Ernest Lloyd – International Hebrew Christian

by Elizabeth Simpson and Mike Moore

In an age where it’s in vogue to blame one’s environment for adverse reactions to society, let’s be inspired by a man who for the first twenty years of his life suffered rejection, poverty and harshness. Yet, now, at the age of 90, he is not only a giant in faith, but is loved and respected worldwide for his exposition of the Scriptures, his encouragement to young and old, and above all, for his desire to see his beloved Jewish people come to faith in the Lord Jesus as Saviour and Messiah. This is Ernest Lloyd.

Child of sorrows

Life in Britain at the conclusion of the First World War was tough with high unemployment and no National Health Benefits. Life for Jewish people in Britain at this time was unbelievably harsh and sometimes violent. Often whole families lived in a squalid, 2-room apartment. Having escaped the pogroms and anti-Semitism in Eastern Europe, Jewish people were blamed for unemployment, rent increases, and above all, were frequently branded ‘Christ-killers’. Does this explain the actions of a tall, dark Italian Sephardi Jewess, her husband killed during the war, placing her five-year old son, Ernest, into the care of the Naomi Home run by the Barbican Mission to the Jews, who for years had extended free health care to the needy. How this little boy enjoyed the Sunday afternoon visits of his mother. Then suddenly, without warning, her visits ceased, and Ernest never saw her again, neither does he know what became of her. Many a night he was found wandering in the home, sobbing inconsolably from the pain of his loss.

Jewish children felt the effects of the anti-Semitic abuses hurled at them, both at school and in the streets. An elderly lady once defended Ernest from the ‘stone throwers’ as he and the other Naomi children made their way home from school. Not only did this Gentile lady comfort him, but told him that her greatest friend was a Jew whose name is Jesus, and because of this, she had protected him.

An interest awakened

In his early teens, Ernest developed an intense interest in the Tenach, the Hebrew Scriptures, particularly the five books of Moses. As he studied Leviticus, he was convinced that here was a divinely revealed message and became engrossed in the details of the sacrifices and offerings, and Israel’s fast and feast days. However, he was puzzled by the Hebrew prophets’ denunciations of their nation. Why did a nation with such dramatic demonstrations of God’s intervention on their behalf depart from their Creator?

As he continued to study the Law and the Prophets, Ernest realised that he was resenting his years of poverty and rejection, and in his heart, he too, was rebelling against the Almighty. When he read Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”, Ernest realised that a relationship with God, had to be on God’s terms. Further, he realised that this verse and Romans 5:1 “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” had been written by Paul, who also was Jewish.

Born into an everlasting kingdom

It was at age 17 that Ernest Lloyd trusted the Lord and as he handed his life over to the Saviour, he experienced God’s peace, and a wonderful sense of purpose to his life. While still a teenager, an elderly Christian couple wanted to adopt Ernest as their own son. Life in their wealthy home became a nightmare for Ernest as he experienced their claustrophobic legalism. Whilst proclaiming their love for the ‘dear Jews’, any seeming misdemeanour on his part brought the accusation that it was his ‘Jewish nature’ coming to the fore. The emotional scars of the misery in that home remain, with Ernest still feeling uncomfortable and suspicious when Christians patronisingly profess to love Israel and ‘the Jews’. Actions speak more eloquently than words. And yet, as his forebears under Moses experienced, God made, not only a way of deliverance, but gave a revelation of His purpose and plan for Ernest’s life.

Preparation for a life of service

Three years at All Nations College in South London were a vital step in preparation for Ernest’s increasing desire to take the gospel to his own people. It was here that he realised the work of the Holy Spirit in his life. He was wisely counselled not to go to the Almighty with ‘conditions’ when seeking his life’s work, and determined to do whatever God wanted from him-even if it meant public speaking or preaching. At age 21, he was approached and accepted by the British Jews Society (now Christian Witness to Israel) to work among Christian youth, and to undertake deputation work in churches. He was told that the Society did not make financial needs known, except to God. Wise counsel was given Ernest as he was told that no amount of enthusiasm and eloquence could make up for the lack of a firm scriptural foundation for what he had to say. Although he would emphasise the spiritual need of Jewish people, he was cautioned never to forget that the gospel was for the gentiles also.

