Friday, February 01, 2008

A Glimpse Behind the Scenes into the GAFCON Controversy

[Stand Firm] 1 Feb 2008--Bishop Dawani is engaged in a power struggle with the former Bishop over control of jobs and contracts for the diocese's extensive school and hospital network. Bishop Dawani needs to keep the support of the Palestinian activists in the diocese, and his opposition to GAFCON is being driven by this internal political calculus, I believe.

The struggle began with the election of Bishop Dawani as bishop coadjutor in 2005. Bishop Dawani was not the outgoing Bishop's, the Rt. Rev. Riah Abu al-Assal's candidate. The election of Bishop Dawani upset the patronage system set up by Bishop Riah---whose family and supporters held most of the jobs and business contracts given by the diocese.

The split between Riah and Dawani had a public airing in the summer of 2006 when Archbishop Williams announced the Anglican-Judaism dialogue commission. Bishop Riah was cut out of the planning for these talks, and learned of them when the news was made public. Bishop Dawani, however, was involved from the start and has been a supporter of the dialogue.

The Palestinian activists in the diocese were not happy with Riah. Though a friend of Arafat, Riah was not part of the circle around the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre run by Canon Naim Ateek. Riah was considered 'soft' on the political question by the hardliners within the diocese.

Dawani does not come from the activist wing of the diocese either. In the summer of 2006 Bishop Riah accused Bishop Dawani of being soft on Israel after the dialogue commission was announced, voicing his displeasure with the commission and for having been sidestepped by Lambeth Palace in the deliberations in favor of Dawani.

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