It was a warm autumn evening in 2002 when Sandy and I attended a reception hosted by my new seminary advisor. In the course of the evening, he introduced me to a woman named Theresa Newell. He told her of my longtime concern for the Jewish people. She lost barely a breath in telling me that the Lord’s calling on my life was to become the director of CMJ, which happened in August of 2011.
Prior to my appointment, the board spent a year in prayer and discernment about the future of our work. A small ministry, they rightfully asked “Is there a place for CMJ?” Larger ministries had more resources and were present in the larger US cities. In the end, the Lord brought clarity. Five million Jewish people lived in the US, but two million were almost an unreached people group because they live in cities with much smaller Jewish populations, away from the big metropolises.
The clear decision came to work in 43 smaller cities. But how could so few of us even think of working in so many cities and how do we minister to these Jewish people? CMJ USA clearly didn’t have the resources to place staff in each of those cities. And there was the issue of ministry philosophy.
In the end, the Lord led us to a ministry of equipping congregations in those cities. Our main work would be training congregations in those cities on how to relate to their Jewish neighbors. As disciples of Jesus, all of us understood the debt we owe to the Jewish people for preserving our Scriptures, for persuading a pagan world there was only one God, and for the Jewish Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, by whom we could be reconciled to God.
It was great work. Congregations came forward. And we learned how to respectfully build relationships with Jewish people.
To be sure, there was more to the work. Antisemitism continued to grow in the United States and within the boundaries of the believing church. After centuries of tense interaction, Gentile Christians still do not understand the Jewish people or the debt they are owed by us. The Jewish roots of the Christian faith remain obscured in the minds of otherwise biblically literate followers of Jesus. These issues needed to be addressed as well.
Since being called to CMJ’s Israel branch in 2020, Sandy and I watched as the Lord raised up new colleagues to carry the work in the U.S. forward. All of them share the biblical urgency of being a blessing to the Jewish people and of sharing about Jesus in a way that Jewish people understand. The Holy Spirit can then do his work of enlightenment and calling. And, of course, the partnership of CMJ branches continues in nine countries around the globe as, together, we do our work and await the return of Messiah Yeshua/Jesus.
Rev. Canon Daryl Fenton is the director of CMJ Israel. He served as director of CMJ USA from 2011 to 2020. Fenton previously served as canon to Archbishop Robert Duncan of the Anglican Church in North America, overseeing mission relationships nationally and internationally. He also served as canon and chief operating officer for the Anglican Communion Network, a founding organization of the ACNA.