The British-Prussian talks on the Establishment of the Anglican Bishopric in Jerusalem in 1841
The formation of the joint British-Prussian Anglican Bishopric in Jerusalem was the product of several factors that have interacted and led to the birth of the Protestant presence in Palestine. On the Ottoman level, Palestine witnessed an intensive missionary activity in the era of Muhammad Ali. After the demise of his rule, the Ottoman State was forced to “close its eyes vis-à-vis the continuation of this missionary activity in Palestine as an outcome of the support by the major European countries in defeating Muhammad Ali and returning the Greater Syria to Ottoman authority.” On the European level, by establishing the Anglican Bishopric, the British and Prussian governments obtained a significant foothold similar to the one which France, protector of the Catholics, and Russia, protector of the Orthodox, had. The Anglican Church viewed the bishopric as an instrument for communicating with the Eastern Churches. The German Church thought that the joint bishopric would serve as a step for rapprochement among the Protestant Churches for the sake of launching a joint Church action, which could lead some day to some kind of unity among the various independent Protestant Churches.
1- The first Protestant relations and activities in the East, particularly in Palestine:
A- The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions:
The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions was established in the United States in 1810. It was the “oldest missionary society in the United States.” Several American Protestant Churches joined the American Board as members. The early missionaries of the society went to India in 1812. “However, from the very start, Palestine drew the attention of the society’s missionaries. The society sent two missionaries in 1819 to work in Palestine. They were Pliny Fisk and Levy Parsons. Their mission was to reside in Jerusalem and to convert the Jews to Christianity.” Levy Parsons stayed in Palestine until 1821 and traveled to the Greek islands where he joined his friend Fisk. During the short period they stayed in Palestine, they made some contacts with the Jews and generously distributed copies of the Bible to the pilgrims coming to Palestine.
B- The London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews (London Jewish Society -L.J.S.-):
The London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews was an offshoot of the London Missionary Society, which was established in 1795. One of the members of the society, Joseph Samuel Frey, began in 1801 working on preaching to Jews so as to convert them to Christianity. The activity of this member led to the establishment of the London Society for Promoting Christianity among the Jews, which was also called the London Missionary Society. It became independent from the mother society in 1808.
Members of the London Jewish Society translated the New Testament to Hebrew in order to distribute it to its centers throughout Britain. In 1812, the idea of evangelizing the Jews living outside Britain was raised. In a letter he addressed to the London Jewish Society on 2 December 1812, Cleardo Naudi hinted that the London Jewish Society had projects, which were expected to be implemented among the Jews in the East. When Naudi arrived in London from Malta where he was residing, he proposed work for evangelizing the Jews in the East, including those residing in Palestine. The representative of the Church Missionary Society in Malta, William Jowett, supported Naudi’s idea, which was received with acceptance and appreciation in Britain.
In 1820, the London Jewish Society sent the Swiss Pastor Melchoir Tschoudy to visit Palestine. He stopped on the way in Malta to receive instructions and advice from Jowett and Naudi, the two famous missionaries of the Church Missionary Society. “He was definitely recommended to learn Arabic and Hebrew and to acquaint himself with the conditions of the Jews.” His exploratory mission did not lead to stunning results. However, he paved the way for other missionaries of the London Jewish Society, particularly Joseph Wolf, a German Jew who embraced Catholicism and studied at the Rome-based Propaganda Fide College. In 1819, he joined the Anglican Church in Britain. He also joined as a missionary at the London Jewish Society, which sent him to Cambridge University to study theology. After two years in Cambridge, his society chose him to visit the East. So he visited several cities, including Jerusalem. Wolf was viewed as the pioneer of the missions of the London Jewish Society in the East. “About this time there appeared on the scene the most remarkable missionary (Wolf), in many ways, that ever served in the society’s ranks, who must indeed be regarded as the pioneer of its missions in the East, for he was the first in the field in Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Persia, Mesopotamia, Abyssinia and India.” Wolf proclaimed everywhere “that he did not come only to preach the gospel of Christ to the Jews, but likewise to induce the Christians of the several denominations to enter into correspondence with the Christians of England.” Wolf said that there were 700 Jewish families in Jerusalem and they had five synagogues. He distributed to them copies of the Bible. They were eager to hear the word of God. He baptized one of the Jews.
Wolf left Jerusalem for Egypt on 22 October 1822 after spending four months there. He returned to Jerusalem for a second time on 25 April 1823 in the company of the two American missionaries, Fisk and King. In July 1823, Wolf left Jerusalem and roamed the various parts of Syria. He visited the localities of both Jews and Christians. He then left for a long journey to Mesopotamia during which he visited the localities of the Jews and the Jacobite Christians. He said that their welcome was kind and encouraging. In 1892, Wolf returned to Jerusalem for a third visit. However, he found changing conditions there. He did not find this time a kind reception by the Jews of Jerusalem, but had to face a violent resistance by the Jews and the Orthodox Christians.
As for missionary Doctor George Dalton, he came with his wife to Jerusalem on 16 December 1825 and stayed there for one month. He died on 25 January 1826. Dalton did not achieve much in Jerusalem and the same applied to the other Protestant missionaries.
The reason for the failure of the early Protestant missionaries in the East was the state of instability in that part of the world in the aftermath of the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Sultanate. The missionaries were received with hostility by the Latins and Maronites. “The Protestant missionaries seem to have aroused the hostility of the Latin Church, and created conditions which the Turkish authorities considered calculated to disturb the peace.” In 1824, an Ottoman firman was issued banning the import and dissemination of Bibles and Psalters printed in Europe “because they had caused among the people apprehension, disputation and disturbance.” In the same year, a Papal bull was issued prohibiting the use of Protestant Bibles. The Maronite Patriarch issued a similar decree excommunicating the users of these Bibles. As for the Jews, they viewed the activities of the missionaries as a danger to their subjects and warned against doing business with the missionaries. Those who did business with them were deprived of their rights in the Jewish group. Those who were punished by the elders and leaders of the Jews lost their religious and social rights, and on the legal level, they lost the protection of the head of their millet, which was recognized by the Ottoman authorities.
