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New Primate for the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East to be installed on Sunday

Posted on: November 14, 2019 3:11 PM
Photo Credit: Cyprus and the Golf

[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] The Bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf, Michael Lewis, is to be the new President Bishop and Primate of the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East and will take up his duties this weekend. He succeeds Suheil Dawani, the Anglican Archbishop in Jerusalem.

Bishop Michael said he is looking forward to giving people a picture of the huge variety of the province which includes 20 different countries and four dioceses.

Talking about his new role he said, “The greatest challenge and the greatest privilege is maintaining a Christian presence wherever we are. There are some countries where Christianity is honoured and taken to be a part of the integral life of a nation. There are others where it is under some pressure and threat and where maybe people will wonder what part Christians are playing.”

He said Christians in Iraq needed a great deal of support following war, civil disturbance and economic changes. “Another example would be Iran,” he said, “the church there does have quite big challenges in terms of its continued existence and numbers. And we must find a new bishop for the Anglican diocese in Iran, which will be one of my key tasks.”

Other challenges include the difficulties facing migrants and non-indigenous people in some dioceses, who he said needed encouragement, guidance and support. Further changes are also expected in the province as the Diocese of Egypt with North Africa and the Horn of Africa explores a possible future as a new Anglican province, following the growth and development of the church in Ethiopia.

Bishop Michael said the past 12 years in Cyprus and the Gulf had taught him a lot. “Coming from being a bishop in the Church of England to come to a situation in which Anglicans are in a minority of a Christian minority in almost all the countries we serve – rather than taking establishment for granted, it’s very much the other way round. We have to recognise that we must practically work ecumenically together with other mainline Christians of goodwill. There are huge benefits that come from that and ecumenism across the province is in good heart.”

He said he had also learned a great deal about relations with people of other faiths. “The encounter with Islam in these lands where Islam is a major thing is only in its infancy,” he said, “and there is a very great deal more listening and learning and considering to be done.”

“For me personally while being very proud of my own culture I have to work on a daily basis with wildly varying ethnic cultures and cultures of being the church, it's a steep learning curve and it’s good to do it.”

Talking about his personal loss, the Bishop said, “We still grieve at the death of our son George, I think it reminds me and reminds my wife on a daily basis, keeping those who died constantly in mind and in prayer, that God’s love goes beyond place and goes beyond time.”

In terms of the future of the province as part of the Anglican Communion, he said, “I’m very committed to living with difference and in the Anglican Communion at the moment there is a lot of difference to be lived with. I think that in the dioceses of our province and in our province as it changes shape over the years, I hope that we respect and honour one another and relish those different flavours of Anglicanism.”

The Bishop will continue to serve as diocesan bishop of Cyprus and the Gulf, a post he has held for the past 12 years. Before moving to Cyprus he served as the Bishop of Middleton in the Church of England’s diocese of Manchester.

Originally from Hampshire, Michael Lewis read oriental studies and then, as a second degree, theology at Oxford and at Cuddeston Theological College.

After ordination in 1978 he served in south London before becoming Team Rector, Rural Dean, and finally Canon in the Diocese of Worcester, where he also chaired the synodical house of clergy and the Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches.

Bishop Michael remains Bishop-Visitor to the Sisters of the Love of God, an Anglican community of nuns at Fairacres Convent in Oxford.  He is a member of the International Commission for Anglican-Orthodox Theological Dialogue, and a board member of the Al Amana Interfaith Centre in the Sultanate of Oman.

Bishop Michael is married to Julia and they have three children, Paul, Eleanor, and George, who died in 2017.

  • This article was corrected on 19 November. The original article incorrectly stated that Archbishop Michael was a member of the Anglican Consultative Council.