The Episcopal Church
in Jerusalem and
the Middle East
The Episcopal Church of Jerusalem and the Middle East is a province of the Anglican Communion The church is headed by a President Bishop, currently the Most Reverend Michael Lewis, who ranks as a representative primate in the Anglican Communion.
HISTORY OF THE PROVINCE
The history the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East stretches back to when the Anglican presence in Jerusalem was started in 1841 as a joint venture between the Church of England (Queen Victoria) and the Lutheran Prussians (King Frederick William IV). In 1841, The Archbishop of Canterbury consecrated Michael Solomon Alexander as the first bishop of Jerusalem (1842-1845). Subsequent bishops were supposed to be nominated alternately by the English and Prussian sovereigns and to be consecrated by Anglican bishops.
On 30 December 1846, the second bishop arrived in Jerusalem, Samuel Gobat, and served there from 1846-1879. It is said that Bishop Gobat “believed that the way to evangelize the people of the Ottoman Empire was through the members of the Middle Eastern Churches. Since, however, he considered those churches to be wayward and in deep spiritual sleep, they had to be awakened and restored to the true and pure faith, namely, to the evangelical faith that is founded on the Bible alone, the sole authority for faith” (Frarah 729).
This approach to strengthening the Orthodox Churches concerned Dr. William Howley, the Archbishop of Canterbury from 1828-1848, who did not want the Anglican presence in the Middle East to create more divisions. He wrote that the Bishop of Jerusalem should play a bridging and healing role, “of putting an end to the divisions which had brought the most grievous calamities to the Church of Christ.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury signed an agreement with the Patriarch of the Alexandria (of the Coptic Orthodox Church) in which he committed the Anglican Church to serve the Orthodox Churches. In 1842, the Anglican Church started a seminary for the Coptic Orthodox Church in the Patriarchate in Cairo. The cooperation of the Anglican-Orthodox continued for five years during which one of the graduates of the seminary became the Pope of Alexandria and his name was Kyrilos (Cyril) the Reformer. Pope Kyrilos developed the Coptic Orthodox Church by building many Coptic schools and encouraged the education of girls.
The mission of the Anglican Churches in the Middle East continued with an emphasis on serving the local communities without any discrimination between Christians, Muslims and Jews. The Archbishop of Canterbury appointed the Archbishop in Jerusalem who oversaw the whole region (the history of this period is mentioned in the individual diocese later on).
Archbishop Angus Campbell MacInnes, after serving from 1957-1968 resigned and it was announced that the Archbishop of Perth, George Appleton, had been appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury and in consultation with the other metropolitans of the Anglican Communion, to fill the vacancy in Jerusalem (1969-1974). In early 1970, Archbishop George Appleton appointed a special committee to consider the future of the dioceses including the Archbishopric. Discussion took place regarding a possible restructuring of the Archdiocese and during the interim, Bishop Albert Kenneth Cragg (1970-1974) served as the Assistant Bishop of Jerusalem and then Bishop Robert Stopford (1974-1976) served as the Vicar General of Jerusalem.
Finally, in 1976 the “The Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East,” also known today as “The Episcopal / Anglican Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East,” was inaugurated. Metro-political authority was given from the Archbishop of Canterbury to the Provincial (Central) Synod and the following served as its President Bishop or Primate: Hassan Dehqani-Tafti (1976-1986), Samir Kafity (1986-1996), Ghais Abdel Malik (1996-2000), Iraj Mottahedeh (2000-2002), Clive Handford (2002-2007), Mouneer Hanna Anis (2007-2017), Suheil Dawani (2017-2019), Michael Lewis (2019 to present).
The Central Synod of the church is its deliberative and legislative organ. The province created in 1976 consists of three dioceses:
A fourth diocese (Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa) was part of the province from 1976 until June 2020, and covered Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia Somaliland, and Djibouti.