As for John Nicolayson, he managed to achieve some success in Jerusalem where he settled. He was living in Jerusalem when the Anglican Bishopric was established. He was a Danish pastor who worked in the service of the London Jewish Society. He joined George Dalton in Jerusalem and married his widow after his death. He made several trips to the region, during which he visited Beirut, Damascus, Tiberias, Safad, Alexandria and Cairo. Until the year 1833, Nicolayson’s missionary projects did not make any significant success in the Jewish circles. However, the Egyptian occupation of Palestine created more favorable conditions for the success of his projects. In 1833, Nicolayson raised the idea of establishing a church to serve as a place of worship and a center for the evangelization of the Jews:
“Almost immediately he and his associates started agitating for an English Church in Jerusalem. Nor was this all. Their ambition was to establish for the mission a church under episcopal authority. Nicolayson’s immediate need however, was concerned with the Jews, he asked for a lithographic press or a Hebrew fount of type which could be used in the American Press recently moved from Malta to Beirut. He wanted to issue tracts in Hebrew to launch a frontal assault on the Talmud, the stronghold of Rabbinism. As was to be expected, he found the more numerous Sephardic and Oriental Jews very hard to approach, although he thought that the Ashkenazic Jews provided a promising field of work. He even proposed to open a school for their children to teach through the medium of German. To agitate for a church and for a bishop before there was a congregation may be considered a reversal of the logical order of things. But this mission, like certain other missions, was on more than one occasion to reverse the usual order of things and have its own way in the end. The efforts to achieve these two aims are far greater, certainly more complicated and involving international and inter-religious relations, than the original simple proposal of preaching the Gospel to the Jews.”
In 1836, Nicolayson traveled to Britain to work on executing some of his projects. He returned to Palestine in 1837. Four Jews who embraced Christianity joined him. They placed themselves at the service of his mission. Since that period, the number of missionaries of the London Jewish Society joining Nicolayson in Jerusalem increased. It is difficult to determine their exact number or the names of all of them. In 1839, he baptized the members of the Rosenthal Jewish family, and this was viewed as one of his great achievements. “It was undoubtedly the first Jewish family to join the Church since the time of the apostles.”
Nicolayson laid down in Jerusalem the foundation stone of the evangelical work. In Britain, the London Jewish Society prospered and became very influential when a number of ecclesiastical and political figures joined its membership, such as the Archbishop of Canterbury. The society became one of the major bodies of the Anglican Church. Nicolayson and his friends held prayers in Hebrew on a daily basis at a house they rented in Jerusalem. On Sundays, they held prayers in Hebrew, English, German and Arabic. The freedom, which Nicolayson enjoyed during and after the Egyptian rule and the support he found in Britain, produced dangerous consequences. “Contrary to the law, Nycolayson bought land in Jerusalem and started digging the foundations of a church in it.” Despite the support of British diplomacy, the Ottoman authorities stopped his project. Nicolayson’s achievements have constituted the foundation upon which the Anglican Church would be established in the future. The bishop will be elected from the London Jewish Society, and Nicolayson and his team formed the nucleus of the Anglican clergy in Jerusalem.
C- The Church Missionary Society -C.M.S.-:
Anglican pastor Calapham Sect established the society in 1799. Ever since its establishment, it was viewed as a society affiliated with the Anglican Church. The Society’s slogan and goal is to disseminate knowledge of the Bible among the heathen. Thus it was also known as the “Christian Missionary Society for Africa and the East”.
In 1815, Malta became a center of the Church Missionary Society. From Malta, the society expanded into Syria for several reasons; these were: first, the competition of the Catholic Church, particularly the missionary activity of Propaganda Fide. Second, Britain’s attitude toward the wars which Napoleon Bonaparte was fighting in the East and the credit which was due to Britain for repulsing him. This has encouraged the missionaries to follow the steps of the soldiers. Thus the Mediterranean basin became the sphere of influence of the missionaries. Third, the enthusiasm of the missionaries of the Church Missionary Society to approach the Eastern Churches, “the Christians were merely ignorant brethren, and all that was needed was to rekindle the light of the faith in their hearts and minds.” The society made several proposals for working in the East. The model of the society’s activity was Propaganda Fide. “In this matter the Church Missionary Society expressed themselves frankly jealous of the successful example of Propaganda Fide, which has not yet roused us to any adequate imitation.”
The most famous of Church Missionary Society missionaries were Cleardo Naudi and William Jowett. The Church Missionary Society sent Jowett from Malta to Syria to make several tours there. The aim of these tours was to “search for the best means for evangelization through the Eastern Churches.” From Malta, as a center, “Jowett is to survey the religious horizon. First, he is to look at the Roman Catholic Church.” Then he had to contact the other Churches, “he is to study the various Oriental Churches, Greek, Jacobite of Syrians, Coptic, Abyssinian, and Armenian, then the Mohammedans.” As to the methods of work: “Jowett is to visit and correspond with rulers and consuls and ecclesiastics and travelers of all kinds.” The Eastern Churches were not an end in themselves, “as these Churches shall reflect the clear light of the Gospel on the Mohammedans and the heathens around…”
Jowett published the information he had collected and the daily memoirs of his tours in two books. He visited several Syrian and Palestinian cities. The Eastern clergy received him warmly and had the impression that his tour would materialize into something good. “The Maronites and Catholics were afraid that their followers might be attracted to the new religion. So they had a firman issued by the Sublime Porte barring the dissemination of the Bible in the countries of the Ottoman Empire. The Maronite Patriarch threatened to excommunicate every Maronite who cooperated with the missionaries.”
