The head of the Christian GOD TV cable channel Ward Simpson insists that his organization will preach to Israelis that Jesus was the messiah on its Hebrew-language Shelanu TV channel now being broadcast in Israel.
Simpson has denied trying to convert Jews to Christianity, but in response to questions posed by The Jerusalem Post he said Shelanu TV was about getting Jews to think again about the possibility of accepting Jesus as the messiah.
GOD TV is dedicated to preaching the Christian gospel and the task of the “Great Commission,” a doctrine in Christian theology to gain disciples for Christianity and preach the religion.
A large controversy flared up earlier this month after it was revealed Shelanu TV had signed a contract with the Hot cable television provider after it was granted a license by the Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting.
The council said that it was unaware of the nature of GOD TV and its Shelanu TV channel before it granted the license, and has announced that it is holding a hearing on possibly revoking the license next week.
Proselytizing, seeking to convert people to another religion, is not illegal in Israel, although the law prevents proselytizing to minors without their parents presence or consent and promising any monetary or material compensation for converting to another religion.
In written comments made to the Post about the controversy, Simpson began by claiming he is Jewish, his mother was Jewish, and that after he discovered his Jewish roots he was “called to share the good news of Messiah with my own people and I share the Jewish Messiah with gentiles around the world.”
In a statement made last week, Simpson said in Israel “You can’t try to convert Jews… which we aren’t anyway,” and said Shelanu TV was simply about preaching and sharing Christian content.
But asked by the Post how preaching for Jews to accept Jesus is the Messiah could not be interpreted as trying to convert them to Christianity, Simpson answered that there had always been divisions in Judaism and that “we’re calling on the Jewish community to reexamine the claim that Yeshua is the Messiah.”
In a video from August 2019, currently on God TV’s YouTube page, Simpson said “Here at God TV, our passion is to see souls won, saved, healed, delivered, and discipled,” and “we’re going to win some souls together in Jesus’s name. Touching lives with the good news of Jesus Christ.”
Asked whether these comments did demonstrate an intent by God TV to proselytize for Christianity, Simpson said “If you mean, do we intend to proclaim the Good News that Yeshua is the Messiah of Israel? Absolutely.”
He also argued that so-called “Messianic Jews,” who believe in Jesus, continue to live as Jews.
He insisted however that his channel would not violate any Israeli laws pertaining to proselytizing activity.
Regarding the cultural taboo of Christian missionary work in the Jewish state, Simpson said that the root of Christian antisemitism was because “the Church got disconnected from its Jewish roots.”
Said Simpson, “by reconnecting the Church to its Jewish roots, Christians will love and honor and bless Israel, which is exactly what evangelical Christians have been doing for years now.”
But in regards to the rights of GOD TV through its Shelanu TV channel to preach about Jesus as the messiah, Simpson said “Those who don’t want to listen can switch to another channel. It’s a free country.”
Speaking to the Post, Rabbi Tovia Singer, a longtime counter-missionary activist, said that claims by Simpson that Shelanu TV was not seeking to convert Jews to Christianity was obfuscation based on word play.
“There’s no difference between a Messianic Jew and a Christian. There is no difference in what a so-called Messianic Jew believes and what a Christian believes, none,” said Singer.
The rabbi insisted that those who seek to proselytize Jews to Christianity deliberately use softer sounding terminology such as “Messianic Jew,” and refrain from using words such as church or Christ.
“They might use words ‘Messianic Jew’ to appeal to Jews but they’re playing word games and it means the same thing,” said Singer, asserting that seeking to get Jews to believe in Jesus was the same as trying to convert them to Christianity.