Remembering John Rodgers, faithful, enthusiastic CMJ supporter 

Topics: History

By CMJ USA Staff 

Just before Thanksgiving, Bishop John Rodgers died and entered into the presence of his Messiah. He was 92 years old. John – who was a respected Anglican theologian and seminary dean – supported the work of CMJ USA from our start in 1982, serving on the first advisory board. He was an active board member for many years until his death.   

John served on many of the Anglican evangelical mission boards over the years and mentored so many working in Christian outreach, including Theresa Newell. It was John who encouraged Theresa to study for a master’s degree at Trinity School for Ministry. Around the same time, John encouraged Bruce Newell, a classmate from the U.S. Naval Academy, to join the staff at Trinity. Bruce and Theresa married and moved to be at Trinity in October 1990. 

We encourage you to read Bishop John’s obituary in full to learn how richly the Lord used him to proclaim the good news of Jesus Messiah. There is also a guestbook if you wish to leave a note for the family. 

What follows is a remembrance by Executive Director Emeritus Marcia Lebhar. 

When John Rodgers walked into a room, in walked encouragement, in walked deep kindness and good cheer. The Oxford dictionary defines good cheer as confidence and optimism. John brought encouragement, kindness, and confidence to the work of CMJ, both in the US and Israel. His passion for the full message of Romans fueled our hearts for the ministry, and his generous partnership and friendship gave us joy in the work.

Bishop John Rodgers

I became Director of CMJ USA in 1994 and it became my first full-time job. As the wife of a priest and mother of four, including a toddler, and following the Rev. Alfred Sawyer who had been rector of Christ Church in Jerusalem, I had imposter syndrome, big time. John Rodgers’ enthusiasm for the vision of CMJ and his warm support transformed the work and rooted me in it. Let me share two examples. 

It was the Rev. Dr. Peter Moore’s first week at Trinity School for Ministry. Scheduled for that week was a banquet in support of CMJ, with both Peter and John attending. The study of the Hebrew roots of the New Testament was still somewhat new and the case for the priority of Jewish witness was viewed with some skepticism. To be blunt, I was unsure of the audience. I told the story of a priest friend who used to tease us mercilessly about our repeated attempts to interest him in joining us for a Shoresh study tour in Israel, but who later relented, joined a group, and then became an enormous support. At one point I quoted my friend as having said, “When are you going to get over this Israel thing?” John boomed from the audience, “Just as soon as God does!”  

“When are you going to get over this Israel thing?” John boomed from the audience, “Just as soon as God does!”

That was John. He changed me. He changed us. His wonderful short booklet on Romans 9-11 is still the strongest case for CMJ’s ministry. Please ask us for one! 

John was part of a small group of board members who frequently traveled together, both in the US and abroad. Board chair Bill Bugg was a Delta Airlines superstar and always commandeered the five-seat bulkhead row for us. He wanted legal pads out and work to begin almost as soon as we were buckled in. Why waste time? In those days I was an anxious flyer, especially during takeoff. Time to pray! I always lost concentration for a minute. I remember one flight when John interrupted the conversation during takeoff, patting my hand and saying to Bill, “Hold it, Bill, Marcia needs to fly the plane for a minute.” Affirming, challenging, full of affection.  

My life, and that of the CMJ ministry, was incalculably richer because of John Rodgers faithful enthusiasm and support. In this contentious moment in the world and, to some degree, in Christendom, I pray we can approach John’s example, carrying with us the aroma of God’s love, with grace and glad confidence in the Scriptures. 

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Article published on 12/14/2022