In travels oft and cold!

What would it have been like in January 1934, the middle of winter in England, to set out on your first deputation tour to Cornwall, using only public transport, mainly rail? After 70 years, Ernest has never been free of the fear of public speaking. Each day of that three and a half week tour, he literally cast himself on the mercy of God. By the end of that year, he had travelled the length and breadth of England, preaching and setting before churches the spiritual need of his Jewish brethren. How often were his travels at great personal cost? On another January Cornwall visit, the damp cold bed resulted in him becoming desperately ill, and after preaching three times, he took the 12 hour journey on the night train back to London. It took three weeks to recover from the resulting pleurisy.

The gospel, not the peripherals

To the frequently asked question as to whether the Jewish Temple was about to be rebuilt, Ernest’s stock reply was that that question really had nothing to do with presenting God’s good news to Jewish people-his primary concern. “Replacement Theology” viewing the Church as the ‘new Israel’ which inherits Israel’s privileges but sees no future for national Israel, thus negating Romans 9, 10 and 11 has been of great concern to Ernest. Israel’s hope of salvation lies in Jewish people being grafted back on to their own Olive Tree by faith in their Messiah.

Deputation brought another great blessing

In June, 1935, when sent to Tyneside, near Newcastle, England, how could Ernest have known that the short, dark young woman who had arranged his deputation meetings, was to become the future Mrs. Ernest Lloyd? After six months’ correspondence, Ernest proposed to Jessie McGowan, the diminutive young lady with boundless energy, and she accepted. They married in August, 1937 and at their wedding ceremony were counselled to pray together, and never to go to sleep with unresolved conflict. On honeymoon in Scotland, they walked over 320 kilometres from Oban to Inverness. Peter was born in 1939, Martin in 1943, and in 1947, Jessie and Ernest adopted 6-year old Jennifer, whose mother, Jessie’s sister, had just died. They determined that, whatever the cost, the work to which God had called them would always have first priority.

The main battle continued during wartime

Ernest was not required to serve in the Armed Forces during the Second World War, but he was away from Jessie and their young son Peter even during London’s Blitz. Jessie’s hospitality was legendary, even during wartime rationing. She maintained that it was not enough to simply pray for people without doing anything that would help them hear the gospel. During 1942, Ernest travelled to 24 English counties, plus Wales, Eire and Northern Ireland. He continued to encounter ignorance of the Jewishness of Christian belief, and even anti-Semitism among Christians, to say nothing of those who deliberately denied Romans 1:16. Ernest, with his wry sense of humour and ready wit, endeavoured to encourage young people to see Jewish people through the eyes of the Lord Jesus. Frequently on his travels, Ernest was in conversation with Jewish people. With some, he had great discussion, others accused him of being a traitor to the Jewish community. On one such occasion, he quoted Benjamin Disraeli-”half the world worships a Jew, the other half a Jewess.” but concluded by telling this man that, as a nation, we must be reconciled to God through Christ, who, after all, was one of our own flesh and blood.

Bearing witness to the ends of the earth

The year 1951 was to herald one of the Lloyd family’s greatest challenges. Ernest was requested to pioneer the Society’s work in South Africa, and ultimately, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Jessie’s immediate response, knowing that her dear husband would be absent from the family for almost a year, was that the work of God was to come before personal considerations. With peace in his heart, Ernest could face whatever the Lord had in store for him.

