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Bishopric in Jerusalem

By S.L. Ollard

From S.L. Ollard and Gordon Crosse, eds. A Dictionary of English Church History

London: Mowbray and Co., Ltd, 1912, pages 298-299.

Transcribed by the Right Reverend Dr. Terry Brown
Bishop of Malaita, Church of the Province of Melanesia, 2007

JERUSALEM, Bishopric in. The importance of this is largely due to its effect on J. H. Newman (q.v.). It was one of 'the three blows which broke' him in the autumn of 1841, and 'which finally shattered his faith in the Anglican Church.'

The project began with Frederic William IV., King of Prussia, who felt great interest in the Holy Land. He was grieved that Protestants had no head or rallying point there. Further, he admired English institutions, including, apparently, the English Church, but it seems that one ultimate object of the scheme was to introduce the episcopate into the national Church of Prussia. To promote these ends he sent Chevalier Bunsen as special envoy to London, June 1841, to negotiate for a bishopric in Jerusalem, .to which the English bishops should consecrate. The English Government favoured the design, and the Archbishop of Canterbury (Howley) (q.v.) and the Bishop of London (Blomfield) (q.v.) supported it. Bunsen gained the help of Lord Palmerston and Lord Ashley (afterwards Shaftesbury), the leader of the Evangelicals. A statement was later issued explaining the scheme as a step towards the unity of discipline and doctrine between the English Church and 'the less perfectly constituted of the Protestant Churches of Europe, and that, too, not by the way of Rome,' while it was to establish 'relations of amity with the ancient Churches of the East.' A treaty between the two Governments was signed, 15th July 1841.

Bunsen by August had arranged matters with the bishops, and 30th August 1841 Howley introduced the Bill creating the bishopric into the House of Lords. It became law on 5th October (5 Vic. c. 6). By this Act the bishop was to have jurisdiction not only over Anglican churches, but also 'over such other Protestant congregations as may be desirous of placing themselves under his authority.' By Royal Warrant he could exercise jurisdiction over congregations in Syria, Chaldea, Egypt, and Abyssinia. The Prussian King gave £15,000 towards an endowment; £20,000 was to be raised by subscription in England. Mr. Gladstone (q.v.) (whom Bunsen had been at special pains to conciliate) promised to act as one of the trustees, but later withdrew. Bunsen used every art to gain his support, including a dinner at the Star and Garter at Richmond (15th October 1841), where he induced him to propose a toast: 'Prosperity to the Church of St. James at Jerusalem and to her first bishop.'

Other features of the scheme were that the Crowns of England and Prussia were to nominate in turn to the bishopric, the bishop was to ordain German ministers on their subscribing the Confession of Augsburg, Anglicans on subscribing the XXXIX. Articles and the Prayer Book, but Anglicans and Prussians were to use their separate formularies in their services.

The Evangelicals welcomed the scheme, as did Dr. Arnold (q.v.) and his school. 'Thus,' Arnold wrote (23rd September 1841), 'the idea of my Church Reform Pamphlet, which was so ridiculed and so condemned, is now carried into practice by the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.' The project was resolutely opposed by High Churchmen, especially Bishop Phillpotts (q.v.), J. R. Hope (later Hope-Scott), a distinguished barrister, and even by the Times (19th October 1841).

Newman (11th November 1841) sent a solemn protest to his own bishop and the Archbishop of Canterbury, on the grounds that Lutheranism and Calvinism were heresies repugnant to Scripture, and that the English Church was admitting such heretics to communion without renunciation of their errors. 'On these grounds, I, in my place, being a priest of the English Church and Vicar of St. Mary the Virgin's, Oxford, by way of relieving my conscience, do hereby solemnly protest against the measure aforesaid, and disown it, as removing our Church from her present ground and tending to her disorganisation.'

The later history of the scheme is summed up in Newman's words: 'As to the project of a Jerusalem bishopric, I never heard of any good or harm it has ever done except what it has done for me; which many think a great misfortune, and I one of the greatest of mercies.' Only two Germans were ever ordained under the scheme. On their return to Germany their ordination was not acknowledged by the Prussian Evangelical Church, and pastorates could not be found for them, and this effectually checked the scheme. The first German pastor in Jerusalem did not arrive till 1853, and then had a congregation of twenty-three persons.


1. Michael Solomon Alexander; cons. at Lambeth by Archbishop Howley, 7th November 1841; an Israelite, born 1799 at Tronzka, in the Grand Duchy of Posen, who, having been a Rabbi, was converted and baptized at Plymouth, 1825, and was later ordained in Ireland; he worked for the conversion of the Jews, and (1832) became Professor of Hebrew at King's College, London; after his consecration he was conveyed to Jaffa with his suite in a ship of war (the Devastation), provided by the Government through Lord Ashley. He did little to realise the hopes of his patrons, and died in Egypt (on his way to England), 23rd November 1845, leaving a large young family slenderly provided for.

2. Samuel Gobat, who was nominated by the Prussian King on Bunsen's recommendation, was by birth a Swiss (born at Crémine, 1799); Bishop Phillpotts presented a solemn protest against his consecration with seven weighty objections, 23rd May 1846; it was disregarded, and Gobat, who had been ordained deacon, August 1845, was privately ordained priest by Bishop Blomfield, 30th June, and cons. bishop by Archbishop Howley, 5th July 1846, the preacher being Bishop Daniel Wilson (q.v.); in 1851 it appeared that he was proselytising from Eastern churches; J. M. Neale (q.v.) sent to the Eastern Patriarchs an address and protest against such efforts; this was signed by the leading High Churchmen, Pusey, Keble, Marriott, L Williams, and more than a thousand others; to it the Archbishops of Canterbury (Sumner), York (Musgrave), Armagh, and Dublin replied with an address of sympathy with Gobat; in 1856 he intruded into Scottish dioceses and performed episcopal functions, evoking a strong protest from the Primus (Skinner) to the Archbishop of Canterbury; his career was unfortunate; he had differences with his own clergy and with the English residents in Jerusalem, and when he died in Jerusalem, 11th January 1879, the see seemed likely to end. He used as his official signature the strange form 'S. Angl-Hierosol.'

3. Joseph Barclay was nominated by Lord Beaconsfield and cons. by Archbishop Tait, 25th July 1879; he was an Irishman, and graduate of Trinity College, Dublin, and the first native of Great Britain to hold the see; he had been an active missionary among the Jews, and had worked in Jerusalem, 1861-70; he died, 22nd October 1881.

No attempt was made by the Prussian King to fill the see, and the treaty of 1841 was finally dissolved in 1886. Germany withdrew from the affair, receiving back the £15,000 given by Frederic William IV., and the passionate prayer of Newman in 1843 was answered (Sermons on Subjects of the Day, 335, note 1): 'May that measure utterly fail and come to naught, and be as though it had never been.'

In 1887 the bishopric was reconstructed on different lines by Archbishop Benson (q.v.) in spite of opposition from Liddon (q.v.) and others. Dr. George Popham Blyth, then Archdeacon of Rangoon, was chosen in spite of Low Church protests, and consecrated to represent the English Church in the Holy City. His work has issued not only in growing friendliness between the Eastern and English Churches, but in the building of the beautiful church and college of St. George (consecrated 1910). [S. L. O.]

W. H. Hechler, The Jerusalem Bishopric; Memoirs of Bishop Blomfield, J. R. Hope-Scott, Bishop Barclay, Bunsen, and Bishop Gobat; MS. collections of Dr. Bloxam at Magdalen College, Oxford; Reply to Two Pamphlets (Vindication of Bishop Gobat), London, 1859.

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