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Patterson repeats to Jewish leaders invitation to engage in dialogue

WAKE FOREST, N.C. (BP)–The invitation stands, says Paige Patterson in a response to the president of the Jewish Community Relations Council.

Patterson, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, reiterated in a Nov. 22 letter an earlier proposal that he and seven other Southern Baptists meet with Gedale B. Horowitz, the council’s president, and seven other Jewish leaders in response to a letter sent to Patterson charging the SBC with “deception” in evangelistic outreach to Jews, particularly in regard to the SBC’s support of the Messianic Jewish movement.

The Nov. 8 letter was signed by Horowitz and five other Jewish leaders, including the top administrators of four Orthodox and non-Orthodox Jewish rabbinical schools. The council Horowitz leads encompasses 60-plus member organizations, including B’nai B’rith, the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress.

Patterson’s Nov. 22 letter was in response to Horowitz’s Nov. 17 counterproposal to Patterson’s initial proposal Nov. 10.

On Nov. 10, Patterson wrote to Horowitz and the other signers of the Nov. 8 letter proposing a conference that would involve “eight Jewish leaders, the six of you and two others of your choice. Southern Baptists will also bring eight leaders to the table in an attempt of Jews and Baptists to enhance understanding and encourage absolute integrity of religious expression as we relate each to the other.”

“A neutral place of meeting will be arranged by Gedale Horowitz and me. The meeting would begin at 9:00 a.m. and conclude at 5:00 p.m. with a friendship luncheon at noon. A general agenda would also be agreed upon by the two of us.”

Patterson added in his Nov. 10 letter “two provisos … first, that our Jewish friends would have to understand that Baptists cannot abandon the proclamation of our faith, and second, that two of our eight representatives would be, in the interest of maximum understanding, ‘Messianic Jews.’ I will hopefully and prayerfully await your reply.”

Horowitz responded Nov. 17 by letter with a counterproposal: “… a meeting limited to the two of us. This intimate format will be more conducive to discussing our respective concerns as well as ways, as you put it, to ‘enhance mutual understanding and encourage absolute integrity of religious expression.’

“I would be pleased if you would join me for lunch at my business office in New York City at a mutually agreed upon time and date. If this location is not convenient, I would be happy to make other arrangements with you. I look forward to your reply.”

Patterson, in his Nov. 22 reply, noted the incongruity of Horowitz’s suggestion for a private meeting compared to the widely publicized release of the Jewish leaders’ Nov. 8 letter to the news media before they sent Patterson a copy.

“May I remind you,” Patterson wrote to Horowitz, “that you are the one who sent a letter signed by six and sent it to the media before it came to the supposed recipient. Now you want a private meeting in your office.

“My final offer,” Patterson continued, “is the same as before with the addition, for your comfort, of a Jewish moderator, Rabbi Daniel Lapin. While I have not consulted Rabbi Lapin, I feel confident that he would seriously consider such an assignment.

“Mr. Horowitz, you have lodged a complaint about Southern Baptists,” Patterson wrote. “I have made a good faith offer for open discussion, including all groups involved to talk for our mutual understanding. If it is understanding and progress in relationships that you seek, then I know you will eagerly accept my offer.”

Lapin, an Orthodox Jewish rabbi based in Seattle, is the president of Toward Tradition, a nonprofit educational foundation he co-founded in California in 1991 working to creating a national movement of Jews allied with Christians who want to apply traditional ideas to America’s cultural, political and economic life.

As of Dec. 1, Patterson’s office had not received a reply from Horowitz. Neither Horowitz or Michael S. Miller, a rabbi who is the Jewish Community Relations Council’s executive director and another of the letter’s signers, returned calls Dec. 1 to Baptist Press for comment.

The council’s letter was part of a new round of anti-evangelism fervor from Jewish leaders sparked by a Jewish prayer guide issued by the SBC’s International Mission Board focusing on the Jewish High Holy Days — Rosh Hashanah on Sept. 11 and Yom Kippur on Sept. 20.

Patterson, in a Nov. 9 response to the council’s letter preceding his Nov. 10 proposal for a conference, said Southern Baptists have been open about efforts to share the gospel with Jews and anyone else needing the gospel, and thus deception “is not even a possibility.”

In addition to Horowitz and Miller, the letter’s signers were Rabbi Norman Lamm, president of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary at Yeshiva University, an Orthodox institution; Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary, a Conservative institution; Rabbi David Teutsch, president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College; and Rabbi Sheldon Zimmerman, president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, which trains men and women for the Reform rabbinate.

Lapin, in addition to Toward Tradition, also heads the Cascadia Business Institute, a firm which gives seminars to owners and managers of businesses on how Judeo-Christian principles can be used to maximize company performance.

Previously, Lapin co-founded with noted author and film critic Michael Medved the Pacific Jewish Center in Venice, Calif., an orthodox community known for reaching out to Jews of all backgrounds and for demonstrating the relevance of traditional Judaism in modern life. According to Toward Tradition’s Internet site, Lapin is penning a book tentatively titled, “An Orthodox Rabbi Makes the Case for Religious Conservatism.”