With that ‘one first voyage’ began a tour which would ultimately touch the lives of hundreds on several continents, and endear Ernest to families who extended hospitality to him on this and subsequent visits. Families who endeavoured to have their children on their best behaviour “because Mr. Lloyd was coming to stay” soon realised that the said Ernest Lloyd would invariably have their children in uproar with his incredible jokes and stories. One of his hosts was in fear and trepidation as she anticipated Ernest’s next visit when Jessie was to accompany him. According to Ernest, Jessie was so enormous, that their bed would simply not hold her. This brought many an anxious thought… but when Jessie arrived, seemingly half Ernest’s height, they realised that this was another of Ernest’s jokes. Ernest never drove a car himself, but said that he delighted in Jessie driving him everywhere, including ‘up the wall’.

Wider ministry

From 1951 until his official retirement in 1978, there were only six years when Ernest was not overseas on behalf of the Society, ministering the Word of God, challenging and encouraging.

In 1984, he was appointed President of the International Hebrew Christian Alliance (IHCA) and gave wise counsel as a new generation of believers in Jesus the Messiah called themselves Messianic Jews, and the Alliance was re-named the International Messianic Jewish Alliance (IMJA). (see Appendix below for further remarks on Ernest’s involvement in the IHCA and the IMJA)

“Grow old along with me”

The Lloyd’s Golden Wedding celebration in 1987 was over-shadowed by Jessie’s deteriorating memory. The children praised the excellent advice she had always given them, and they had never heard her complain during Ernest’s long absences. Even when events and places were completely forgotten, Ernest said she became perfectly lucid when he read the Word and they prayed. Jessie went to be with her Lord in May, 1992.

‘This one thing I do…”

At ninety years of age, Ernest lives in a delightful unit on the Antrim coast, Northern Ireland, not far from his sons. He bakes cakes for the grandchildren, loves music, is an avid reader and an incredible correspondent, claiming alas, that his typewriter has worn out before its owner. In 2002, he undertook a journey to the Far East, speaking at over 25 meetings to ‘those keen Asian believers’. In September this year, he returned from Scotland, having addressed at least one meeting a day for almost three weeks.

This writer first met Ernest Lloyd forty years ago, and has enjoyed hospitality in their home at Eastbourne U.K., and more recently, in Northern Ireland. A number of years ago, a young Jewish man, now a doctor, stood up at the conclusion of one of Ernest’s meetings and declared his faith in Yeshua. His recent comment is a fitting tribute-”How many of us can give thanks for the life and witness of Ernest Lloyd”.

Appendix

What follows is an extract from Mike Moore’s book The Importance of Being Ernest published by Christian Focus Publishers. The extract gives further details of Ernest’s involvement with the International Hebrew Christian Alliance.

Two years after the first International Hebrew Christian Alliance conference in 1925, the President of the Alliance, Sir Leon Levison, wrote in the official organ of the IHCA, The Hebrew Christian Quarterly, that Jewish believers were distributed roughly as follows: 17,000 in Vienna; 35,000 in Poland; 60,000 in Russia; over 30,000 in the USA and Canada and 5,000 in the UK.

Ernest’s introduction to the Hebrew Christian Alliance was through the Rev. Harcourt Samuel, who served the Alliance as its secretary for fifty years. They met in 1932 while Ernest was a student at All Nations College, and Samuel immediately took an interest in the young Jewish Christian and invited him to the family home in Buckinghamshire.

Ernest attended the 1934 International Hebrew Christian Alliance Conference at the Mildmay Centre in Stoke Newington. The conference was attended by some of the greatest names in the world of Hebrew Christianity, and the young man stood in awe of the gathered luminaries, which included Sir Leon Levison. Though dark and swarthy, with almost black eyes, Sir Leon was every inch a knight of the realm, resplendent in top hat and a swallowtail coat. Although English was his second language, he spoke it almost flawlessly, and was a first-rate orator.

Leon and his brother Nahum had grown up in the mountains of northern Galilee in the town of Safed, regarded by Orthodox Jews as one of Israel’s four holy cities, along with Jerusalem, Hebron and Tiberias. Leon and Nahum’s father from the Jerusalem Mission invariably filled the post. A worker from the Jerusalem Church Mission came trained, seasoned and ready to begin work and, until the end of the thirties, almost half the missionaries in the British Jews Society originated from Hamburg.