The historians of the Christian Missionary Society hinted at the relationship that existed between the Papal bull and the Ottoman firman barring the use and dissemination of Protestant Bibles and books. These historians described the Pope and the Ottoman Sultan as the Western and Eastern Antichrist respectively.
Gradually, the Protestant societies divided the spheres of work and influence in the East. The London Jewish Society took Palestine as its share. The Church Missionary Society heeded the appeal of Bishop Gobat to work in Palestine, and it did so in 1851. Earlier, its activity was restricted to Egypt and Ethiopia. “When the Church Missionary Society, which was affiliated with the Church of England, started work in this country, it was deemed appropriate to reach agreement on the areas of work. Therefore, an agreement was concluded between the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions and the Church Missionary Society of the Church of England. The agreement stipulated that the work of the Board’s missionaries be restricted to Syria and Lebanon while the Church Missionary Society would operate in the southern part, namely, Palestine.”
The work of the Protestant Societies in the East entered a new phase by the formation of the Anglican Bishopric in Jerusalem. This fundamental development of the Protestant presence in Palestine was not achieved through the efforts of the societies alone, but also by the support of British and Prussian diplomacy.
2- The British and Prussian motives behind the establishment of an Anglican Bishopric in Jerusalem:
The establishment of the Anglican Bishopric in Jerusalem was the outcome of the interaction of several elements in each of Britain and Prussia: “the presence of an Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem in these days of ours was the outcome of a complex history of events in which major religious and political issues prevailing in the nineteenth century in Europe were at the forefront. However, this Anglican presence did not reach the level of the dream which its pioneers entertained, or the clamor that was raised by the opposition to this presence, or the prestigious title given to the Anglican representative in the Holy City.” The idea of the bishopric was mature in both of Britain and Prussia.
A- Palestine in British political and religious thought:
Following Napoleon’s invasion of the East, Britain’s influence in the Ottoman Sultanate was enhanced. Britain had in fact protected the crumbling Ottoman entity from total collapse and repulsed Napoleon in front of the walls of Akre. “Both the Orthodox and Latin communities in Jerusalem sought her protection.”
The Ottoman system of millets started to collapse in the face of the Capitulation system, which developed from private treaties on how to do business with foreign traders to the intervention of the Great Powers to protect the Christian millets. Britain did not have a local Protestant millet to protect. The price which the Ottoman Sultanate paid to the European states in return for protection against the ambitions of Mohammad Ali, was further intervention in the affairs of the sultanate. Among the results of this development in the eastern issue was the opening of European consulates in Jerusalem “to exercise the policy of direct intervention in the affairs of the Ottoman State, especially in Palestine.” Thus, in July 1836, Britain opened a consulate in Jerusalem and William Young was appointed Vice Consul, as the General Consul was stationed in Alexandria. “Needless to say Young’s early dispatches were not primarily concerned with commercial or strictly political matters. That part of his duties seems to have been overshadowed by the affairs of the London Jewish Society mission.” The Earl of Shaftesbury -Lord Ashley- played an important role in opening the Jerusalem consulate and in directing it to protect the Jews. He was a senior government figure with strong influence and contacts with the London Jewish Society and the Church Missionary Society.
The concept of the consulate developed from caring for the British political and commercial interests and the protection of the British travelers and tourists to the protection of the Jews and Protestants. The Jews and the Protestants were the two zones of British influence in Palestine. The Jews were a millet sponsored by Britain and the Protestants were a millet which Britain formed by the efforts of the missionaries and then charted its features and strengthened its entity through the episcopal system. Young wrote to Lord Palmerston in a dispatch, dated Jaffa, 14 March 1939, the following: “There are, My Lord, two parties to be noticed will doubtless consider themselves entitled to some voice in the future disposition of affairs here: The one is the Jew unto whom God originally gave this land for a possession, and the other the Protestant Christian, his legitimate offspring. Of both Great Britain seems, I would humbly suggest, the natural guardian. And they are beginning here to take up their position among other claimants.”
Young generously offered protection to the rising denomination of Nicolayson. The denomination was formed with the efforts of the London Jewish Society, its followers were mainly Jews converted to Protestantism. As for the Anglican Church in Britain, it was aspiring to forge ties with the Eastern Churches. It viewed the existing situation in Palestine, where the British political and missionary influence of Britain was escalating as an appropriate opportunity for forging these ties. Moreover, the British missionary societies had similar aspirations. Many Anglicans believed in the millennium theory, that Jerusalem will be the site for the second coming of Christ to judge the universe. A prerequisite of Jesus’ second coming was that the Jews would be converted to Christianity. Therefore, the Jews should be massed in Jerusalem and Christianized as a prelude for this second coming. Meanwhile, and at nearly the same time, several political, economic and religious circumstances occurred in Prussia, which integrated with and complemented the British interests in Palestine.
B- Palestine in Prussian political and religious thought:
Until the outbreak of the Egyptian crisis in the thirties of the nineteenth century, Prussia was the big German kingdom, which did not pay much attention to the Eastern issue. “Its interest was focused on seeking to secure a status in the European interior policy.” During the Russian-Turkish war (1826-1829), Prussia mediated between Turkey and Russia in the Edirne treaty in 1829. In 1835, the Ottomans enlisted the help of a military mission headed by a captain at the Prussian Royal Guard, called Helmuth Von Moltke to organize the Ottoman army. The mission carried out its assignment between 1835-1839. However, it did not directly contribute to the strengthening of the German influence in the Ottoman Sultanate. The London negotiations in 1840 were a suitable opportunity for Prussia to play its role in the Eastern issue. The European states met to restrain Mohammad Ali and to protect the fragile Ottoman entity.
