How We Started

The Birth of BYNA

Efforts to promote unity among Messianic/Hebrew Roots movement had been underway for many years before the B’ney Yosef (Children of Joseph) initiative came together in 2014. One of those efforts was United 2 Restore, a forum established by Hanoch Young and Ken Rank to promote mutual respect and understanding between Judah and Ephraim. Hanoch, an Orthodox Jewish Israeli with roots in the Bronx, caught the vision of Ephraim’s awakening and restoration in the 1990s and has worked actively to share that vision ever since. Ken is an Ephraimite originally from New Jersey who is one of the leaders of Beit Minorah Congregation in Winchester, Kentucky. After Sukkot in 2014, Hanoch and Ken recorded a podcast to report on recent events, particularly the March of the Nations in Jerusalem. The march has happened for many years, but something unprecedented happened in 2014: a group of Ephraimites identifying themselves as such, marching behind a United 2 Restore banner. As Hanoch explained, that was only the latest of many indicators that the time had come for Ephraim’s awakening. He also noted that there was talk of holding a B’ney Yosef National Congress in Israel the following spring.

That was perhaps the first public mention of an idea Ephraim and Rimona Frank had pondered for quite some time. From their home in Israel, the Franks had long taught and anticipated the emergence of Ephraim. The United 2 Restore presence in the March of Nations inspired them to act on the idea, and with help from willing volunteers in Israel, Europe, and North America, they began planning the First B’ney Yosef National Congress. The Congress convened May 23-25, 2015 (just after Shavuot) at the Eshel Hashomron Hotel in Ariel, Israel, with 135 participants from 12 countries.[1] This gathering affirmed the vision and sense of community among these self-identified Ephraimites and inspired them to share the spirit of the Congress in their nations.[2] The European participants resolved to gather early in 2016 for that purpose. Similarly, several North American participants met at the invitation of Mikell Clayton to discuss a summit, ideally in Florida so that Batya and Angus Wootten could attend. Ephraim and Rimona endorsed these plans, personally encouraging many European and American delegates to carry them through to completion.

The Europeans met in January 2016 in Germany, and since then have continued to expand their contacts with Ephraimites in Europe and elsewhere. The Dutch, in particular, have carried forward the spirit of the Congress thanks to the efforts of Hadassah Drost in facilitating the establishment of Bney Yosef Holland.

In America, not much happened over the summer of 2015 as the returning delegates pondered and prayed through what they had experienced, asking the Father what to do next. Tzefania and Reyyna Pappas of Georgia were among the first to act as they implemented the National Shabbat in their home state. The vision of the National Shabbat is to gather the people of God together to worship Him as a people, regardless of differences, on the day He set aside as holy and as a sign of His covenant with Israel. As the Pappases were leading National Shabbats during the late summer and fall of 2015, Pete Rambo was speaking at congregations and fellowships in his native South Carolina, sharing the news of the Congress. Taking inspiration from the National Shabbat in Georgia, he and his wife, Kelly, along with Tommy and Dorothy Wilson, organized a National Shabbat in their state on December 5 of that year.

That same weekend, the B’ney Yosef Region 35 Conference convened in Denton, Texas. Congress participants Al and Charlayne McCarn, Akpene Torku, and Larry Ferguson birthed the idea for this conference during their Sukkot gathering just two months earlier. Originally intended as a Congress-like conference for the people of Texas, it expanded to include 100 participants from 12 states, including people from as far away as Ohio, Arizona, and Florida. A key conversation during the conference began when Eddie Chumney and Congress participants Mark and Polly Webb discussed how to take the momentum of the Congress and translate it into enduring action with a focus on our Hebrew identity and our home in Israel. Before the weekend had concluded, the McCarns, Akpene, David Altman of Florida, Mike and Dorothy Pantuso of Texas, and others took part in the discussions and sketched out a plan to move forward. Within a week, they had reached out to the Rambos and the Pappases to include them, and soon thereafter developed an outline for the B’ney Yosef North America Plenary Conference at Henry Horton State Park near Nashville, Tennessee.

The Plenary commenced on January 15, 2016, just six weeks after the Region 35 conference. About 40 people attended from the US and Canada, many of whom had been at the Congress. Their purpose was to investigate specific ways of moving forward with establishment of an organization that would embody the spirit of the Congress on our continent. By the end of that weekend, plans were in motion to hold the Inaugural B’ney Yosef North America Summit near Tampa, Florida, March 4-6 – just six weeks away.

