So I have learned a bit more about Bishop Suheil Dawani and the Diocese of Jerusalem (which also includes Israel, Palestine, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan). As the number of Christians in Israel dwindles to less than one percent of the population, the diocese serves mostly Muslims, some Jews in their three schools, two hospitals, four clinics, and 32 churches.

The Diocese is committed to being Christ's reconciling and healing presence in regions where Christian evangelism is illegal. Although under Bishop Suheil's vision and leadership, the diocese is in much better financial shape and many new projects have been begun, they still need our help. That is the purpose behind the American Friends of the Diocese of Jerusalem, the group with whom Jane and I are traveling. As thanks for our visit and support, Bishop Suheil threw a lovely dinner for us last night.

As you may recall, if you've been following the blogs, I was quite critical of the Diocese of Jerusalem and the perceived snubbing of a women priest during communion. I was not able to maintain this view for long. As the Spirit would have it, I ended up sitting next to Bishop Suheil at dinner and we got into a conversation about women's ordination. He assured me he is very supportive of full inclusion of women although he admitted priesthood for women will take some time considering the history and culture here. But next year, they plan to implement a new deaconal training program that will be open to both men and women. Emboldened, I asked him about my friend not being served communion. He was first surprised and then dismayed, saying it must have been an unintentional oversight, since he would never exclude anyone on purpose. He then told me that at his installation four years ago, he invited a woman priest to serve on the altar as a sign of inclusion and reconciliation. He also promised to speak to my friend to clear up any misunderstanding. I am thrilled to have had this time with an inspiring leader in the church who has dedicated his ministry to reconciliation and reaching out to those on the margins.