On the ecclesiastical level, the Protestant Church was long divided into independent denominations. These included the Lutherans, the Calvinists, and the Anglicans...etc. The unity of the Protestant Churches was a dream for the Kings of Prussia. The fulfillment of this dream could achieve Protestant unity on several levels, i.e. between the Germans and the British, and at home in Germany, among the Protestant denominations. To achieve this unity, the episcopal system had to be restored to the Protestant Churches. The Anglican Church had kept the system. As for the other Protestant Churches, they created ecclesiastical ranks and grades equal to the Anglican episcopacy. In the view of the Kings of Prussia, the achievement of Protestant unity can only be reached by returning to the episcopal system in all the Protestant Churches, even if only in part. The first to raise this idea was King Friedrich I of Prussia in 1701. As for King Friedrich Wilhelm IV (1840-1861), who was known for his interest in religious affairs since he was young, he had the notion that the episcopal system should be applied to united Protestant Churches. He also thought that a joint German-British bishopric in Jerusalem could serve as an appropriate means to achieve his episcopal dream. The ideas of the king were very much like a “dream in a summer night.” However, the idea found the appropriate persons and circumstances to make it come true.
In the nineteenth century, the Jews constituted a social and economic pressure on Germany: “the Jews were an alien body in the German society. They constituted a state within a State... Jewish capitalism enjoyed special privileges in the fields of industrial and financial activities and in the field of real estate investment.... With the advent of the nineteenth century, Jewish capitalism was prosperous in all the economic domains.” The German public was divided into two factions vis-à-vis the Jewish phenomenon. There was a liberal faction, which demanded that the Jews be treated on an equal footing like German citizens. Meanwhile, the conservative faction viewed the Jews as aliens and Judaism as a religion that contradicted Christian teachings. The supporters of this faction were of the view that the Jews should be Christianized if they were to be granted full citizenship. The task of Christianizing the Jews was entrusted to the Society for the Promotion of Christianity Among the Jews, which was established in Prussia in 1822. The society was the sister of the London Jewish Society. The society was given official government support. “The action to liberate the Jews and give them German citizenship as well as their Christianization did not lead to the resolution of the Jewish question in Germany... There was an urgent need to find a basic solution to the question. Under these circumstances, Friedrich Wilhelm IV ascended to the throne. He was concerned about the Jewish question and about the condition of the Christians in Palestine since he was young. Wasn’t Palestine the solution, which could satisfactorily resolve the Jewish question?” Or in other words, tempting the Jews to migrate to Palestine and to Christianize them there! By the advent of 1841, both Britain and Germany had specific political, religious and economic interests in Palestine. The suitable person who could serve as the link between the two parties, namely, Baron Christian Charles Bunsen, had appeared.
C- The German projects in Palestine of Bunsen and Friedrich:
Bunsen was born in 1791 in Korbach. He was the son of a Dutch soldier. He studied classical languages in Göttingen University and in the Institute of Oriental Languages in Paris. In 1816, he married an English lady and then joined the diplomatic corps. In 1827, he was appointed Prussia’s representative to the Holy See. In 1834, he was promoted to the rank of Minister Plenipotentiary. In 1841, he became advisor to the King of Prussia.
Among Bunsen’s pioneering ideas was the re-formation of the Church and the ecclesiastical authority in his country, on the basis of the diocesan system and under the umbrella of the episcopal regime. From here, we can understand the secret of Bunsen’s enthusiasm to the German projects in Palestine. The long-term goal of the Jerusalem Bishopric was to restore the episcopal regime to Prussia. Thus King Friedrich is to be credited for the current initiative on Jerusalem. However, the ideas of the initiative were those of Bunsen. The German project, which Prussia submitted to Britain in 1841, which was adopted by Bunsen, was not the first of its projects in Palestine. It was preceded by several German projects, which were tantamount to a prelude to the project of 1841.
Prussia submitted its first project to the Austrian government in a memorandum dated 6 August 1840. The project involved the Christian presence in the Holy Land and the need to guarantee the freedom of Christian worship. It seems that the Russian circles became aware of the Prussian move. So they warned the Prussian government against hastiness in offering an unstudied project aimed at the internationalization of Jerusalem, the establishment of a Christian state in the Holy City, and bringing the Jews of the world to settle in the city of King Solomon.
Prussia submitted the second project after the withdrawal of the Egyptians from Palestine at the end of 1840 to push its diplomatic moves into a new turning point after it failed in the project it submitted to the Austrian government. On 8 February 1841, Prussia sent a memorandum to the British government proposing the imposition of religious protection on the holy shrines and discussion of the Palestinian issue. However, the British government did not respond favorably.
Despite the disappointment, the Prussian government tried to contact the major European countries once again and submitted an amended project in March 1841. The project was contained in two memoranda for Polov and Radowitz. There was talk about a Prussian project to internationalize Jerusalem and its suburbs by peaceful means and to place them under the military protection of the European states. The two memoranda carried the ideas of Friedrich and Bunsen. On 30 March, the king instructed Radowitz to call on the European Christians to work for the unity of the Great Powers to carry out a coordinated action in Palestine and to improve the conditions of the Christians in the East. However, these efforts of the king were fruitless. The king became convinced that the improvement of conditions in the Promised Land could only be done on religious basis. The following recommendations were contained in the memoranda of Polov and Radowitz:
- Churches, convents and the institutions affiliated with the Catholic and Orthodox should be placed under international protection.
- Improve the conditions of the non-Muslim subjects of the sultanate by exempting them from taxes and granting them an independent judiciary.
- Three European representatives should be accredited in Jerusalem. Austria or France should appoint alternately the first as a representative of the Catholics. The second should be a Russian to be appointed as a representative of the Orthodox. The third should be appointed alternately by Prussia or Britain as a representative of the Protestants. For each state, a company of 60 soldiers should be deployed in Jerusalem to protect the holy shrines and to enforce the resolutions relevant to them.
- The memorandum pledges to secure the protection of the Jews in Palestine, if they so wish, and to educate their children.