Ernest joined the Hebrew Christian Alliance in 1934, but it was more than twenty-five years before he held any official position within the movement. He was elected to the committee of the British Alliance in 1962 and became its president in 1977. The duration of each term of office was five years, and until Ernest’s election no president had ever served more than one term. He was elected president on three consecutive occasions. He had earned a reputation for being a peacemaker and an encourager. In sessions of the council, when the discussion was becoming a little too heated, Ernest had a “soft word” that invariably calmed the situation.

Ernest was unexpectedly appointed President of the International Hebrew Christian Alliance at its conference in Canada in 1984. The presidents of the various alliances nominated the president of the Argentine alliance for the position but, in an unprecedented action, the delegates rejected the nomination. An improvised plan was put into effect and, to Ernest’s dismay, the American president announced that the US delegation would like him to take on the presidency of the International Alliance. The motion was speedily seconded and he received the overwhelming support of the assembled delegates.

Just as Ernest’s appointment to the presidency of the IHCA took place in an unprecedented manner, so his time in office would also be different. He served a total of ten years as the president of the IHCA – two consecutive terms – something also previously unknown. He served his two terms at a crucial time in the history of the IHCA because of the growing influence of Messianic Judaism within the Alliance. For most of the twentieth century, Jews who believed in Jesus had called themselves Hebrew Christians or Jewish Christians.

There had been previous attempts in the history of the Alliance to take the movement in the direction of Messianic Judaism, notably that of Mark John Levy at the Third National Conference of the Hebrew Christian Alliance of America, at Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1917. Levy proposed that the Alliance affirm a stronger loyalty to its Jewish past by adopting some of the customs of Judaism. In retrospect, his proposals appear moderate, but the other delegates questioned whether, as followers of the Messiah, they were under the law in any way. Levy’s resolution was roundly defeated.

Though Mark John Levy’s proposals were rejected by the American alliance, elsewhere there was sympathy for Messianic Judaism. The offence that the term “Christian” generated amongst fellows Jews led some Jewish followers of Jesus to refer to themselves as “completed Jews” and, under the influence of a new generation, the Hebrew Christian movement began to undergo a gradual metamorphosis. The Holocaust and the founding of the modern State of Israel enabled a new sense of Jewish identity to develop, and the Hebrew Christian movement was not exempt from the changes that were taking place in the Jewish world. The younger generation of Jewish followers of Jesus felt that “Hebrew Christian” no longer properly defined them and, therefore, a more adequate form of expressing their Jewish identity and beliefs was needed. The term “Messianic Jew” grew in popularity, so that in 1975 at its conference in Grantham, Pennsylvania, the Hebrew Christian Alliance of America changed its name to the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America.

The Messianic issue generated considerable heat, and some of the meetings in the eighties were stormy. The older believers felt no sense of shame about the terms “Jesus”, “Christ”, “Church” or “Cross” and were not embarrassed to call themselves Hebrew Christians. The new generation of Jewish believers wanted (with some justification) to jettison the Hellenised terminology and nomenclature of the New Testament and return to what they considered a more pure faith. Therefore they referred to their Saviour by his Hebrew title, Yeshua haMashiach – Jesus the Messiah – and called themselves Messianic Jews. The proponents of the Messianic movement believed the adoption – or reclamation – of such terminology would help break down a traditional obstacle to Jews believing in Jesus, i.e. that a Jew who believes in Jesus ceases to be a Jew.

More controversial was the proposal that Jewish believers should form Messianic assemblies or synagogues, the worship of which would be that of the traditional synagogue -including the wearing of the tallit (prayer shawl) and kippah (skullcap), and the inclusion of traditional Hebrew prayers, modified to reflect their faith in Yeshua.

