A BRIEF HISTORY OF CWI
Christian Witness to Israel (CWI) was formed by the amalgamation of two evangelical and interdenominational societies: the International Society for Evangelisation of the Jews (IJS) and the Barbican Mission to the Jews (BMJ). Both were motivated by the fact that “the gospel of Christ … is the power of God to salvation for every one who believes, for the Jew first…”
During the early part of the nineteenth century various gatherings were held in London and Scotland to consider what steps should be taken to reach the Jewish people with the gospel. As a result, a meeting was held in the National Scotch Church, Regent Square, London on 7 November 1842 to form the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel among the Jews. Those present included the famous Robert Murray M’Cheyne (pictured right) . It was agreed to co-operate with the Church of Scotland’s Mission to the Jews. The society later became the International Society for the Evangelisation of the Jews. In 1879 “an agency for gospel work among the Jews conducted by Hebrew Christians” commenced work in the Barbican district of London which, in 1891, became the Barbican Mission to the Jews.
The work of both societies expanded rapidly to provincial cities and to mission stations on the Continent, particularly in Eastern Poland where many Jews responded to the gospel. Work was pioneered in Palestine, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. Within fifty years William Wingate, a pioneer missionary to the Jews of Budapest, could say, “Hebrew Christians are everywhere. Every class of Jewish society contributes … professors in universities, lawyers, medical men, literary men, musicians, artists, merchants, mechanics, poor and rich are quickened by the Spirit of all grace, convinced of their sin and guilt. They are at the feet of Jesus, and enabled to say with every believer, ‘We have redemption through the atoning blood of Jesus, even the forgiveness of our sins’.”
Israel was still a scattered nation and Jewish rationalist thinkers were determined to establish a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Pogroms in Russia spurred these early Zionists to return to the land of their fathers and in 1897 Theodore Herzl inaugurated the first Zionist Congress with this in view. The Balfour Declaration of 1917, which established a national home for the Jews in Palestine, and the Bolshevik Revolution which closely followed, encouraged the Jews to return to the Land after an exile of eighteen centuries.
World War II with its horrific extermination of six million Jews under the Nazi regime, brought the work in Europe to a standstill. Through the efforts of Rev. I.E. Davidson, many Jewish children were rescued from certain death to be brought up, with parental permission, in England. Many came to know the Saviour and some are now serving him as ministers and full-time workers. Gospel work, closed in Europe by the war, now began to be developed in other countries. Today our ministry extends to Jewish people in Israel, USA, France, UK, Australia, Hungary, New Zealand and Bulgaria.