Short of divine intervention, it appears that the Messianic Congregations in Israel are moving toward a major division.
In what is shaping up to become the first official breakdown among the Messianic Jewish congregations in Israel, those of us watching are hoping for the best, but it is not looking good.
Troubles began two years ago when a few Messianic Jewish leaders reported to the Hebrew-speaking Leadership Conference on what they saw as troubling theological positions being promoted by a ministry called Tikkun. Based in Jerusalem, Tikkun has planted and oversees numerous local Hebrew and Russian speaking congregations in Israel. Their leadership remain highly respected by both Messianic Jews in Israel and Christians abroad.
So what’s the problem?
In a word, theology. Positions thought to be held by Tikkun are threatening to divide large segments of Messianic Jewish believers in Israel. Here are the main issues driving the conflict with Tikkun and its leadership:
- Alignment. Asher Intrater, one of the leaders of Tikkun based in Jerusalem, wrote a book called “Alignment” which teaches about Israel and the Church in the End Times. According to the book, Gentile churches should come into “alignment” with God’s purposes for Israel and the Messianic Jewish believers. Intrater says that this proper relationship between the church and the Jewish people was broken when the church cut off her Jewish roots and adopted replacement theology (the idea that the church replaced Israel). Coming into proper alignment or relationship, according to Tikkun, is part of the restoration of the church as promised in scripture in preparation for the return of the Messiah Yeshua (Jesus). Watch Asher’s teaching on alignment.Critics of Tikkun say that Intrater teaches that Gentile Christians must submit to and be under authority to Messianic Jewish believers. This idea is connected to an understanding that Messianic Jews are the “big brother” of believers in Yeshua, and therefore have both a present and future leadership role over the world-wide Body of Christ. Intrater’s critics believe that he is teaching that Jewish believers in Yeshua have a role of leadership and authority over the Gentile church, both now and in the future.
- The Narrow Wider Hope. This is a term coined by Dr. Daniel Juster, founder of Tikkun. In a serious and well-thought out position paper, Juster attempts to come to terms with the concept of a just God who, according to Evangelical theology, may even send those who have never heard of Yeshua to hell. What about Jews who have never hear of Yeshua or have yet to have a chance to hear the gospel presented in a way that is not antisemitic as has been so evident in the historical church? Are they to going to hell? Critics are concerned that these ideas are foreign to traditional Evangelical theology that teaches that without a confession of faith in Jesus Christ all men and women are condemned to eternal punishment. They are concerned that this crucial foundation of salvation through Jesus alone is undercut by the idea of a wider hope, narrow as it might be in Juster’s theology.
- Apostles. Leadership of Tikkun call themselves apostles, with a small “a.” They understand this to mean servants of God with oversight of congregations or other inter-congregational leadership responsibilities. They point to the five-fold ministry gifts of Ephesians 4 which include apostles given to build up the church. Some of Tikkun’s leaders point out that apostle in Hebrew is shaliach, one who is sent to fulfill the purposes of God and not necessarily an official title.Critics say that the office of apostle is not intended for today’s church. They also point to relationships between Tikkun leaders and the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), a global Evangelical church-planting movement. Critics view NAR as a controversial and problematic movement that they hope to prevent from having influence over the Messianic Jews in Israel.
The Hebrew-Speaking Congregational Leadership Conference, or Kenes Artzi in Hebrew, appointed a subcommittee some months ago to look into the charges against Tikkun. After months of dialogue and debate at conferences and online, a meeting has been called for in March to decide on a path forward. While there has been some movement on the side of Tikkun to review its teaching material and tone down what they say, “were not intended to but could appear to support unbiblical ideas,” both sides of the controversy remain hunkered down refusing to budge.
According to the Messianic leaders we have spoken with, there is still a lot of confusion as to what will happen at the upcoming meeting. Will Messianic Jewish leaders be called upon to vote and determine if Tikkun is teaching false doctrines? Will Tikkun leaders and their congregations be considered false teachers or banned from the Kenes Artzi? Meanwhile, a number of Messianic Jews have already left, or are threatening to leave the Kenes Artzi over the controversy.
This is not the first time there have been heated debates and even splits within the Messianic Jewish congregations in Israel. Controversy over the Divinity of the Messiah some years ago eventually led to a clear line of demarcation being drawn in order to determine true Messianic biblical faith vis-a-vis the Messiah in the Godhead. Heated debates between Charismatic and non-Charismatic streams of Messianic Judaism continue and often hinder Messianic Jews in Israel from the rich and authentic fellowship and practical cooperation available through unity in Yeshua.
Many of these controversies remain unresolved, and as a result attendance at the Kenes Artzi has diminished over the years. When the Kenes Artzi was established some 40 years ago, it was intended to provide a conference where the different streams of local Messianic Jewish congregational leaders could fellowship together, debate issues and work together on joint projects and in a unified body to further the purposes of God and His Kingdom among the people of Israel. We often disagreed but managed to remain one body and enjoyed the camaraderie and sweet fellowship so important to our spiritual growth.
The Kenes Artzi called for a ban on publications covering the controversy. Israel Today has talked with proponents on both sides but out of respect for the process refrained from publishing, until now. News of this controversy, which has gone on for over 2 years, continues to spread around the Christian world and we felt it was time to inform our faithful readers in a non-partisan way so that you can “stay informed and pray informed.”