The Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem

I recently came across a fascinating book entitled The Handbook of Palestine by H.C. Luke and E. Keith-Roach.  Produced in 1922 by the British Mandate government which had just taken control of the country after a long Ottoman Turkish rule, it’s a fascinating snapshot of the Holy Land beginning its transition to the State of Israel and the other claimants of the land.  I plan to reproduce some of the more interesting parts of the book on a sporadic basis.

In this post we will look at the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem.

The History of the Bishopric. — The Jerusalem Bishopric is the oldest of the twenty-one dioceses throughout the world which do not come within any ecclesiastical province, but are directly under the metropolitical jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury. Indeed, the ‘Jerusalem Bishopric Act,’ passed in 1841 to sanction the consecration (in England) of Bishops for places outside the British Dominions, was used not only for the first consecration of an Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, but under its provisions all other such Bishops have since been consecrated, the King giving his Mandate to the Archbishop of Canterbury in each case.

The aims and procedure of the founders of the original Bishopric in 1841 are not without interest.

The failure of several attempts on the part of Lutheran Germany to secure episcopal orders through Rome led King Frederick William IV. of Prussia to approach England with the purpose of founding a Bishopric in Jerusalem in the hope of attaining that object, and in 1841 it was founded. Its income was provided by £6oo a year, the interest of an endowment fund raised in England, and a further £6oo, the interest of a capital sum set aside from the privy purse of the King of Prussia. The nomination to the See thus provided for was alternately with England and Prussia; the Archbishop of Canterbury nominating for England to the Crown, and having the right of veto on the Prussian nomination.

The Bishopric, as then founded, was unpopular with many churchmen on account of its connexion with a non-episcopal communion, and from their failure to appreciate the difference between episcopal jurisdiction as exercised in the West, where it is territorial, and in the East, where several Bishops rule in the same area, each over members of their own communion. This led to the unfounded fear that there was an intrusion on the rights of the Orthodox Patriarch as Bishop of Jerusalem.

A further failure to obtain episcopal orders for the Lutherans resulted in the withdrawal of Prussia from the contract (together with the portion of income guaranteed by the King) on the death of Bishop Barclay in 1881, when the Bishopric fell into abeyance for nearly six years.

After considerable inquiry and much careful thought Archbishop Benson revived the See as an Anglican Bishopric; and Dr. Blyth, then Archdeacon of Rangoon, was consecrated Bishop of the Church of England in Jerusalem on the 25th March, 1887, the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem having said that it was ‘necessary that a Bishop of the Church of England…should be placed in this Holy City.’ Ever since that date the Anglican Bishopric has been growing more and more part of the religious life of the city, until it now holds a position which is unique in opportunity for promoting a good understanding among its many Churches.

The Aims of the Bishopric. — The aims of the Bishopric may be summed up as follows:

“To represent the Anglican Church as worthily as possible amongst the other Churches represented in the Holy City; to cultivate relations of friendship and sympathy with the ancient Churches of the East, always remembering the Redeemer’s prayer, ‘that they all may be one’; to provide churches and chaplains for Anglican communities within the diocese; and to present the Christian Faith in its fullness to non-Christians and to commend the Faith by two special means, the training and education of the young and the healing of the sick.”

The Bishop’s Mission, known as the ‘Jerusalem and the East Mission,’ is taking a prominent part in the education of young Palestinians, both by means of its own schools and by joint action with other societies in carrying on the English College for young men and the British High School for Girls in Jerusalem.

Jurisdiction of the Bishopric. — The Bishop’s jurisdiction extends over the congregations and interests of the Anglican Church in Palestine and Syria, in part of Asia Minor and in the Island of Cyprus. Until the end of 1920 it also included Egypt and the Sudan, but those countries were then formed into a separate, independent diocese under the Bishop of Khartoum. In addition to the Cathedral Church of S. George the Martyr in Jerusalem, built by the late Bishop Blyth, there are other churches and British or Palestinian clergy and congregations in Jerusalem, Gaza, Jaffa, Ramleh, Bethlehem, al-Salt (Trans-jordania), Ramallah, Nablus, Haifa and Nazareth, besides various other places in the country districts and also in Cyprus and Syria. Much of the work is carried on by the Church Missionary Society and the London Society for Promoting Christianity amongst the Jews.

List of the Anglican Bishops. —

  • Michael Solomon Alexander, 1841-1845;
  • Samuel Gobat, 1846-1879;
  • Joseph Barclay, 1879-1881;
  • George Francis Popham Blyth, 1887- 1914;
  • Rennie Maclnnes, 1914-.

The English Order of S. John of Jerusalem — This Order is represented in Palestine by an admirable ophthalmic hospital overlooking the Valley of Hinnom in Jerusalem. The Order has fitted up the Chapel of S. John of Jerusalem in S. George’s Cathedral, in Jerusalem, and enjoys, through the courtesy of the Orthodox Patriarch, the privilege of celebrating services in the crypt of the Orthodox Church of S. John the Baptist in the old city.

3 Replies to “The Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem”

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