George W. Bush and the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute

This one is getting wide attention; Sarah Posner writes at Mother Jones:

Next week, former President George W. Bush is scheduled to keynote a fundraiser in Irving, Texas, for the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute, a group that trains people in the United States, Israel, and around the world to convince Jews to accept Jesus as the Messiah. The organization’s goal: to “restore” Israel and the Jews and bring about about the second coming of Christ.

Sarah subsequently appeared on the Rachel Maddow Show by way of follow-up, and programme’s website has screen-captures about Bush’s participation that have now been removed from the MJBI event site. According to the scrubbed blurb, by “Alisa Stephenson, MJBI Director of Events and Partner Relations”:

A few years ago there was a dream, a discussion, and prayer which resulted in an invitation extended from the MJBI to President Bush’s office. We knew it was a long shot, but still felt this was the direction God wanted us to go. Unfortunately, it did not work out that year, or the next. It looked like it was not going to be in God’s plan to have President Bush after all. But then, the email came that invited us to dialog about the possibility of an event in 2013.

On November 14, 2013, MJBI partners will have the honor and privilege to capture wisdom and understanding on a level we have not known as we listen to President Bush share his White House experiences. For one full hour he will tell us about his life, and the situations that challenged every area of his leadership.

President Bush will also share his passion for setting people free, which is fitting for this year’s theme, “Rekindle,” taken from a passage in The Message (1 Samuel 2:6-10) that speaks about God restoring hope to burned-out lives.

Last year’s event, entitled “The Lion Roars”, was graced by Glenn Beck:

We will have dinner on the Cowboy playing field followed by a powerful program featuring representatives from Israel, as well as key leaders from our nation.

We will be honoring Glenn Beck for his tremendous efforts in defending Israel and he will be challenging us with a motivational message. This will be a night of solidarity with the Jewish people, a night to declare your support for them, and a night to defend Israel.

…Glenn Beck is like a roaring Lion for Israel and the Jewish People. Glenn holds strong support for our ally Israel and was named as the defender of Israel in 2011 by the Zionist Organization of America. During Glenn Beck’s recent tour of Israel, he gave a message to thousands in Jerusalem titled “Restoring Courage.” It was a message of hope and to show the steadfast support that he and America have for Israel. You, like many others, may not have been able to travel to Israel to attend this monumental gathering in Jerusalem, but you now have the opportunity to roar over Zion from the world-famous Dallas Cowboys Stadium. This event presents a rare opportunity to have dinner at a Table on the Turf.

There was also a “Pastors’ Meeting” with David Barton. Maddow claims that the meal took the form of a “pork barbecue”, which I find difficult to credit.

Messianic Jews express their belief in Jesus through Judaic culture and forms of worship, but – as Sarah notes – Messianic Judaism is not generally well-received among Jewish groups (indeed, I’ve previously blogged about instances of anti-Messianic persecution in Israel) and Bush’s involvement has led to criticism.

However, for some non-Jewish heritage Christians, the movement is a sign that God’s chosen people are at last coming to recognise the truth about Jesus, while Messianic ritual observance is seen as an authentic link to the world of Jesus and the early church. Messianic Judaism has become increasingly significant within wider evangelicalism: a recent apocalyptic Christian bestseller, The Harbinger, has been so popular in part because its author, Jonathan Cahn, is a Messianic pastor and as such has been able to market himself as having special insight into “Hebrew mysteries”. There is also a related Hebrew Roots movement which appropriates aspects of Judaism within evangelicalism, sometimes in highly idiosyncratic and even farcical ways.

The MJBI was itself founded by a non-Jew; according to a bio blurb (links added):

Wayne Wilks Jr. is the President of the Messianic Jewish Bible Institute (MJBI). The MJBI was birthed under the leadership and cooperation of several ministries in 1996 after the unprecedented response of Jewish people to Yeshua in the former USSR. The purpose of the MJBI is to train leaders for Messianic Jewish Congregations as well as educate the Church on Messianic Jewish understanding…

Although not Jewish, Wayne had a calling and heart to serve the Jewish people many years before the MJBI opportunity arose. Before the MJBI, he served 10 years as one of the pastors and elders of Shady Grove Church in Dallas, Texas… Wayne also serves as an Executive on the prayer initiative, Toward Jerusalem Council II.

The organization has its origins with Messianic ministries headed by Jonathan Bernis and Dan Juster, and began in Odessa in 1996. Schools have been founded in Budapest, Moscow, Brazil, and Argentina; there are also affiliates in South Korea and Mexico, and courses are held in Peru. Inroads have also been made among Ethiopian Jewish groups.

It is sometimes possible to overstate the apocalyptic element in Christian Zionism, but not so in this instance: the above video, which is embedded on the MJBI website, includes a preacher talking about “hastening” the coming of Jesus; there’s also regrettable reference to the “blindness” of the Jews.

2 Responses

  1. George is going to set people free ? How about starting with Guantanamo Bay.

  2. Yes, believing that a group would celebrate with a pork barbecue in Texas of all places is hard to credit.

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