Saturday, May 31, 2014

Zionism in the Anglican Church

To many ears Christian Zionism has a clear and unmistaken association with dispensationalist eschatology (for the reader who may not be familiar, the Left Behind series type of theology). Whilst there have certainly been many proponents of Christian Zionism amongst the dispensationalist ranks, it should not be regarded as the sole property of that movement.

To begin briefly, Christian Zionism can have a fairly broad definition as simply Christian support for Zionism, or the notion that Jews should return to their ancestral lands. The belief is often tied to some eschatological expectancy. This comes from Paul's Letter to the Romans, wherein he states:
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. (Romans 11:25-26)
The eschatological expectation is tied to the restoration of the Jews to Israel as the mark of the beginning of the salvation of the Jews. Whilst this eschatological expectation is often tied to the dispensationalism of John Nelson Darby, it is not necessarily so tied, for the expectation of the salvation of the Jews is an expectation that extends beyond dispensationalist circles.

The Puritans were the first to express the desire for the restoration of the land of Israel to the Jews. However, there has also been a long history of Christian Zionism in the Established Church of England and in other Anglican churches, with such names of J.C. Ryle and the Sixth Earl of Shaftesbury supporting the restoration of Israel to the Jews, the latter encouraged the establishment of a British consulate in Palestine in 1838. The British Government became involved in restoration in the 19th century, following a century of debate in England over the place of the Jews. The Jewish Naturalization Act of 1753 allowed the Jews to naturalize by petitioning Parliament and nearly a central later, the Jewish Relief Act of 1858 permitted Jews to sit in Parliament. In fact, one of the most prominent figures in the early Zionist movement was the Anglican chaplain, the Rev. William Hechler, who was a close friend and associate of Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism.

This describes some of the interaction of Jewish people as they were with the British Government, yet the need for evangelism and mission to the Jewish people was also acknowledged and promoted. Due to the work of Charles Simeon and William Wilberforce, the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews (now known as the Church's Ministry Among Jewish People [CMJ]) was founded in 1809, which was one of the first global missionary societies and instrumental in establishing Christ Church in Jerusalem in 1849. The original aims of the London Jews' Society (CMJ) were:
1) Declaring the Messiahship of Jesus to the Jew first and also to the non Jew.
2) Endeavoring to teach the Church its Jewish roots.
3) Encouraging the physical restoration of the Jewish people to Eretz Israel - the Land of Israel.
4) Encouraging the Hebrew Christian/Messianic Jewish movement

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