The European States did not welcome the Prussian project. Meanwhile, Friedrich and Bunsen did not despair. At this stage, the ideas, which were possible to achieve, and the ideas, which couldn’t be achieved, were evident to the Prussians. Friedrich sent his Minister Plenipotentiary, Bunsen, to London to propose the project of establishing an Anglican Bishopric in Jerusalem to be joined by Prussia. The project raised some previous Prussian ideas, fulfilled its aspirations in the Ottoman arena in general and in Palestine in particular, and entertained an old British dream.
3- The London talks between Britain and Prussia from June – October 1841:
Prussia focused its efforts on Britain to establish the Jerusalem Bishopric. On 8 June 1841, King Friedrich instructed Bunsen to leave for London. Bunsen arrived in London on 19 June as a minister plenipotentiary. Bunsen was appointed to lead the talks in the name of his country with the British government and Church.
A- The assessment of the British Government and Church of the missions outside Britain:
Britain was not a formal protector of any community in the Ottoman Sultanate. She had no religious interests compared with those of France and Russia. Yet in the eighteen-thirties some Protestant missionaries settled in Jerusalem without any special government support with the exception of the protection, which every foreigner enjoyed by the consulate or representative of his country as part of the Ottoman Capitulation system. Church missionary societies in Britain guided and supported the foreign missions outside Britain, and not the official Church, which sponsored and operated these foreign missions indirectly. The truth of the matter was that foreign missions sought to secure the protection of the British government through the consuls, and these foreign missions coordinated their efforts with the British ecclesiastical leadership. Meanwhile, both the Church and the government became involved in supporting the foreign missions during the Egyptian rule of Palestine. “This anomaly was removed in April 1841 when the Colonial Bishoprics Fund was established through the efforts of Bishop of London and with the approval of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the co-operation of the missionary societies. As a result of this united front, it was decided by the archbishops and bishops to create new overseas bishoprics. The first was to be in New Zealand and the next, for British possessions in the Mediterranean, was intended for Malta, but ultimately Gibraltar was preferred. Thus the western Mediterranean region was placed outside the future jurisdiction of an English bishop already envisaged by missionaries as based either in Malta or Jerusalem. Of the two, however, Jerusalem had a more compelling claim.”
When Bunsen arrived in London, the British Church had listed as part of its projects the establishment of bishoprics outside Britain. As for King Friedrich’s project, its contemporaries, particularly the London Jewish Society, assessed it as a serious attempt to secure religious and political privileges in Palestine: “In 1841 King Fredric William IV, of Prussia, desired to ameliorate the condition of Protestants in the Holy Land, and to secure for them equal privileges with the Greek, Latin, and other Churches, and taking advantage of the re-establishment of the Turkish suzerainty by the aid of Christian Europe, proposed to Her Majesty’s Government, through Chevalier Bunsen, a united effort to place a bishop as the Protestant representative in the Holy City.”
B- King Friedrich’s instructions to Bunsen on 8 June 1841:
King Friedrich gave Bunsen, his private envoy, instructions on his mission. The instructions were dated on 8 June 1841. Bunsen submitted the instructions and the suggestions of King Friedrich to the British government. The following is a summary Prussian view:
1- Advisor Dr. Bunsen is Minister Plenipotentiary.
2- Coordination should be made between the Prussian side and the British government. Coordination should also be made between the head of the Anglican Church, namely, the Archbishop of Canterbury, as Primate of England, and the Bishop of London, as the immediate head of the several congregations of the Church of England in foreign parts.
3- “How far the Church of England, which is already possessed of a minister’s residence on Mount Sion, and had begun to build a church on the spot, would be inclined to grant the Evangelical National Church of Prussia rank, as a sister-Church, in the Holy Land?”
4- The unity of the Church of England and the Prussian Church will leave a significant impact on the national feelings in the two countries.
5- Protestantism cannot secure a recognition of its existence in the East, particularly in the Holy Land, and spread out and bear fruit unless it offers itself and works in this country as a unified entity exactly like the Jews, the Latins, the Greeks and the Armenians are doing in the East. If Protestants want recognition of their various Churches separately, i.e. the Anglican, Evangelical, Lutheran and Reformed Churches, the Turkish government might hesitate in approving their request.
6- Some local Christians in Armenia, Beirut and Jerusalem are inclined to embrace Protestantism. This is obstructed by the failure of the missionaries to protect them. The Ottoman government will not grant protection and recognition to scattered Protestant groups, but to a united single denomination. The old Churches enjoy this privilege because they are united and are based on the episcopal system that has been followed since the era of the apostles.
7- The time is opportune because of the good ties, which Britain and Prussia have with the Ottoman Sultanate to secure the recognition of the Protestant Church and to allow it to work freely like other Churches. Why shouldn’t we seize this available opportunity? God and future generations will judge us. We should discard our differences and work for unity.
8- Palestine is suffering from denominational and ecclesiastical disunity. As for us, we should move ahead to Palestine united, to declare our Christian faith, and to extend our hands in reconciliation and peace above the sepulcher of the Redeemer and forget our old differences.
9- We have no objections if Prussian pastors want to join Anglican Churches outside Britain and accept the required ordination in the Anglican Church.
10- The center of the Anglican Church at Mount Sion is the springboard of the movement of the evangelical unity. Turkey is a neutral land. From there, we can move ahead as a general Protestant unionist movement.
11- This unity does not mean the loss of the independence of the Prussian Church. Unity does not preclude pluralism, which God made among peoples and languages. Each nation has its own characteristics, history and special role in the kingdom of heaven. The German people are wiling to join this unity while keeping their independence and characteristics.
12- The staging point toward this unity is to form a bishopric in Jerusalem. The initiative is in the hands of the Anglican Church. This bishopric should serve as a nucleus of great hopes.
13- Mount Sion will be the headquarters of the bishopric, and the Holy Land is the boundary of the authority of the bishop.
