Morning Prayer, Low Style, in the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem: Church of the Redeemer, Amman, Jordan, Sunday, 11 March 2007

By Miller, Duane | Anglican and Episcopal History, September 2007 | Go to article overview

Morning Prayer, Low Style, in the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem: Church of the Redeemer, Amman, Jordan, Sunday, 11 March 2007


Miller, Duane, Anglican and Episcopal History


A Protestant episcopate was founded in Jerusalem in 1841 as a joint venture between the Church of England and the Evangelical Christian Church in Prussia. Many hoped that the project would make Jerusalem a focal point of unity for the various churches born from the Protestant Reformation, but they were disappointed. Two groups were influential, indeed essential, to the establishment of Jerusalem as a Protestant see: the London Jews Society (LJS) and the British government. The LJS was zealous for the evangelization of Jews throughout the world, and looked forward to the reestablishment of Israel as a sovereign state and the large-scale acceptance of Jesus Christ by Jews as the fulfillment of prophecy. And the British government desired to expand its power and influence in the Holy Land, which was then under the power of the Ottoman Empire. Just as the Russians exercised responsibility for the Orthodox Christians there, and the French for the Roman Catholics, so it seemed appropriate to the British that they should seek to safeguard the rights of Protestant Christians. The Ottoman Empire was deeply indebted to the British, who had kept it intact after Muhammad Ali, the ruler of Egypt, attempted to disintegrate it with military force in the 1830s.

Most Anglo-Catholics opposed the creation of the see of Jerusalem for three primary reasons. First, according to their ecclesiology, the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem was already the bishop and patriarch of that see. Second, the Prussian church lacked an episcopate, so her ministers lacked proper holy orders. Third, the project, promoted by civil governments and motivated by political consideration, seemed unholy. The bishopric in Jerusalem was one of the "three blows" that broke John Henry Newman's confidence in Anglicanism, leading him and many others to depart for the Roman Catholic Church.

The first bishop in Jerusalem was the Rt. Rev. Michael S. Alexander, a Jewish rabbi who came to believe that Jesus, the son of Mary, was the messiah promised by the Hebrew prophets. He was consecrated as bishop on 7 November 1841 of a diocese that extended over Egypt, Abyssinia, Syria, and Chaldea. In 1886 the diocese of Jerusalem lost its Lutheran connection and became exclusively a Church of England jurisdiction. As the number of Anglican parishes increased, the huge diocese was gradually divided, and eventually the Sudan became its own province in the Anglican Communion. The original mission of Michael Alexander was to convert Jews, not Muslims or Orthodox Christians, but for various reasons an Episcopal Arab community developed over time, consisting mainly of converts from Orthodoxy. Today most of the clergy are Arab, not English. (The story of the founding of the diocese with the many colorful characters involved and the substantial struggles involved can be found in Kelvin Crombie, A Jewish Bishop in Jerusalem [Jerusalem, 2006] ; information on the growth of the diocese is given by Rafiq A. Farah, In Troubled Waters: A History of the Anglican Church in Jerusalem, 1841-1998 [Leicester, 2002.])

In August 1957 a revised jurisdictional system was instated. The bishop in Jerusalem became the archbishop and metropolitan for the entire Middle East, including Persia (Iran). In January of the following year, for the first time, an Arab bishop was consecrated in the Anglican communion: he was Najib Cubain, who was named bishop of Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. In 1974 the former diocese of Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria was reincorporated into the diocese of Jerusalem; these are still the boundaries of the diocese today. In 1976 an ecclesiastical province was inaugurated with the name "the Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East"; this comprises four dioceses: Jerusalem; Egypt, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa; Cyprus and the Gulf States; and Iran.

The Church of the Redeemer, Amman, is the largest church in the diocese of Jerusalem. It was founded by missionaries from the Church Missionary Society (CMS), who brought with them a distinctly evangelical and low church form of Anglicanism which still survives today. …

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