A webinar from the land of Jesus

Bishop Graham Kings writes about an innovative Anglican Communion Conference based in St George's College Jerusalem, Report found on the Covenant website.

Wow! I can see the Anglican Communion before my eyes.

This was the exclamation of Hosam Naoum, dean of St. George’s Cathedral and manager of St. George’s College, Jerusalem. Through a computer screen, he was greeting nine theologians from Japan to Brazil, during our webinar March 27-29.

It was hosted from the college, co-chaired by Dr. Muthuraj Swamy, general editor of our series with SPCK, and me, and cosponsored by the college and Saint Augustine’s Foundation.

The Most Rev. Suheil Dawani, the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem, gave greetings to the webinar by video, recorded in his study before he flew to Jordan. He encouraged Muthuraj and me to visit one of the 31 educational and health institutions of his diocese.

St. George’s College is in the close of St. George’s Cathedral, together with the archbishop’s house. It is about 250 metres outside the Damascus Gate of Old Jerusalem, and is very secure. We felt very much at home. We greatly appreciated the hospitality and welcome of Dr. Susan Lukens, associate dean, and of all the staff.

Two incidents, however, reminded us of the fragile context of Israel-Palestine and the need to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

On Wednesday afternoon we were in the college when a distraught woman brandished an open pair of scissors at a policeman in front of the Damascus Gate. She was shot to death. She was the mother of a man who had been shot at the end of last year.

The previous Wednesday, the day before we visited Bethlehem, a Palestinian boy without identity papers was shot by a sniper guard from the tower of the gate in the dividing wall at Bethlehem.

Simon Sebag Montefiore, in his magisterial book, Jerusalem: The Biography, mentions that “Jerusalem is surrounded by, and founded upon, cemeteries” (p xxviii). He states:

It is impossible to write a history of this city without acknowledging that Jerusalem is also a theme, a fulcrum, a spine even, of world history. (p xxvi)

In this article I first describe the webinar and then provide some first impressions and reflections on visiting the land of the Holy One.

1. Webinar on Reconciliation and Mission

(a) Two Gifts from God

After our arrival, Muthuraj and I were surprised by two gifts from God.

We were delighted to discover at St. George’s College the eminent, veteran Palestinian theologian, Dr. Naim Ateek, who was on sabbatical there. He kindly agreed to write a paper on the context of Israel-Palestine and on his background of growing up in Nazareth.

Just before flying from London, I had written a review for the International Bulletin of Missionary Research of Jesus without Borders: Christology in the Majority World, edited by Gene L. Green, Stephen T. Pardue and K.K. Yeo. The Palestinian theologian Dr. Yohanna Katanacho, academic dean of Nazareth Evangelical College, wrote an intriguing chapter in the book. Muthuraj and I arranged to meet him in Nazareth on the Friday before our webinar, during our visit to Galilee, with Dr. Hector Patmore and Bishara Khoury from St. George’s College.

Yohanna gave us 90 minutes of his time, which included introducing us to his children’s book in Arabic, The King of Peace and his Young Followers (2012), published by the Arab Israeli Bible Society. After studying two academic dissertations on reconciliation, he unveiled his findings in this children’s book, which has an innovative accompanying iPhone app. He also generously agreed to write a paper for the webinar.

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