The Plenary established three committees to oversee preparations for the Summit. The first was the Writing Committee under the leadership of Ken Rank. They would craft what became BYNA’s Articles of Declaration, our founding document and statement of principles. With Ken were Congress participants Frank Houtz of Kentucky, John Conrad of Utah, and Keith Hess of Alabama, as well as David Sloss of Canada, Billy Washburn of Texas, and Anisa Baker of Illinois.

As they put their heads together in writing, Mark Webb directed the work of an Exploratory Committee to develop qualifications and position descriptions for BYNA’s two governing councils: the Council of Elders and the Administrative Council (initially called the Executive Council). This was the blending of two ideas proposed at the Plenary. Al McCarn had drawn on his military and government experience in presenting the concept of an executive body to manage the business of BYNA. Ken Rank, in consultation with Frank Houtz, proposed a body of elders to provide godly oversight to the executives. With those concepts in mind, the Exploratory Committee proceeded not only to establish the qualifications and position descriptions, but to solicit nominations and examine the suitability of each nominee. Mark’s partners in this work were John Conrad, Anisa Baker, Frank Houtz, and Ron Campbell of Indiana.

The third committee was the Interim Executive Committee under the leadership of Al McCarn, along with Pete Rambo, Tzefania Pappas, Tommy and Dorothy Wilson, Akpene Torku, David Sloss, and David Altman. Their task was to plan, coordinate, and promote the Summit, with the intent of formally establishing BYNA through adoption of the Articles of Declaration and affirmation of the nominees as Elders and Administrators. Preparations included coordination across all three committees, as well as issuing invitations and confirming attendance.

The work of the committees continued up to the last minute, but preparations were complete as 200 participants began to arrive at the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater on March 4. Attendees included Ephraim & Rimona Frank and Hanoch Young from Israel, Hadassah’s son Yahnathan from the Netherlands, and Batya Wootten as an honored pioneer of the Ephraimite awakening. Although there was little time to debate the details of the Articles of Declaration or the qualifications of each nominee, the committee leaders presented reports on the thoroughness with which the work had been done. In the end, the Summit as a whole was satisfied with the due diligence of the committees and the suitability of all that they proposed, knowing that any flaws would be corrected over time. The Spirit of the Lord was tangibly present that Sunday as all 200 stood to affirm the Articles and BYNA’s new Elders and Administrative Council –

Elders:  Ed Boring, John Conrad, Frank Houtz, David Jones, Johnny Marrs, Barry Phillips, David Sloss, Mark Webb

Executive (Administrative) Council: Al McCarn (Executive Director), David Altman (Deputy Executive Director), Akpene Torku (Executive Secretary), Pete Rambo (Operations Director), Tzefania Pappas (Communications Director), Blair Wetmore (Finance Director), Tommy and Dorothy Wilson (Prayer Directors)

Our leadership has changed in the years since – Elders David Sloss and Johnny Marrs, as well as Administrators Blair Wetmore, Pete Rambo, and Tzefania Pappas, have all left their positions to answer ministry calls outside BYNA. Elder Frank Houtz also left suddenly, having been called to leave this life and rest in peace until our Messiah’s return. In their places, others have come: Elders Iglahliq Suuqiina and Greg Crawford, Finance Director Marcus Bowman, Prayer Directors Ron and Candi Runyon (the Wilsons have moved into the position of National Shabbat Directors), and Executive Secretary Julia Johnson (Akpene Torku is now our Community Development Director).

That, in brief, is how BYNA came into existence. Our first years have been a time of setting priorities, learning to relate to one another as mispacha (family) rather than as colleagues, and yielding to the Holy Spirit’s refining of us individually and collectively. Although steps have been small and quiet up to now, the vision birthed in our hearts at the First B’ney Yosef Congress and expanded at the Inaugural Summit continues to inspire us as we take our place in the awakening of our Ephraimite people.

[1] Countries represented were Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Israel, Jordan, Netherlands, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States. The Second Congress took place October 26-30, 2016 (just after Sukkot), and the Third Congress March 23-27, 2018 (just before Passover).

[2] The key outcomes of the First Congress were (1) repentance for sins against Elohim, one another, and our Jewish brethren; (2) resolution to act in humility in our effort to connect with fellow Hebrews (Jewish and Ephraimite) in the interest of establishing honest and open relationships; (3) recognition of the Father’s work in preparing the hearts of Jews for the eventual reunion with their long-lost brothers; (4) acknowledgement that the regathering of Ephraim might not be complete within our lifetimes, and that we must be diligent in educating our communities and the younger generation; (5) resolve to act gently but purposefully in encouraging our traditional Christian brethren to examine the Hebrew roots of the faith and seek the Father for a fuller understanding of their identity in His plan of redemption. A more complete account of the First Congress is available at http://etzbneyyosef.com/FirstCongress.html#EventRecord.

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