While many are talking about the failure of the Oslo Peace Agreement signed in the early 1990s, thirty leaders representing 17 Jewish Evangelism missions and congregations gathered in this same capital of Norway recently to pray and confer together on how they might more effectively reach out to the Jewish people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the 21st century.
Host for this leadership conference was the Norwegian Church Ministry to Israel (NCMI). The conference was scheduled to fit approximately half way between LCJE's international conferences held every four years. Rolf G. Heitmann, General Secretary of NCMI, John Edv. Olsen, Chairman of NCMI Board, and Endre Fyllingsnes, NCMI Director of Communications, greeted the participants warmly at Hurdalsenteret, a conference center designed for work with the blind. The metaphor was not lost on the participants whose lives are given to pray and work for the salvation of Israel!
LCJE President, Tuvya Zaretsky, and International Coordinator, Dr. Kai Kjaer-Hansen, opened the first evening of the conference on the theme of working together through prayer, study, and planning, core values of the Lausanne movement. Zaretsky pointed out that of the 15 points in the Lausanne Covenant, the 7th was that unity and cooperation were called for among believers in order to get the Gospel to the world. Kjaer-Hansen spoke from 2 Corinthians 5 on how Christ's love and reconciling work on the Cross compels his disciples to be reconciled to one another.
Bible readings were given the first two morning by Wayne Hilsden (King of Kings, Jerusalem) and Tony Higton (CMJ) on "Jesus, the Servant Messiah.." On Sunday, John Ross (CWI) led a worship service and spoke on Revelation 3: 7-13, the Lord's word to the Church in Philadelphia.
The format for the three days was ten-minute talks on a given topic given by two panelists with a third person serving as moderator. The topics were practical, calling for consideration of actual strategies for Jewish ministry which would, in turn, help cooperation happen. Topics included: "Methods and code of conduct with regard to finances, fundraising and stewardship"; "Success and failure in ministry - what I have learnt from both"; "Training and equipping workers"; "Promoting and defending Jewish evangelism in the media"; and, "Jews and gentiles in partnership." Time was given also for one-on-one conversations while participants walked the beautiful lake paths of the center, building relationships and further discussing the topics of the day's seminars.
The conferees enjoyed a field trip to "the Constitution House" of Norway, not far from Hurdalsenteret. Rolf Heitmann gave a brief talk on the hisotry of the Church and the Jews in Norway. The constitution was written in that manor house, beginning Norway's independence from Denmark in 1814. However, Article Two of that otherwise liberal constitution confirmed the exclusion of Jews from Norway. A large statue of the writer/poet who sought to repeal the ban against the Jews, Henrik Wergeland, stands in the garden in the front of Constitution House. Wergeland submitted his first proposal to the Norwegian parliament in 1839, but it was not until 1851 that the required two-thirds majority was reached to pass the proposal that opened the doors of Norway to the Jews and extended them full civil rights. Today's Norwegian Jewish population is 1,400.
LCJE extends its grateful thanks to the Norwegian Church Ministry to Israel's staff for their hard work in planning this most helpful CEO conference.
The next LCJE International Conference will be held in Helsinki, Finland, August 7-12, 2003.