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History of the Diocese

The history of Anglicanism in Jerusalem goes back to 1841. However, a proposal for the establishment of a permanent post in Jerusalem by the Church Missionary Society was under consideration as early as 1821.

It was not until after the capture of the city by Mohammad Ali of Egypt in 1831 that much progress was made, and the first permanent station was established in Jerusalem in 1833.

The first Bishop, The Right Rev'd Michael Solomon Alexander, arrived in 1841. In 1845, the first Anglican Church (Christ Church, Jaffa Gate) of the city was dedicated. The Bishopric started as an Anglo-Prussian union in Jerusalem for Anglicans and Lutherans.

The second Bishop, The Right Rev'd Samuel Gobat, ministered mainly among local Christians: he opened 42 schools and ordained the first two Palestinian priests.

In 1881, the Anglo-Prussian union lapsed and the Bishopric became a solely Anglican Bishopric in 1887, centred on the Cathedral Church of St. George in Jerusalem, which was built and dedicated during the episcopacy of the fourth Bishop, The Right Rev'd George Blyth, in 1898.

The increase of local Anglican congregations resulted in the formation of the Palestinian Native Church Council in 1905. While recognizing foreign leadership, the Council took the task of establishing a self-governing, self-supporting system.

The political developments in the region had a large effect on the socio-political life of the Diocese, which was divided between the different countries. The difficulty was to bring together the different Anglican communities in the Middle East.

The 1948 war was a real blow for the Church, with a tremendous task of coping with the refugees. 1958 witnessed the consecration of the first Arab Bishop, The Right Rev'd Bishop Najib Cubain. He was the Bishop of Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, including East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Though he lived in Jerusalem, he did not have any Episcopal authority over the “See of Jerusalem”. Between 1957 and 1974, Jerusalem became an Archbishopric under the extra-Provincial jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury, overseeing the whole of the Middle East, including the Sudan, Somalia, Egypt, North Africa, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Cyprus and the Gulf. The Archbishop of Canterbury appointed the Bishop in Jerusalem as the Archbishop of the region.

Between 1974-1976, under the supervision of the Vicar General, Robert Stopford, and the overseas partners, the Church of England’s Missionary Society (CMS, CMJ, and JMECA), the Episcopal Church in the USA, the Church in Ireland, the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian), and the Church in Australia, the Archbishopric was completely restructured. The Diocese of Jerusalem was established to include Palestine, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon and Syria, with Jerusalem as its centre, and with its Bishop co-titled as the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem and Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. As the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem he represents the entire Anglican Communion Family. A provision was made for an assistant Bishop, based in Amman, to maintain relations with Lebanon, Syria and Jordan.

1976 saw the first Palestinian Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, The Right Rev'd Faek Haddad. The Diocese became one of the four Dioceses in the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East. The Bishop in Jerusalem is the representative of the Anglican Communion Family and the successor of the Bishops of the Church of England in Jerusalem.

The second Palestinian bishop in Jerusalem, and the 12th Anglican Bishop was the Right Rev'd Samir Kafity who was instrumental in developing many of the local institutions and parishes of the Diocese with an increase in the numbers of those seeking Holy Orders. He served two five-year terms as the Provincial President-Bishop and Primate.

The Right Rev'd Riah Abu El-Assal, the thirteenth Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, and the third Palestinian Bishop, put much emphasis on a just peace in the Land of the Holy One and the Middle East and travelled all over the world for advocacy matters. He also encouraged the further development of our parishes and institutions.

On April 15th, 2007, the new Diocesan Bishop and 14th Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem was enthroned, the Right Rev'd Suheil Dawani. His vision for the future of the Diocese of Jerusalem is to engage in the ministry of peace and reconciliation by strengthening the Christian Presence in the Holy Land. The focus is on working together with overseas partners and collegially in ecumenical inter-faith affairs and encouraging the faithful to join efforts for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. In referring to the importance of Jerusalem, Bishop Suheil emphasizes that he sees it as his duty, and that of all Christians, to make Jerusalem a model for peace between the three Abrahamic faiths. He says, “It is our task to give hope to the hopeless. In our daily lives may we be guided by the star of God’s love.”

The Bishop cares for 27 parishes, about 30 priests and 7,000 Anglicans across the Diocese. The Diocese today has over 30 institutions spread across the different countries that it covers. The Diocese employs about 1500 people. It has about 6,400 students in its schools and about 200 beds in its hospitals.

The Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem is engaged in a ministry of Faith in Action in an interfaith region, spreading a message of mutual respect and cooperation through its many institutions, working to bring peace and reconciliation to this conflict torn region.

 

 

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