To the older men, who had suffered rejection by family, friends, synagogue and the Jewish community, this smacked of compromise. The younger men behind the new proposals were, in the main, from secular Jewish backgrounds or from Reformed synagogues. Men like Victor Buksbazen, who were raised in Orthodoxy, had no wish to “return to the shut’ and vigorously opposed the attempt to – as they saw it – Judaise the faith.

Ernest had strong views on the issue and from time to time appointed a deputy to the chair so that he could express his opinion. He saw a danger in the strong emphasis the Messianics were placing on outward ceremony and tradition. He was free in Christ and did not want return to what Paul called the “beggarly elements” of rabbinic Judaism. While he sympathised with the concern of younger Jewish believers to return to their “Jewish roots”, he reminded them that the Judaism to which they wanted to return was not the religion of Moses and the Prophets. Traditional Judaism had been adulterated by many extra-biblical elements and many of its doctrines were developed in opposition to those of the Church.

Ernest’s opinions commanded respect, and though the American contingent in the International Hebrew Christian Alliance was strongly pro-Messianic, it was their influence that ensured his second term of office as President.

Ultimately, the influence of the new generation prevailed, and during Ernest’s second term of office, the IHCA became the International Messianic Jewish Alliance. Although he was far from happy with the developments, Ernest could see positive elements in the Messianic movement. Apart from other considerations, he recognised the movement was unstoppable and held no grudges. He attended Messiah 1988, a full-blown Messianic event organised by the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America, which included what was termed “Davidic worship”, or dance. He was at that time the President of the International Alliance and was invited by the conference to share his thoughts. His comments were in the main encouraging and positive but contained hints of a warning:

I think that, quite candidly, you have every reason to be grateful to the God of our fathers for the wonderful movement that is taking place. If I can pinpoint something on the present position of the American Alliance, it is this: the real movement of the Spirit of God.

In my lifetime and that of my contemporaries in the British alliance, it was very rare that a family would come to acknowledge of Yeshua. Here in America, I consider it amazing to see whole families united in the faith. This particular conference is predominantly a young people’s movement, something that we of the older generation have been praying for, for years and years.

In this conference you have impressed us with your attitude to those of the past generation. You haven’t swept us out of the window. You feel that by God’s grace we have made our own contribution. I believe that when you go into the annals of your own Alliance’s history, you will feel that those people of the past did lay a very solid foundation and it was probably their prayers that have resulted in this tremendous movement of God that you have experienced in the last twelve to fifteen years.

For the future, I would say without hesitancy that you are only at the beginning of this movement… Remember that none of us can afford to stand still. This movement will march forward. I sincerely pray and trust that you will realise in the future your responsibility to the whole body of the International Alliance. Some of our alliances worldwide are small. They need your prayers, support and sympathy. God has visited you now and I believe he will visit you again in the future. We all pray that this great advancement here in America will affect the whole movement worldwide. It is a tragedy when we begin to be insular in our outlook. I believe that if your Alliance will feel part and parcel of the many alliances then tremendous blessings will come in the future.

At the age of ninety. Ernest is one of the last remaining members of a generation of Jewish believers that were known as “Hebrew Christians”. He recognises that the sphere of influence within the Messianic world has been steadily moving from England to the United States, and his message to the new generation that will have to carry the torch of Messianic faith into the future is simple: “Whatever you do, keep your eyes on the Messiah. It’s the Messiah that matters, not ceremony”. His strongest criticism, however, is levelled at the growing number of gentile Christians who attend Messianic congregations and wear tallit and kippah. His warning to them is plain and forthright: “Don’t play at Judaism!”


Elizabeth Simpson lives in Tasmania, Australia, and knew Ernest Lloyd personally from his many visits to that state. The above article is her précis of The Importance of Being Ernest by Mike Moore with some of her own insights added.

Mike Moore is the General Secretary of Christian Witness to Israel.

The Importance of Being Ernest is published by Christian Focus Publishers.

Used with permission from International Jewish Evangelical Fellowship.