Jordan’s Orthodox Archbishop Moves to Deny Evangelicals Full Legal Recognition

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Archbishop Christophoros Atallah told Judicial Council last month that evangelical churches are “a danger” to society.

Long-simmering suspicions between Orthodox and evangelical Christians have blown up recently over the refusal of the Jordanian government to allow evangelical churches full legal standing under the country’s religiously divided judicial system.

In a January 26 letter to the country’s Judicial Council, Greek Orthodox Archbishop Christophoros Atallah attacked members of local evangelical churches, calling them “a danger” to society.

“There are great dangers from the teachings and ideas that are disseminated by these groups that are being spread within the Christian society,” the archbishop wrote. “These are strange ideas that depart from our Christian faith and the national identity of the local church.”

In addition, Atallah said, “these groups are funded from abroad and have outside and unclear agendas and we have reservations about them.”

In Jordan, the legal system is divided into civil courts, where commercial and criminal cases are heard, and separate religious courts that settle matters of marriage, divorce, and child custody according to canon law for the majority-Muslim population and for the 11 recognized Christian communities.

While United Pentecostal and Jehovah’s Witnesses members are allowed their own ecclesiastical courts, legal matters for members of nearly 60 other Protestant churches are heard in civil court, or, for minor matters, work through the court of the Anglican Church, one of the 11 approved denominations.

But on February 5, in response to Atallah’s letter, Judge Mohammad Al Ghazo, who heads Jordan’s Judicial Council, issued a memo disqualifying any Christian without an approved ecclesiastical court from using the civilian courts. …

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