14- His Majesty the King will allow German-speaking Prussian churchmen working with the Christian-Jews to join the bishopric and to accept Anglican ordination.
The Bunsen mission was positively received in British circles; he rushed to contact British figures and his friends. “Bunsen had to simultaneously negotiate with the British Church and Prime Ministry. The two powers were interlocked in this religious-political issue. Both of them were interested in the spiritual, economic and political influence of the British Crown.” The talks, which Bunsen held with the British authorities, led to the declaration of the basic principles of an Anglican Bishopric in Jerusalem.
C- The declaration of the basic principles of Jerusalem Bishopric:
In July 1841, agreement was reached on the basic principles of the establishment of a bishopric in Jerusalem. The English bishops endorsed it. The most important points of these principles were the following:
1- “The adherence to national characteristics in each Church, which is not merely an inviolable right, but a sacred duty, was a principle admitted on both sides from the outset.”
2- “The two main features of a truly Christian and efficient union among Churches are: Catholicity, or a lively sense of the internal unity of the Universal Church, and national independence. The former constitutes the unity of the Church; the later ensures the vitality and full development of its branches. Catholicity renders the union of several Churches practicable; nationality prevents vital unity in Churches from degenerating into the similitude of death. Catholicity invests popular life with its true end and aim, and nationality supplies the organic body of the Universal Church with its living members.”
3- There are numerous differences among the Churches, but faith unites these Churches. The Churches that are looking forward to working together should adopt the Catholic attitude. [Catholicism here, from the linguistic standpoint, means the Universal Church, not the Roman Catholic Church.] Universality should be the source of inspiration and guidance for these Churches and should go beyond their peripheral national interests and the narrow-minded national and political considerations. The goal is spiritual and faith-based. The means to achieve this goal should be of the same nature, i.e. spiritual and faith-based. These principles do not infringe on the national spirit. Each Church should keep the Bible in its mother language. “…An open and consistent recognition of this nationality comprehends as well the established use of the Bible in vulgar tongue, in as much as Scripture is the supreme principle for every relation of life…”
4- The Bishopric of Jerusalem is not a Prussian or Prussian-British bishopric, but is an Anglican bishopric which German pastors can join without sacrificing their distinctive traits and national characteristics.
5- The bishop shall be responsible for the German subjects in the Jerusalem Bishopric in accordance with the principles enforced in the Anglican Church so as to protect the unity of work and leadership in the Church.
6- The King of Prussia was notified of the basic principles, which constituted the base of cooperation and work between the British and Prussian sides.
D- The Bishopric of Jerusalem project at the British Prime Ministry:
British Prime Minister, Lord Palmerston, was known for his indifference to religious matters. So he enlisted the help of Lord Ashley, who was close to the British Church societies. What prompted Palmerston to sponsor the plan of the bishopric was the practical motive to strengthen the British influence in the East. Thus the British government agreed to support the bishopric project. Palmerston urged the negotiators to expedite agreement on results that are satisfactory to the two negotiating parties—the British and the Prussian “so as he would not leave any room for his successor to retreat.” Therefore, an agreement was signed between the representatives of the Anglican Church and the envoy of the King of Prussia on 6 August 1841. The text of the agreement was referred to Palmerston.
A few days later, the Palmerston government fell when Parliament withheld confidence from it. The Conservatives formed their cabinet under Robert Peel. The Peel cabinet was not supportive of the Jerusalem Bishopric as the Palmerston cabinet had been. The bishopric project was excluded from its programs. In fact, it was no longer thought of as the huge project assessed by Palmerston. “The project was almost neglected, particularly in view of the unsuccessful intervention of the British Catholic authorities against the project. This had aroused Queen Victoria. Otherwise, the implementation of the project would have been neglected and the then prevailing idea before the arrival of Bunsen in London would have been implemented, namely, the appointment of a bishop for the British residing in the Mediterranean basin. Since it was no longer possible to go back fully on the project, the question of the bishopric was left for the events of the hour and the upcoming developments to decide.” Hajjar asserts the critical situation of the ambiguous bishopric project, which had no clear features. Had Bunsen arrived in London belatedly, i.e. after the fall of the Palmerston government, the Conservative Prime Minister, Sir Peel, would have opposed the project and the project would have disastrously failed. Despite the enthusiasm which Bunsen found in the British ecclesiastical and political circles, he still had to face many people who opposed and criticized the project.
E- Support and opposition of the establishment of the Anglican Bishopric:
The project to establish the Anglican Bishopric in Jerusalem was not a matter that was handled only by Bunsen and Howley, Archbishop of Canterbury. There were several parties in and outside Britain watching these negotiations. Some of them supported and some opposed the project. The motives behind the support or opposition were diverse. There were political, doctrinal and denominational motives. The following is the most important review of the supporting and opposition currents:
Three categories of people in Britain supported the bishopric project. They were first, the groups interested in the Jewish issue and the evangelization of the Jews. Second, those who opposed the Tractarianism movement who displayed solidarity with the other Protestant Churches and sought to strengthen Protestant thought in the Anglican Church versus the Catholic current. Third, the pastors in the High Anglican Church who viewed the initiative of the King of Prussia as an opportunity to spread the episcopal system to the Prussian Protestant Church, which had significantly distanced itself from the Catholic traditions that were still practiced in Britain. Meanwhile, the Anglicans wished to establish mutual relations with the non-Catholic Eastern Churches. The first and second categories were represented by the same figures. What has enhanced the insistence of these two categories to establish the Jerusalem Bishopric was the eschatological interpretation of the biblical prophecies on the end of the world and the anticipated imminent second coming of Christ, after which Christ would establish his millennial kingdom in the world. Some of them expected the second coming of Christ in 1843 while others expected it in 1844 or in 1847. The second coming of Christ should be preceded by intensive evangelization of the Jews. The second coming will take place in Jerusalem. Therefore, the world Jewry should be assembled in Jerusalem and evangelized so as to bring the date of the second coming closer. Thus, the good-hearted Christians in Britain expected that there should be at least one Anglican bishop in Jerusalem along with the other bishops of Jerusalem to welcome Christ at his second coming.
