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Book review: The Anglican Diocese of Cyprus & the Gulf: The unfolding story by Angela Murray

by
20 October 2023

Michael Doe considers the history of Cyprus & the Gulf diocese

THE Anglican Communion is no longer the Church of England writ large, but nor is it only the larger and sometimes vociferous Churches of the South. Its rich diversity includes the Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East, and this book tells the story of one of its three dioceses: Cyprus & the Gulf. It is a carefully written and beautifully illustrated work, clearly a labour of love by someone who is a lay canon at the cathedral in Bahrain.

In both parts of the diocese, Anglicans are a small minority. Their presence in Cyprus arose in the colonial period, largely from military chaplaincy, but relationships with the Greek Orthodox have been marked by mutual hospitality. After the partition of the island in 1974, getting access to the more Turkish and Muslim north has taken time.

The ministry in the various countries of the Gulf started with expat traders and visiting seafarers, and today embraces Western executives in the oil industry, and many low-paid migrant workers, often from South Asia, engaged in the construction business or working as housemaids. The church can be in these places only by invitation, but in many countries it has earnt a warm welcome from Muslim rulers, especially in Bahrain, Qatar, and the Abu Dhabi and Dubai emirates.

Despite financial difficulties, the diocese has been building new churches, as new congregations have emerged. In Aden, its medical centre has survived through periods of instability.

This is an eirenic book, focusing on what has been achieved despite the challenges, and perhaps glossing over some of the past tensions with the Jerusalem episcopate. Similarly, it records the devastating effect of the West’s invasion of Iraq on the church in Bagdad, without going into the more recent problems there.

Author’s collectionArchbishop Angus Campbell MacInnes and the Ven. Alun Morris at St Christopher’s, Bahrain

The diocese continues to play its part in the wider Province, which is itself supported by the Jerusalem and Middle East Church Association, with a long history of maintaining praying and funding links between the region and the UK. Whichever bishop is elected Primate, the diocesan bishop in Jerusalem now also bears the title of Archbishop to reflect the historical status of that city. The diocese of Iran remains, understandably, a closed area. The diocese of Egypt was once part of this Province, but left by common consent in 2020 to spearhead a new Province of Alexandria covering North Africa and the Horn of Africa.

It would be easy to see Cyprus & the Gulf as exotic or some far-away corner. But the Anglicans there have survived and grown in what could have been a hostile world through being aware and sensitive, knowing how to be welcomed and be welcoming, and realising that service to others is often the best way to commend what we believe. When Western culture is raising large questions about how we are to be Church, and how we can speak about what we believe in an increasingly alien world, they may well have lessons for us.
 

The Rt Revd Michael Doe is a former General Secretary of USPG.

 

The Anglican Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf: The unfolding story
Angela Murray
Gilgamesh Publishing £39.95
(978-1-908531-61-2)
Church Times Bookshop £35.95

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