1. What is TJCII about?
Only with the mission to the Gentiles, approved by Jerusalem Council One in Acts 15, did this vision become reality. But it did not last. From being totally Jewish, the Church became, in effect, totally Gentile, in the sense that Jewish converts were no longer allowed to believe in Jesus as Jews.They were required to abandon their Jewish identity and all Jewish practice. On this point the Church and Synagogue were in agreement: you could not be Jewish and believe in Jesus.
The TJCII vision is not just a pipedream. This is because of the Messianic Jewish Movement, the reappearance in our day of a Jewish expression of faith in Jesus of Nazareth. Once again, there is a visible Jewish partner within the mystery of the Church, with whom the Gentiles can talk, pray, and listen to the Lord. There is a Jewish partner in Messiah, who confronts us Gentiles with our sin. There is a Jewish partner with whom we need to be reconciled within the one Body.
2. Who leads the TJCII vision?
The main leadership of TJCII began with 7 Messianic Jewish leaders from Israel and the USA, and 7 Gentile Christian leaders from the USA and Europe. It is being expanded to be more representative up to a maximum of 12 from each side. TJCII has held gatherings in several countries over the last 12 years, one of the most significant being a Prayer Conference in Jerusalem in September 2006 for 200 Messianic Jewish & Gentile Christian leaders from 36 countries. The TJCII Executive biographies can be found here http://tjcii.org/Executive-Bios.htm.
3. How has the vision developed so far?
The impulse for the TJCII initiative in 1996 came from Messianic Jews supported first by evangelical Christians. However, its development has made clear how essential it is that there is a full participation by the historic churches of East and West. To start with, these are the churches originally responsible for the teaching that the Church had replaced Israel, because of Israel’s denial of the Lord Jesus. These are the churches responsible for the outlawing and the disappearance of the Jewish Church.
The schism between Jewish and Gentile believers was the original split in the Body of Messiah, and became the root for all further divisions in the Church throughout the centuries. For this reason, the Christian recognition of the Jewish expression of the Church will release a major impulse for unity among all the Christian bodies that have become divided through the ages.
Since TJCII began, Pope John Paul II took some remarkable initiatives in regard to a Catholic expression of sorrow for the sins of Catholics against the Jewish people through the ages. The Jewish people, who have a sharp awareness of who oppressed them through the centuries, immediately recognised the importance of the papal actions and statements. When the Pope visited Yad Vashem and prayed at the Western Wall in Jerusalem in March 2000, the Jewish people knew that something historic was happening. It is appropriate that the historic Churches of East and West should take the first steps in repentance, healing and reconciliation.
In September 2006 Archbishop Rowan Williams of the Anglican Church andChief Rabbi Shlomo Amar and Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger of Israel signed an historic joint declaration establishing a framework for dialogue between them. This Declaration strengthens the links between the Anglican Church and Israel, and honours the covenant made by God with Abraham.
4. Who are the Messianic Jews?
The Messianic Jewish movement comprises those Jews who have come to faith in Jesus of Nazareth – whom they normally call Yeshua – as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Saviour of the world and they hold this faith specifically as Jews, and refuse assimilation into “Gentile” Christianity. That is to say, Messianic Jews challenge the accepted Christian and Jewish view that when Jews come to faith in Jesus they cease to be Jews and become Christians instead. They claim the same status in the Church that the first generation of Jewish believers in Jesus enjoyed, who expressed their faith precisely as Jews and whose faith in Yeshua in no way denied or compromised their status as part of the chosen people.
The Messianic Jewish movement is associated with the formation of Messianic Jewish congregations. They seek to promote a faith in Yeshua as Messiah of Israel, expressed in Jewish terms, with worship and a community life shaped by the Jewish Scriptures. This normally involves holding their weekly congregational worship on the Jewish Sabbath, either Friday evening or Saturday, andobserving the Jewish feasts described in the Bible. They see the Jewish feasts as being fulfilled in Yeshua, with a frequent emphasis on their eschatological significance. Messianic Jews receive the New Testament as canonical Scripture as well as the Old Testament, the TANAKH.
The impetus for an international Messianic movement began in the USA, where there are more Messianic congregations and the resources are much greater. But the centrality of Israel and Jerusalem in Jewish faith confers a unique importance on the Messianic movement in Israel, where the movement was called Messianic before the adoption of this terminology in the Diaspora.
6. Where are there Messianic Jewish Congregations?
The Messianic Jewish congregations in Israel have more than tripled in number since the influx of immigrants from the former Soviet Union during the 1990s and now numbers 100+ congregations (Kehiloth). The movement in Israel is remarkably diverse, reflecting the different countries of origin and different language groups –Hebrew, English, Russian and Ethiopian.
There are 250+ Messianic congregations in the US. The majority relate to one of the two Messianic Jewish organizations: first, the International Alliance of Messianic Congregations and Synagogues (IAMCS), formed in 1984 and second, the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (UMJC), founded in 1979.
The fastest growth in the Messianic movement is found in countries formerly part of the Soviet Union (Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus). In Europe, the Messianic Jewish movement has been longest established in England, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, though its numbers are not large. Recently there are significant beginnings for the Messianic movement in Latin America, particularly in Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.