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The Episcopal Church in Jordan: Identity, Liturgy, and Mission

  • Duane Alexander Miller


The article begins with a brief review of the history of the diocese of Jerusalem. By interviewing eight members of the diocesan clergy in Jordan, the researcher desires to explore how the concepts in the title are related to each other within the Jordanian context. Is there a unique identity of Jordanian Anglicans? What is the desirability and/or feasibility of revising the prayer book? Given the declining demographics of Christians in the region, what avenues are open to these ministers to sustain their congregations? Specific care is paid to the topic of incorporating Muslim converts into existing congregations. Also included are some theological reflections on the meaning of liturgy within the Jordanian context and the diocesan policies for the formation of future priests, which have important implications for the future of the diocese.


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Lecturer in Church History, Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary, Nazareth, Israel.



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2. A notable and widely read example of this is National Geographic’s June 2009 article, ‘The Forgotten Faithful’ by Don Belt about the dwindling Christian presence in the Middle East.

3. Additional details appear in, ‘The installation of a Bishop in Jerusalem: The Cathedral Church of St George the Martyr, 15 April 2007’, in Anglican and Episcopal History 75.4 (2007), pp. 549554.

4. More on Alexander and the early history of the diocese is found in Crombie, Kelvin, A Jewish Bishop in Jerusalem (Jerusalem: CMJ Press, 2006) and Sybil, Jack, ‘No Heavenly Jerusalem: The Anglican Bishopric, 1841–1883’, The Journal of Religious History 19.2 (1995), pp. 181203.

5. More on this important period in the diocese, including that sometimes-tense relations between foreign leaders and the local Arab Christians, can be found in Farah, Rafiq A., In Troubled Waters: A History of the Anglican Church in Jerusalem: 1841–1998 (Leicester: Christians Aware, 2002).

6. I use the word ‘non-liturgical’ with reservation. Ultimately, every church has a liturgy and pattern of worship. Indeed, in my experience it is the churches without a written liturgy that are often most resistant to changes in their pattern of worship. Thus by ‘non-liturgical’ I mean churches that do not have a written liturgy. In Jordan these would be, for example, the Assemblies of God, the Church and Missionary Alliance, and the Baptists.

7. This concept of dhimmi is essential to understanding Muslim-Christian relationships both now and in the past. Under a dhimmi contract Christians or Jews (people of the book, or ahl al kitaab) are allowed to live within an Islamic state with inferior religious, civil, and political recourses and rights. They pay a yearly tax called the jizya and the dhimmi contract of protection could be unilaterally repealed by the Muslim ruler without any notification. The word can be used to refer to the contract of protection or to the groups or individuals themselves. The key book on the topic is by the Egyptian-born author Ye’or, Bat. Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide (Madison, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2001). The Ottoman Empire’s version of the dhimmi system was called the millet system (millet being Turkish for nations).

8. Cragg, Kenneth, The Call of the Minaret (Oxford: Oneworld, 3rd edn, 2000), p. 205.

9. For an example see my article, ‘Morning prayer, low style, in the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem: Church of the Redeemer, Amman, Jordan, Sunday, 11 March 2007’, Anglican and Episcopal History 76.3 (2007), pp. 404408.

10. Throughout the Middle East the adjective Latin is often used to refer to the Roman Catholic Church, while the Arabic cognate for Catholic (katuliik) is used to refer to the Greek Catholic or Melkite Church.

11. By then-bishop Riah Abu El-Assal.

12. For more on the history of the relation between Anglicans and some of the Orthodox Churches see Rowell, Geoffrey, ‘Eastern horizons: Anglicans and the Oriental Orthodox Churches’, in Nigel Aston (ed.), Religious Change in Europe, 1650–1914: Essays for John McManners (Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1997).

13. We cannot use average Sunday attendance in reference to the churches in Jordan since Friday is the Muslim holy day and Sunday is a work-day for most Christians. Thus many churches hold services on Saturday evening or even Friday morning. The attendance estimates are for these main weekly services.

14. The most poignant and clear hadith on the topic is this: Narrated Ikrima: Ali burnt some people and this news reached Ibn Àbbas, who said, ‘Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet said, “Don’t punish (anybody) with Allah’s Punishment”. No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, “If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him” ’ (Sahiih al Bukhari 4:52:260). All four major schools of shari’a (Arabic madhaahib) are agreed on the topic that the shari’a regards apostasy (ridda or irtidaad) as a capital crime requiring execution for males. There are different opinions regarding whether the apostate should have a chance to recant or not. A helpful background on the topic is Griffel, Frank, ‘Toleration and exclusion: Al-Shafi’i and al-Ghazali on the treatment of apostates’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London 64.3 (2001), pp. 339354.

15. Indeed, a large number of Protestant missionary groups held to this strategy, it is called The Great Experiment and characterized much Protestant mission from the ninteenth Century on. On the balance though the great experiment was a failure. Good resources on this topic are Vander Werff, Lyle, Christian Mission to Muslims: the Record: Anglican and Reformed Approaches in India and the Near East (Pasadena, California: William Carey Library, 1977) and Pikkert, Peter, Protestant Missionaries to the Middle East: Ambassadors of Christ or Culture? (Hamilton, Ontario: WEC Canada, 2008).

16. An enjoyable and brief introduction to the life and work of Abdul Masih can be found in Kings, Graham, ‘Abdul Masih: Icon of Indian indegeneity’, International Bulletin of Missionary Research 23.2 (1999), pp. 6669.

1. Lecturer in Church History, Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary, Nazareth, Israel.



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