Whereas The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem has served in missions of charitable outreach in Jerusalem, the Middle East, and other places in need most especially through the St. John Eye Hospital, under the auspices of the British Crown since the nineteenth century; and
Whereas 2007 marks the 125th Anniversary of the Foundation of St. John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem, and the Fiftieth Anniversary of the foundation of the American Society of the Order of St, John; and
Whereas 2006 marks the Tenth Anniversary of the constitution of the Priory in the United States of America as the seventh Priory of the Order of St. John and the first outside of the British Commonwealth; and
Whereas the charitable work of this Order continues unabated in meeting the needs of the sick, the injured and the poor, without regard to their religious affiliation or nationality, in a part of the world held as holy by the Three Great Monotheistic Faiths, but sadly torn by strife and division; therefore be it
Resolved, That the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church congratulate the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem and commend it for its continued work and witness.
Now, I must admit that I was intrigued in no small part by the reference to The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem. Surely, this was the institution founded by, and the source of the name of, the Knights Hospitaller, those colleagues of and competitors with the Knights Templar. Yes, there was a time in my life when I was awfully intrigued with all the purported mystery and the occultism associated with those orders. Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco remains a favorite book; and having read that could have a good laugh reading Holy Blood and Holy Grail. (As an interesting side note, I couldn’t finish The DaVinci Code. It didn’t maintain my interest.) So what in Heaven’s name was a reference to that hospital doing in a General Convention resolution?
By the way, if you haven’t read Foucault’s Pendulum by Eco, I recommend it highly. Yeah, it can be dense and complex, and sometimes it’s painfully evident that it was written by a professor of semiotics. But it is, ultimately, wonderful fun. I have particularly treasured his discussion of “cretins, fools, morons, and lunatics.” I once, briefly, tried to develop an education theory based on this typology.
Back to topic: what was this doing in a General Convention resolution? It turns out that the Knights continue to exist. (You can read a history of the Order here.) The continuing Papal Order and related orders, among them an order of British nobility, continue to support hospitals. The American Society of the Order of St. John is an American association of the British order, which, as noted in the resolution, has supported the St. John Eye Hospital in Jerusalem since its establishment in the 19th Century. Today they provide care to all who come to them, working across lines of faith, language, and political affiliation in that most complex of milieus. The Order has a web site, including extensive information on the hospital.
The real value of this resolution is to note one of many health ministries supported by the Episcopal Church, whether as individuals, congregations, dioceses, or the national Church. While many of us may know of one or two that have some local visibility, we can’t have a real sense of the variety and scope of these extensions of our ministries in the world. There are many more, I think, than any of us knows. I appreciate the decision of Bishop Mark Sisk, himself Sub-prelate of the Priory in the United States, to bring this work to the attention of the larger Church through this resolution. I hope we will look for and share in other ways information on these health ministries throughout the world. In these days when the Church seems consumed with internal struggles, these ministries are clear evidence that we are reaching beyond ourselves, and continuing to get on with reflecting in the world the healing ministry of Christ.