The society began in the early 19th century, when leading evangelicals, including members of the influential Clapham Sect such as William Wilberforce, and Charles Simeon, decided that there was an unmet need to promote Christianity among the Jews. In 1809 they formed the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews. The missionary Joseph Frey is often credited with the instigation of the break with the London Missionary Society. A later missionary was C. W. H. Pauli.
Abbreviated forms such as the London Jews' Society or simply The Jews' Society were adopted for general use. The original agenda of the society was:
- Declaring the Messiahship of Jesus to the Jew first and also to the non-Jew
- Endeavouring to teach the Church its Jewish roots
- Encouraging the physical restoration of the Jewish people to Eretz Israel - the Land of Israel
- Encouraging the Hebrew Christian/Messianic Jewish movement
The society's work began among the poor Jewish immigrants in the East End of London and soon spread to Europe, South America, Africa and Palestine. In 1811, a five-acre field on the Cambridge Road in Bethnal Green, east London, was leased as a centre for missionary operations. A school, training college and a church called the Episcopal Jews' Chapel were built here. The complex was named Palestine Place. In 1813, a Hebrew-Christian congregation called Benei Abraham (Children of Abraham) started meeting at the chapel in Palestine Place. This was the first recorded assembly of Jewish believers in Jesus and the forerunner of today's Messianic Jewish congregations.
The London Jews Society was the first such society to work on a global basis. In 1836, two missionaries were sent to Jerusalem: Dr. Albert Gerstmann, a physician, and Melville Bergheim, a pharmacist, who opened a clinic that provided free medical services. By 1844, it had become a 24-bed hospital.
In its heyday, the society had over 250 missionaries. It supported the creation of the post of Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem in 1841, and the first incumbent was one of its workers, Michael Solomon Alexander. The society was active in the establishment of Christ Church, Jerusalem, the oldest Protestant church in the Middle East, completed in 1849.
In 1863, the society purchased property outside the walls of the Old City of Jerusalem. In 1897, they opened a hospital on the site, designed by architect Arthur Beresford Pite. Today, the building houses the Anglican International School Jerusalem, which is operated by the society.
In 1914, the society was described as...the oldest, largest, richest, most enterprising, and best organized of its type, and has auxiliary societies throughout the British Isles and Canada. The society, whose income in 1900-01 was £46,338, with an expenditure of £36,910, employed at 52 missionary stations 199 workers, among them 25 clergymen, 19 physicians, 34 female missionaries, 20 lay missionaries, 35 colporteurs, 58 teachers, and 8 apothecaries. Of these, 82 were converts from Judaism. Of the 52 stations 18 are in England, 3 in Austria, 1 in France, 4 in Germany, 2 in Holland, 1 in Italy, 4 in Rumania, 1 in Russia, 1 in Constantinople; in Asia there are 10 stations, among them Jerusalem with 27 workers; in Africa there are 7 stations. About 5,000 Jews have been baptized by the society since its foundation. Its principal organs are the Jewish Missionary Intelligence and the Jewish Missionary Advocate.
The organisation is one of the eleven official mission agencies of the Church of England. It currently has branches in the United Kingdom, Israel, Ireland, the USA, Canada, South Africa, Hong Kong, and Australia.
In response to changing attitudes towards outreach and the Jewish people, the society has changed its name several times over the years, first to Church Missions to Jews, then The Church's Mission to the Jews, followed by The Church's Ministry Among the Jews, and finally to the current name of The Church's Ministry Among Jewish People, which was adopted in 1995.
The society's historic archives are stored by the Bodleian Library in Oxford England. A history of the society was published in 1991.
Read more about this topic: Church's Ministry Among Jewish People
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