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January 30, 2014

Malcolm Lowe Lifts the Veil on the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

Jerusalem Clergy.jpg
Christian Clergy in Jerusalem. (Latin Patriarchate)

Malcolm Lowe, a New Testament scholar living in Jerusalem, pays very close attention to Christian leaders in the Holy City. In his latest piece in the Gatestone Institute, Lowe provides some very funny detail about how statements have previously been issued by the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, who are oftentimes put forth as the voice of the Palestinian Christians despite the fact that some of these leaders are not Palestinian. Lowe reports the following about the churches in question:

Seven of them are not Palestinian churches: the (two) Armenian, Coptic, (two) Syrian, Ethiopian and Maronite ones. They are headed by non-Palestinians and their members are not Palestinians or even ethnic Arabs. The Copts, for example, are descendents of the pre-Islamic population of Egypt, since Islamic law forbids the marriage of Muslim women to Christian men, while reckoning as Muslims the children of a Muslim man and a Christian woman. The Armenians and Syrians are descendants of refugees from the genocides of World War I in Turkey; there were massive killings of Syrian and Greek Christians in Turkey as well as of Armenians. The Maronites, as one of their Heads once charmingly explained to us, call themselves "Arabs" when they are politically weak but "Phoenicians" when they are politically strong.

The other six bodies include Palestinians, but the Greek Orthodox Patriarch is always Greek (together with most of the upper hierarchy), the Franciscan Custos is an Italian, and the Greek Catholics are usually headed by a Syrian, though currently by an Egyptian whose mother was Greek. Thus only three of the thirteen Heads were Palestinians [between 1988-2008], though within living memory even these three always came from Italy (the Latins), the UK (the Episcopals) and Germany (the Lutherans, before the Arab congregations separated from the Germans and became an independent church).

On the other hand, their constituencies are not only Palestinian, but include Israel and Jordan. The Greek Patriarchate stretches as far as the Gulf States, the Latin Patriarchate includes Cyprus, the Episcopal Diocese includes Lebanon and Syria, while the Franciscans come from all over the world. Moreover, with the exception of the Arab Lutherans, the churches that have Arab members have far more of them within the State of Israel than in the territories of the Palestinian Authority.

Thus it is ridiculous to speak of the thirteen as if they were Palestinian churches headed by Palestinian Christians. (Emphasis added.)

But there’s more. Lowe also the devious behavior of Michael H. Sellors, a prominent Anglican who made his mark in Jerusalem before his death in 2010. Lowe writes:

During 1997-2002, Sellors was Dean of the Episcopal St. George's Cathedral. Upon his retirement, he decided to stay on in Jerusalem instead of returning to his old diocese in England, where he was rumored to have a wife. His eccentric appearance and manners made him known to some as "Mad Mike." But if you have read the Barsetshire novels of Anthony Trollope, the favorite author of the late British PM Harold Macmillan, you would not be surprised by strange Anglican clerics.

Although Sellors no longer had a mandate, the Heads of Churches let him continue to coordinate their occasional meetings and business, while he continued to style himself "Very Rev'd." He found lodging through the generosity of one monastery or another. Only now there were fewer restraints on his composition of messages. One hopes that one or more of the Heads of Churches scrutinized his Christmas and Easter messages, but other messages were prompted by sudden turns of event. The messages went out by what might be called the "Mad Mike maneuver." That is, they were sent to the offices of all the Heads of Churches with a note to the effect that "this will go out at midday if I do not hear from you." Never mind if, as happens to prelates with widespread dioceses, some of the Heads of Churches were out of the country.

Read the whole thing.

Posted by dvz at January 30, 2014 11:30 AM


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