The Misunderstood Ministry of Jacob Gartenhaus: Or How to Be Cancelled by Southern Baptists

Jacob Gartenhaus left the Austria-Hungarian Empire when he became a Jewish believer (1915) and received his education first at Moody Bible Institute and then at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary where he was drafted to take the need for Jewish evangelism to the pews and pulpits of the Baptist South that was ready for his message of Jewish evangelism but was not ready for the truth of what was occurring in Europe in the 1930s. For as the first Southern Baptist missionary to the Jewish people, Jacob Gartenhaus experienced not only the reality of antisemitism that any Jewish individual might face in the post-Leo Frank South in the 1930s, but he also faced it from the power brokers from within his own Convention in Nashville.

His battles against Convention politics in both the 1930s and 1940s resulted in what could only be described as one of the first “MeToo” scandals of 20th century Christian life that was later recanted by the very one who brought the charge against him. The charges against Gartenhaus resulted in him leaving the Southern Baptist Convention and beginning his own ministry of Jewish evangelism that is still in existence today in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Gartenhaus’ life and ministry is a confluence of confusing time, devastating politics, and spiritual chaos that needs to be explored further today.

4 thoughts on “The Misunderstood Ministry of Jacob Gartenhaus: Or How to Be Cancelled by Southern Baptists”

  1. strong potential
    The relation of evangelical institutions to Judaism remains an under-explored question in ETS scholarship. The paper’s focus on a key 20th Century Messianic Jew holds out the prospect of a useful contribution to that deficit. If the hint of scandal in the story does not distract from theological interaction between Gartenhaus and the SBC, the paper could offer a valuable contribution worth including in this section’s session.

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