USPG Hosts Archbishops from Jerusalem and the Middle East

First published on: 28th May 2021

USPG Hosts Archbishops from Jerusalem and the Middle East

On 26th May, USPG welcomed representatives from the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, who presented on church life in their region.

The Most Rev’d Michael Lewis, Primate of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East, said “The Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East runs from Kurdistan in the north to Yemen in the south and consists of three dioceses: The Diocese of Jerusalem, the Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf and the Diocese of Iran. Churches across these dioceses are comprised of a mixture of British expatriates and indigenous Christians. In certain areas of the Province, such as Jerusalem, our church leadership can speak out as public advocates for the people of the region. In other areas, we cannot even call ourselves churches and we have to act quietly and discreetly. The Province encapsulates many languages, cultures and sensitive situations – it is truly diverse in nature”.

The Rt Rev’d Hosam Naoum, Archbishop in Jerusalem, added, “The Diocese of Jerusalem has 28 church congregations, spread through Israel, Palestine, Jordan, Beirut and Damascus. Our congregations consist of people who speak Arabic, Hebrew and English. The Covid-19 pandemic led to the closure of many of our churches, with services being provided online instead. Even though we are physically distant from one another, we are not socially or spiritually distant. We are reminded in this season of Pentecost that the Church began in Jerusalem and we are encouraged and empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue our work in the city”.

Archbishop Hosam also said, “USPG and the Diocese of Jerusalem have engaged in partnership for many years, and I greatly value USPG’s focus on “rethinking mission”. Mission is not just standing in a marketplace reading from the Gospel, it is about putting faith into action through various ways. We reach out to the community through the provision of education and healthcare, not simply by existing as a church. Most of the people we serve are not Christians but Jews or Muslims; they come to us because they believe in a common humanity. We serve these people in the name of Christ and they respect us. This is not our mission but God’s, and we are privileged to be part of His work”.

USPG staff asked questions about the current situation in Israel and Gaza. Archbishop Hosam responded, “It is a very difficult time for us. We have had violent incidents in the Holy Land before, but this feels like a critical point – we are particularly concerned by the rise of extremism in Israeli political parties. The Christian presence in the Holy Land is important, as it is critical to the fabric of our society here; this presence should not just be preserved and maintained but empowered and strengthened”.

Primate Michael responded to questions about ecumenical relations in the Middle East by saying, “In the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, we have a hugely positive relationship with the Catholic Communion of Churches, as we have many goals in common. We also allow smaller Protestant denominations to use our buildings for worship. Alongside other church leaders from the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church and the Syrian Orthodox Church, I am part of the Gulf Church Leaders’ Fellowship. This group meets to identify areas of shared ministry and concern, and to act in these areas”.

Archbishop Michael ended the meeting with a blessing, reflecting on the Feast of St Augustine of Canterbury.

Speakers included: the Most Rev’d Michael Lewis, Archbishop and Primate of the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, and the Rt Rev’d Hosam Naoum, Archbishop in Jerusalem. The Rev’d Wadie Far, Vicar of The Good Shepherd Church in Salt, Jordan, Canon Michael Mbona, Chaplain of St Paul’s Anglican Church in Kuwait, and Christine Mbona, Ordinand in the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, also joined the meeting.

Above: Guests from the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East share their experiences of church life.