As for the Tractarians, some of them supported the Jerusalem Bishopric project because they sought to strengthen Catholic traditions, or the consecration of the authority of the bishops in the Anglican Church. Meanwhile, those opposed to the Jerusalem Bishopric project viewed the project as an act of solidarity with German Lutheran non-episcopal Protestantism. Some Anglican pastors, such as William Palmer, opposed the project because it was an infringement on the powers of the then existing Churches in Palestine. Conservative Anglicans, including Palmer, thought that cooperation with the Lutheran Church was a grave mistake: “Many Anglicans thought that the Prussian Church couldn’t be viewed as a real Church. Its clerics were a group of preachers and pastors who belonged to Luther and Calvin. They had no apostolic roots. Therefore, they were heretics. Cooperation with such a Church was basically wrong and would lead the Anglican Church to the loss of the principle of its apostolic origins, which was its fundamental claim to being a real Church. Consequently, the Eastern and Latin Churches would punish it, and thus any relationship with the Eastern Churches would become impossible.”
Despite the enthusiasm displayed by the King of Prussia and his advisor Bunsen to the bishopric project, a strong opposition to it was formed in Prussia. Count Koenigsmark, the representative of Prussia in Istanbul, described the bishopric in the following words: “It was a group of recent converts of miserable Protestants protected by English clerics. All together, they make a group with a bad appearance.” Conservative Lutherans also objected to the bishopric project because they viewed it as subjugation to Anglicanism and collusion with it. Thus, 45 Prussian pastors submitted a petition to the Prussian Minister of Religion inquiring about the bishopric project. These pastors refused to collect alms in their churches to support the bishopric despite a government recommendation to collect these alms. They described the bishopric as a “new experience to import Anglicanism to Prussia.”
The French government interpreted the British-Prussian project as an infringement on French privileges and old rights in the East, particularly that France was the old protector of Christianity with its various denominations there. The French felt that if the Russians became the protectors of the Orthodox and the British were looking to be the protectors of the Protestants, they would be intruding on French rights and privileges. On the religious level, the nature of the support and opposition in France was similar to that, which appeared in Britain. The opposition viewed the British step as an export of Anglicanism to the Reformed Evangelical Churches. The Apostolic See shared the French government’s apprehensions over the increasing Protestant influence in the East at the expense of Catholicism. The establishment of the Protestant Bishopric was one of the reasons, which prompted the Apostolic See to revive the idea of re-establishment of the Latin Patriarchate in 1847.
4 – The Jerusalem Bishopric Act, 6 October 1841:
The goodwill exchanged between the politicians and the clergy in both Britain and Prussia was not sufficient for the establishment of the Anglican Bishopric. Those who sponsored the establishment of the bishopric in Britain needed the issuance of an act by the British parliament to execute their project in Palestine. All the more so because ordaining a bishop in Britain needed the prior royal license of the king and then his endorsement of the appointment of the bishop. The bishop had to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and the oath of due obedience to the archbishop.
In 1786, an act was passed in the British parliament granting the Archbishop of Canterbury the power to ordain non-British bishops outside Britain in countries that were not affiliated with the British throne without taking into consideration the foregoing conditions, as these conditions were imposed on the British bishops in their country only. According to this act, an episcopal system was created in the United States of America where American nationals were ordained in 1787 and 1790. The episcopal system in America, continued to function without the intervention of the British ecclesiastical authorities.
As for the act issued in 1786, it did not tackle the conditions that existed in the Jerusalem Bishopric. Jerusalem was not affiliated with the British throne and had no local Anglican Church to nominate one of its followers to be ordained as a bishop. Thus the anticipated bishop would not be a Palestinian Jerusalemite, but would be a British citizen. Therefore, for the Archbishop of Canterbury to ordain a British national to be bishop in Jerusalem, the act of 1786 should be amended.
The Archbishop of Canterbury submitted on 30 August 1841 a bill on this question to the House of Lords to amend the 1786 act. On 6 October 1841, the act was issued by a House of Commons vote. The act was known as the “The Jerusalem Bishopric Act” although the word “Jerusalem” was not contained in the act. The act was applied in similar cases to the Jerusalem Bishopric, and thus, new bishoprics were established outside Britain according to the act. The following were the most important things that were contained in the act:
1- The act amended the one issued in the 26th year of the rule of King George III, i.e. 1786. (King George ruled Britain from 1760-1820). This act allowed the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Archbishop of York to consecrate to the office of bishop persons who were subjects or citizens of countries outside His Majesty’s dominions.
2- The amended act allowed the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Archbishop of York or both of them together and other invited bishops to consecrate British subjects or foreigners to be bishops in foreign countries without the royal license for election.
3- A bishop can be consecrated without a royal license. The citizens of foreign countries or those British residing in a foreign country shall be exempt from taking oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and the oath of due obedience to the archbishop.
4- These bishops shall exercise their powers in the foreign countries over the ministers of British congregations of the United Church of England and Ireland, and over such other Protestant congregation as may be desirous of placing themselves under their authority.
5- No bishop may be ordained on the strength of this act without securing a royal license given to the Archbishop of Canterbury or the Archbishop of York authorizing them to perform ordinations of the category contained in this act. In other words, ordinations are performed on the strength of this act after the recommendation of the Archbishop and with royal approval.
6- Ordained bishops, pastors and deacons in accordance with this act, shall not be entitled to transfer for work in the British Kingdom except after introducing legal amendments that are provided in the text.
