Volunteer group will lead Jerusalem partnership

A new group of volunteers will help advance the historic partnership between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. The Canadian Companions of the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem, whose terms of reference were recently approved by the Council of General Synod (COGS), will help connect the two regions through prayer, visits, and financial support.

The old city of Jerusalem, as captured during a 2009 partnership visit to the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. ANDREA MANN
The old city of Jerusalem, as captured during a 2009 partnership visit to the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem. ANDREA MANN

“It’s an important relationship that we have an obligation to nurture,” Archbishop Fred Hiltz, Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, told COGS.

Led by Bishop Suheil Dawani, the diocese extends over five countries: Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Syria, and Lebanon. It faces many challenges related to the region’s conflicts and the resulting emigration of local Christians.

Yet the diocese runs a range of healthcare and education ministries, including St. Luke’s Hospital in Nablus, Palestine, and the Holy Land Institute for the Deaf in Salt, Jordan. It also provides ministries for women and young people as well as programs for interfaith collaboration.

According to their new terms of reference, the Canadian companions will, among other work, foster knowledge of the diocese’s mission; establish Oct. 23 as a day for prayer, action, and donations; and provide information for Canadians travelling to Israel.

“[The diocese] is doing really incredible work,” said Bishop Michael Ingham of New Westminster) a member of the companions’ steering group. “They do extraordinary social outreach and they are very few in number.”

The Canadian companions’ niche will be to support these social programs in particular, said Bishop Ingham. The Episcopal Church (USA) and its companions’ group has traditionally supported St. George’s College and the Church of England has long supported the diocese’s cathedral.

Annual Canadian companions membership is available for dioceses ($500), parishes ($250), and individuals ($50). All funds raised will go to the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem.

The group will be governed by a nine-member advisory council that includes one member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and one Palestinian Anglican residing in Canada. The group will report to COGS.

Next step in a historic partnership
The idea for the companions’ group first arose when the Primate travelled to the Middle East as a pilgrim in 2009. He was moved by the situation of Christians there, and sought to deepen this relationship, which had existed for many years in the form of consultations, study groups, and collaborative work.

The next steps were solidified at General Synod 2010, when members passed an omnibus resolution that called for the establishment of the Canadian companions group. The resolution also requested more prayer support, greater education about the history of the region, and links through volunteer visits.

Bishop Dawani and his wife Shafeeqa witnessed this historic resolution as guests of the synod.

Bishop Ingham, who also chairs General Synod’s Partners in Mission and Ecojustice Committee, notes that apart from the national initiatives, he has observed that Canadian Anglicans feel a deep tie to this region. He is one of many Canadian Anglican leaders who has studied in the area. He also noted that the Diocese of New Westminster raised close to $100,000 for the diocese after the 2008/2009 bombing of Gaza.

“I could tell there was a lot of concern for the work of the Christian church in the Holy Land,” he said. “International support and prayer and expressions of understanding and solidarity are much appreciated. They go much further than we could imagine.”

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