History of the Diocese of Jerusalem

Establishment of the Anglican Presence

The history of Anglicanism in Jerusalem goes back only to 1841. However, a proposal for the establishment of a permanent post in Jerusalem by the Church Missionary Society in England 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, with a permanent station being initially established in Jerusalem in 1833.

The first bishop, the Right Rev. Michael Solomon Alexander, was consecrated in December 1841 and arrived in Jerusalem a month later. Three years later, in 1845, Christ Church, Jaffa Gate, was dedicated in the Old City, establishing the earliest Anglican house of worship in Jerusalem. The associated bishopric began as an Anglo-Prussian union for Anglicans and Lutherans, who were the principal Protestant representatives in Jerusalem at the time. Bishop Alexander’s successor, the Right Rev. Samuel Gobat, ministered mainly among local Christians, opening 42 schools and ordaining the first two Palestinian priests.

The Building of St. George’s Cathedral

In 1881, the Anglo-Prussian union lapsed and the bishopric became solely an Anglican one in 1887. It was centered on the Cathedral Church of St. George in Jerusalem, which was built and dedicated during the episcopacy of the fourth bishop, the Right Rev. 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 many different countries. The difficulty was to bring together the different Anglican communities in the Middle East.

The 1948 War

The 1948 war was a real blow for the Church, which had to deal with the tremendous task of ministering to the Palestinian refugees. As a consequence of this, in 1958, the Right Rev. Najib Cubain was consecrated as the first Arab bishop, having oversight of the churches in 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 overseas partners—the Church of England’s Missionary Societies (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 center. Its bishop was co-titled as the “Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem” and “Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.” As the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, the bishop represented the entire Anglican Communion within the Holy City. A provision was also made for an assistant bishop, based in Amman, to maintain relations with Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan.

The Diocese of Jerusalem in Modern Times

The year 1976 saw the consecration of the first Palestinian Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem, the Right Rev. Faek Haddad. At this same time, a new constitution was adopted, removing the region from the direct oversight of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Diocese of Jerusalem became one of four dioceses within the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, the others being the Diocese of Egypt, the Diocese of Cyprus & the Gulf, and the Diocese of Iran.

The second Palestinian bishop in Jerusalem and the 12th Anglican Bishop was the Right Rev. 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. Riah Abu El-Assal, the thirteenth Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem and the third Palestinian Bishop, put much emphasis on establishing a just peace in the Land of the Holy One and throughout the Middle East. He traveled all over the world in his advocacy of this, while also encouraging the further development of diocesan parishes and institutions.

in 2007, the new diocesan bishop and 14th Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem was enthroned, the Right Rev. Suheil Dawani. Ten years later he became Primate over the Province of Jerusalem & the Middle East and received the title of Archbishop, one that remains with the office in recognition of Jerusalem’s historic position within Christendom.

Archbishop Hosam Naoum, the present Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, was installed on May 13, 2021 after serving as Coadjutor Bishop for eleven months. Taking the theme of his episcopacy from Jesus’ words, “I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly” (John 10:10), his vision for the Diocese of Jerusalem embraces a ministry of peace and reconciliation by strengthening the Christian Presence in the Holy Land. Its focus is on working together with overseas partners, promoting collegiality in ecumenical interfaith affairs, and encouraging the faithful to join efforts for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. In referring to the importance of Jerusalem, Archbishop Naoum emphasizes that it is 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.”

Archbishop Naoum oversees 28 parishes, with about 30 priests and 7,000 Anglicans spread across the five countries or territories of the Diocese. In addition, the Diocese also employs about 1,500 persons working in more than 30 institutions, including schools, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, clinics, and retirement homes. 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, even as it seeks to maintain its faithful witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.