7- The Archbishop of Canterbury shall grant the bishop who was ordained in accordance with the foregoing act a certificate indicating the name of the ordained bishop, his country, and the Church to which he was appointed. It should be indicated that he was exempted from the foregoing oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and the oath of due obedience to the archbishop.
This law was enacted because of necessity. The Anglican Church was the Church of the state and its heads were members of the British House of Lords, and consequently, they had to secure a license to be granted the bishop’s ordination. The king then approved their appointment and they would have to take the oaths of allegiance and supremacy, and the oath of due obedience to the archbishop. When the Anglican Church expanded beyond the British territories, it was possible to separate the spiritual tasks of the episcopacy from the temporal tasks. It was not logical for a non-British bishop to take the oath of loyalty to the British Throne (the act of 1786), or for a British bishop to take the oath of loyalty to the British Throne if he was appointed in a country that was not under the jurisdiction of the British Throne (the act of the Jerusalem Bishopric 1841). However, the British government reserved its right that the archbishop should secure its approval to enforce this act. Thus the next step for the Archbishop of Canterbury to make was only to secure a license that authorized him to ordain the bishop of Jerusalem by using the recently published “Jerusalem Bishopric Act.”
5 – The royal license for the consecration of Michael Solomon Alexander:
The diplomatic effort made by the British and Prussian parties coincided with the search for a suitable personality as the first candidate to the Bishopric of Jerusalem. The name of Dr. McCaul was raised, but he apologized that he could not accept the post and declared that: “the Episcopate of St. James ought to be held by a descendant of Abraham.” On the strength of his advice, the “the most conspicuous Hebrew Christian in England was selected, Michael Solomon Alexander.” According to the Jerusalem Bishopric Act issued in October 1841, the Archbishop of Canterbury submitted an appeal to the Queen Victoria to allow his episcopal consecration. The royal license was issued on 6 November 1841, and the most important things contained in the royal license were:
- The license recalls of the act issued in 1786, amended in 1841.
- Queen Victoria grants the license to the archbishop of Canterbury to consecrate the bishop.
- The boundaries of the bishopric and the exercise of the spiritual authority of the bishop will not be restricted to Jerusalem, but includes Syria, Chaldea, Egypt and Abyssinia. The queen reserves the right to amend these boundaries later on if deemed necessary.
Michael Solomon Alexander was consecrated on 11 November 1841. He sailed to Palestine on 7 December. The English and Prussians in charge of the affairs of the bishopric laid the final touches on its formation and financing. They also briefed the public on what was achieved in the British-Prussian negotiations. The bishopric depended on Prussian-English financing as no subjects, installations or endowment property belonging to a bishopric were capable of covering its expenses.
The decision of the Prussian endowment was issued for the benefit of the bishopric on 9 September 1841. It said: The King of Prussia contributed the amount of 15,000 pounds sterling as an endowment to the bishopric in the form of a bank deposit. The interest accrued from this deposit, i.e. 600 pounds sterling per year, shall be spent as the annual salary of the bishop. The king appointed trustees of the money to pay its interest to the Bishop of Jerusalem. The trustees were the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Archbishop of York and the Bishop of London. The King authorized the trustees to use the money one day to buy a real estate endowment in Palestine, provided that the proceeds of the real estate would be equal to the salary of the bishop, i.e. 600 pounds sterling. If part of the money is left after purchasing the real estate endowment, the king allows the remaining part to be allocated for supporting the institutions of the bishopric. Gidney points out that endowment capital was never paid to the account of the bishopric, but the interest of the endowment was given to the bishop until Prussia withdrew from the Anglican Bishopric agreement in 1866, and the money was refunded.
The Prussian contribution provoked generosity on the part of the British. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Howley, and the Bishop of London, Bloomfield offered 200 pounds sterling each. Thus the London Jewish Society contributed 3,000 pounds sterling and others followed. The decision of the British endowment was issued on 15 November 1841 with the Archbishop of Canterbury regulating the financial matters of the bishopric in his capacity as trustee of both the British and the Prussian endowment. He appointed a treasurer for the bishopric authorized to spend money. The total amount of the British endowment was 20,000 pounds.
On 9 December 1841, an official statement was issued by the Archbishop of Canterbury summing up the developments involving the bishopric project and the laws that were issued on it as well as the Prussian-British agreement. The official statement indicated that the Prussian Crown and the British Crown should alternately appoint the bishop. The Archbishop of Canterbury shall have the right of objection to the appointment. As for the relationship existing between the Archbishop of Canterbury and the appointed bishop, they are the same as the relationships existing between any archbishop and the metropolitan bishop.
Another statement was issued by the Prussian Minister of Religion on 14 November, declaring that the Prussian-British agreement would bring the equality of the Protestant denomination with the Latins and the Orthodox, and that Prussia should utilize the period of peace which Turkey was enjoying it, and the good relations existing among the European states to strengthen the German evangelical presence in the East. The minister looked forward to the rise of German colonies in the East one day. The unity existing between the British and the Prussians will be conducive to Turkey’s recognition of Protestantism as official millet in the Ottoman Sultanate. The minister asserts that the outcome of the negotiations with the British was satisfactory and acceptable to the Prussian government. The minister then commends the efforts of the King of Prussia for the good of Protestantism in the East and calls for general contributions in the churches to support the new bishopric. It should be recalled that Prussia did not exert as much influence as Britain did. However, the Prussians accepted it temporarily because they viewed it as an opening to their relationships with the Ottoman authority, particularly in Palestine. Up till that date, they did not have any millet foothold in Palestine other than the Anglican Bishopric under whose protection they now functioned. “In a very short time a Church for German Protestants will lift up its head in Jerusalem, and be opened for their worship according their confession and liturgy.” The minister expects the inauguration of the German hospital and the establishment of the German school in Jerusalem. Yes, it is a great Prussian-British plan, which Michael Solomon Alexander carried with him to Jerusalem. But will he execute it?