The Installation of a Bishop in Jerusalem: The Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr, 15 April 2007

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The Installation of a Bishop in Jerusalem: The Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr, 15 April 2007

Since its foundation in 1841 the Diocese of Jerusalem has been a remarkable study in ecclesiastical politics, cultural conflicts, and interfaith tensions. During its first decades the Anglican part of its work (it originally had a Lutheran part too) depended on two evangelical missionary societies: the London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews (LJS), which focused on the conversion of the Jews, and the Church Missionary Society (CMS), which ostensibly aimed to convert Muslims, but which was widely believed to work hard at converting Arabs from Orthodoxy and Greek Catholicism. The LJS controlled Christ Church (which still exists), and the CMS controlled St. Paul's (which no longer exists). Anglican evangelicals, who typically disliked the ritual, iconography, and monastic tradition of Orthodoxy, and supported the proselytism of Jews, supported the Jerusalem bishopric; Anglo-Catholics thought quite otherwise. Evangelicals were predictably provoked, therefore, when in 1887 an Anglo-Catholic was appointed the fourth bishop of Jerusalem. George Francis Popham Blyth promised not to accept Orthodox converts into the Anglican Church, and the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem issued a statement of approval for an "English bishop." Blyth also supported Palestinian Anglican pastors who felt undervalued by the CMS, and was sympathetic with Arab nationalism. Blyth's relations with the LJS and CMS quickly deteriorated, and when Blyth was unsuccessful at controlling them, he attempted to work around them. He bought land in east Jerusalem where he built his cathedral and a missionary college, both called St. George's, making them the headquarters of a mission program independent of the two evangelical societies. Nevertheless, with all these tensions, the Anglican diocese of Jerusalem maintained a striking measure of harmony among English Christians, Jewish Christians, and Arab Christians. (An excellent source is Lester Groves Pittman, "Missionaries and Emissaries: The Anglican Church in Palestine 1841-1948," Ph.D. dissertation, University of Virginia, 1998.)

Blyth has been dead for almost a century, but his influence is felt in several ways when the fourteenth Anglican bishop of Jerusalem is installed on 15 April 2007: for instance, the ceremony takes place in his Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr; most of the local Anglicans are Arabs; the service has a ritualist flavor with incense, asperges, and Byzantine chant; and the Orthodox Church has sent friendly representatives. It is an installation today, and not an ordination, because the new diocesan bishop has been the coadjutor bishop. He will now head a diocese of five thousand members, most of them in Israel, Palestine, and Jordan, and a few in Syria and Lebanon.

On the evening of 15 April a visitor enters into the compound of the cathedral for the installation. The compound houses a Gothic revival church, diocesan offices, and educational facilities. Chairs are set up outside the church proper in a portico, and a large projection screen is set up before the chairs, in anticipation that the crowds will overflow the nave. The visitor forces his way into the church, where he receives a handsome and well produced order of service. It contains a number of color prints, including one of the new bishop in full episcopal regalia with cope, miter, and crozier.

The cathedral is oriented to the east. Six marble columns on each side of the center aisle help support a vaulted wooden ceiling. The sandstone walls are white-washed, with the stations of the cross painted on them in the Armenian style, a sign of the ancient Armenian presence in Jerusalem. An organ is in the rear of the nave. At the front is the main altar, which is not used on most occasions. At the right of the altar is the Anglican Communion flag, and to the left the diocesan flag, which depicts the walls of the Old City. …