Controversy Between Jews and Presbyterian Over Community Boundaries

June 26, 2004

Source: Beliefnet/ RNS

On June 26, 2004 Beliefnet/RNS reported, "When the Presbyterian Church (USA) gathers this week for its General Assembly meeting in Richmond, Va., perennial fights over homosexuality are likely to be overshadowed by the future of a controversial messianic Jewish congregation outside Philadelphia. Avodat Yisrael, a fledgling Presbyterian congregation that looks and feels like a Jewish synagogue, has come under fire from Jewish groups as a deceptive attempt to convert Jews to Christianity. The congregation celebrates Jewish holidays, uses Jewish ritual music and sacred objects such as menorahs and Torah scrolls. Pastor Andrew Sparks says his congregation hopes to reach interfaith couples, nonworshipping Jews and Jewish converts. Jewish groups are especially upset that the church received $260,000 in start-up funds from local, regional and national church offices. It is unlikely that funding can be revoked. At least three resolutions that will be considered by delegates to the June 26-July 3 meeting ask the denomination to 're-examine' relations with Jews, and cut off funding for similar congregations in the future."