After all those years of hearing about the LCJE

By Elizabeth Hockenhull, Chosen People Ministries, UK

After all those years of hearing about the LCJE and of reading reports of the conferences – I finally made it.

I was sent by Chosen People Ministries in my capacity as Board Chair in the UK. But I am a lifelong missionary among the Jews of Great Britain. So the subject matter has been with me for a very long time.

The international nature of LCJE becomes deafeningly obvious as you tune into the Finglish and Yankeespeke. Here are a distinguished company of fellow-believers, many of them specialists in their own fields, all conspiring to speak my language – English!

It is heartening to realise how universal are the Hebrew songs and melodies, the Messianic culture, the common concerns and the household names of our leaders.

Not that there was bland unanimity about everything. Even culturally challenging issues could be aired in the secure context of Protestant hymn singing. I sensed a tension between the devotional input, which was irenical, and the need to thrash out differences. As in any gathering of preachers some manifested better expository skills than others. It was good to hear the Scriptures handled and taught well.

It was so refreshing not to have to rehearse the reasons and justification for taking the gospel to the Jewish people. For once this was firmly agreed by us all. A unique gathering? Yes, I think so, especially in the light of what Kai Kjær-Hansen identified as “other forms of replacement theology”; we can no longer assume that all those who support Israel are wholehearted about Jewish evangelism. His point was well made. I hadn’t heard it expressed unequivocally before.

I came expecting a bit of imbalance. Surely that would be normal – as in so many gatherings? Perhaps it would be all theory, and little practical application? Not so.

Perhaps there would be an emphasis on the past achievements of Jewish missions and nothing about contemporary challenges? Instead we heard, on the one hand, fascinating reflections on the journals of 19th century missionaries working in Jerusalem, and on the other more than one crie de coeur for our younger postmodern generation.

Perhaps there would be an endorsement of the Messianic congregational movement and little or no discussion about its aversion to adopting the historic creeds of the church? Instead there was constructive criticism, daring diagnosis and a willingness to receive a difficult paper born of radical research.

Perhaps this would just be a meeting of Gentile minds attempting an unreal task? Instead I was hearing from one speaker after another about myriad outreaches in numerous different Jewish cultural settings. In most of these schemes believing Jews were taking the lead.

Even though the Jewish counter mission is as vocal and active as ever, I notice a change. Messianic Judaism does seem to have established itself as a minority view within the Jewish community. Yet it is still working to become accepted among Christians, and the counter mission is capitalising on that hesitant and suspicious attitude found in the churches.

I was glad to hear an endorsement of the need for good apologetics, and to be made aware of good published material as well as work in progress. In the days to come I shall be studying the published papers and the bibliogra-phies to track down these resources.

I questioned whether there was any advantage to distributing the full text of the papers only after they had been delivered live. To have had sight of the subject matter before hand, or at least at the moment of delivery, would have enabled all to take part in the discussion. There was not time to absorb fresh information and process it simultaneously. Perhaps the specialists could have opened a debate with a group of participants who had already read the paper or report in question? The ‘consultation’ would then have been more interactive. This might have been a good thing. I shall ever remember the jetlagged on that first evening trying to fight off fatigue whilst listening to a profound and necessarily lengthy theological paper on Isaiah 53. What a bad moment to present to the world a pearl of wisdom!

Who would have thought there were so many friends of the Jewish people among the Lutherans? Only a committee drawn largely from such a group could have achieved such a high standard of organisation. This and the untiring co-operation of the staff of the Finnish Bible Institute, and of local Finnish Christians made the event flow. Prompt attention to time-keeping paid off; no-one was drummed out of time.

Some careful planning and arranging will have gone into transporting four coach loads of guests into Helsinki to hear a concert given on behalf of the Patmos Foundation at the Temppeliaukio church-in-the-wall. Perhaps that extraordinary experience is the one that will remain with me longest.

Elizabeth Hockenhull