"Christians and Jews": A Declaration of the Lutheran Church of Bavaria

Article excerpt

[Translator's Note: From 1992 through 1995, representatives of the Lutheran Church of Bavaria met in Nurnberg to work through the theme, "Christians and Jews." In conclusion, on November 24, 1998, the bishop and other judicatories of the territorial ("Land") church issued the statement translated below. Preceding this statement were other territorial-church declarations on the same theme: Rheinland (1980; E.T. in J.E.S. 17 [Winter, 1980]: 211-212), Baden (1984), Berlin-Brandenburg West (1984), Greifswald (1985), Wurttemberg (1988), Westfalen (1988), Berlin-Brandenburg East (1990), Pfalz (1990), Oldenburg (1993), Hannover (1995), and Kurhessen-Waldeck (1997), as well as the Reformed Church (1984), the Reformed Union (1990), and the Council of German Protestant Free Churches (1997). The translation was made from the document as printed in Freiburger Rundbrief, vol. 6, no. 3 (1999), pp. 191-197.]

"Christians and Jews": A Declaration of the Lutheran Church of Bavaria

Preamble

The question of the relationship of Christians and Jews points to the center of Christian belief: Faith in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, whom we Christians confess as the father of Jesus Christ, ties Christians and Jews together. The theme is not only laid on the church from the outside; in the same measure it puts basic life-questions to the church and theology. Because Jesus of Nazareth belonged to the Jewish people and was rooted in its religious traditions, thereby "through their confession of Jesus Christ Christians are brought into a unique relationship to Jews and their faith, [a relationship] that is distinct from the relationship to other religions." [1]

Through its action of April 23, 1997 -- "Christians and Jews: Invitation to a Fresh Start" -- the territorial synod of the Lutheran Church of Bavaria embraced this understanding as its own and called for a Year of Emphasis on this theme. At the conclusion of this year, in the month of the sixtieth anniversary of the national pogrom [Kristallnacht], the Lutheran Church of Bavaria releases the following declaration. Its purpose it to provide our territorial church with a basis for discussion to reflect on our relationship to Jews and Judaism and to provide an initiative for further work in this field.

I. The Consensus Reached in the Protestant Church

1. The Common Roots of Judaism and Christianity

Jewish belief and Christian belief live from the same biblical roots. Jews and Christians confess one God, the Creator and Savior. Jews and Christians both think of themselves as the People of God. Jews and Christians declare their faith in their public worship, in which are found many similarities. Jews and Christians are marked in their faith by the interaction of justice and love. Jews and Christians also live in the break in the shared history of God with God's people, the overcoming of which they await.

These elements in common have through centuries been forgotten and denied by Christians and misapplied and misinterpreted. For this reason, too, there came about the frightful persecutions and murders of Jewish persons, in which Christians participated, which were initiated by Christians or tolerated by Christians. In the German Protestant churches we have come during recent decades to an understanding that is important to us: that we must make a new beginning. In recent decades individual persons and agencies in the Lutheran Church of Bavaria have undertaken vigorous initiatives, whose result the church judicatories seek to express in this declaration.

2. The Importance of the Shoah

The path to a fresh start in the relationships of Christians and Jews has to begin with an understanding of the complicity of Christians in the persecution and destruction of children, women, and men of Jewish origin (the Shoah, the Holocaust). The Shoah represents a deep challenge to Christian teaching and practice. …