Thursday, February 18, 2021

Jordan's Judicial Council Changes Court System For Small Evangelical Denominations

Religion News Service reports that Jordan's Judicial Council, apparently responding to growing tension between Orthodox Christians and Evangelicals, has issued a memo changing the legal status of some 60 smaller Christian denominations in the country:

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 Feb. 5, in response to [Greek Orthodox Archbishop] 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. Cases would instead be referred to the Council of Church Leaders, a government advisory body.

Evangelicals fear that the change could endanger the validity of past marriages performed in evangelical churches. Orthodox proponents say that the concern is a proliferation of small separate ecclesiastical courts.