep the Law. Paul makes it clear that he did this only imperfectly (Romans 7). The Gospel accounts, as well as Galatians 2, make it clear that Peter stumbled, as well. In retreating into law-keeping to appease the Judaizers, Peter drew away from the Gentile believers and stopped taking meals with them. Paul rebuked Peter for this. The Scriptures indicate that when there is a conflict between the moral laws and the ceremonial / judicial laws, the moral laws should prevail. For example, the Scriptures indicate that when a Gentile serves food that is unclean, it is better to eat the food than to offend the Gentile – unless eating the food will cause another believer to stumble (Acts 10, 1 Corinthians 8, 10). I believe that this is a principle for every believer, not just Messianic Jews. Being gracious hosts and guests is a major portion of our witness in many cultures. On the other hand, I don’t believe Peter’s vision was a command to add pork as a regular staple to his diet .
    I believe these principles apply to all believers. Though only God knows whether a person is genuinely saved, I believe we are to assume that a professed Christian who bears no fruit is not saved – and to continue to feed them the milk of the Gospel as if they were unbelievers - or as if they were new believers needing reinforcement of the most basic truths of salvation by grace through faith (There is a fine line here, though, between discernment and self-righteousness).

    John warns us in his first epistle that a professed Christian who cannot find it in his heart to show grace and love to others – especially other believers – is a liar, as are professed Christians who sin unrepentantly (at a minimum, they are out of fellowship with God). It isn’t the fact that we don’t sin or that we do good works that makes us saved, but I believe that a true believer cannot help but to manifest at least some fruit.

    You’re welcome ☺ Thank You for listening, as well!
     
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2012
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