Assurance of solidarity in the LWF communion of churches – LWF

LWF Council member Ms Titi Malik and LWF President Bishop Munib A. Younan plant a commemorative tree for the 60th anniversary of the first Lutheran conference in Marangu. Photo: LWF/Tsion Alemayehu
LWF Council member Ms Titi Malik and LWF President Bishop Munib A. Younan plant a commemorative tree for the 60th anniversary of the first Lutheran conference in Marangu. Photo: LWF/Tsion Alemayehu
LWF Council member Ms Titi Malik and LWF President Bishop Munib A. Younan plant a commemorative tree for the 60th anniversary of the first Lutheran conference in Marangu. Photo: LWF/Tsion Alemayehu

LWF’s President Younan encourages African member churches in their Lutheran journey

MOSHI, Tanzania/GENEVA, 24 May 2015 (LWI) – African church representatives meeting in Moshi, Tanzania, expressed appreciation for the critical role of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in nurturing unity and strengthening solidarity among the communion’s members.

“We have hope. We are ready to go forward,” said Malagasy theologian Dr Mariette Razivello. She was responding to the message of LWF President Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan to participants in the conference to mark the 60th anniversary of the Lutheran communion in Africa.

Razivello recalled that she was just six years old when delegates from the Malagasy Lutheran Church travelled to Marangu in then Tanganyika to attend the first gathering of all-Africa Lutherans in November 1955, envisioning a Lutheran communion on the continent. “You have rekindled our hope for the future, and encouraged us to draw closer to one another and to God,” she said.

In his message, the president thanked the African member churches for their contribution to the LWF, a communion in which all churches are interdependent. He encouraged them to “together reaffirm our confidence in our global communion, seeing it as a vital means for us to participate fully in God’s holistic mission.”

Younan noted that the series of church leadership conferences that grew out of the first Marangu gathering have strengthened the global commitment of unity in the LWF expressed since 1984 in pulpit and altar fellowship. “We learned from Marangu that without communion, we can have a tendency to be become individualistic. With the communion, we each grow in faith, independence, and inter-dependence.”

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) hosted the 20-24 May conference attended by over 200 participants including heads of the 31 LWF member churches in Africa, women and youth leaders, and representatives of theological networks and institutions. Global Lutheran leaders and mission partners also took part.

Indigenous Lutheran church

Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) paid tribute to prophetic Lutheran church leaders such as former LWF president Bishop Josiah Kibira of Bukoba, who advocated an indigenous African Lutheran church, relevant to the contexts in which people live.

Comparing the challenges in pre-independence Africa to today’s, the ELCJHL bishop reminded churches that God’s grace has liberated them from the bondage of colonization and domination to work together with other Christian churches to realize an abundant life for all people. Churches’ prophetic diakonia must seek to “transform hatred into love, violations of human rights into respect for all rights, poverty into equal opportunity, and injustice for women into gender justice,” he said.

In his response to Younan’s message, Bishop Dr Jensen Seyenkulo recounted how the Lutheran Church in Liberia experienced the global Lutheran communion solidarity during the Ebola crisis last year. “Many times we wondered why us, had God abandoned us for something we did? And then we learned that in this communion we are not alone,” he said.

He recalled a message from the Lutheran Church of Senegal, saying “they were praying for us and had raised some funds. They demonstrated to us that we were not abandoned.” Seyenkulo thanked the many other churches that made contributions, “giving us the energy to fight Ebola,” and Younan for “reminding us that we cannot care for ourselves alone.”

Ubuntu

Ms Blessing Shava, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe, expressed gratitude for the LWF president’s reminder that an abundant life for all is possible. She stressed that working together as churches and engaging with other stakeholders was essential in dealing with challenges such as HIV and AIDS, poverty and other economic injustices, trafficking of persons and armed conflict.

“A lot more can be achieved through cooperation, dialogue, mutual assistance and encouragement,” said Shava, a member of the LWF Global Young Reformers Network. She referred to the notion of Ubuntu (humanness) to underline the need for solidarity in tackling issues that “are central to the survival of our communities.”

She encouraged churches to remain prayerful and trust in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Allison Westerhoff, a member of the Africa Lutheran Information and Communication Network (ALCINET) contributed to this article. Westerhoff is the communications officer for the Lutheran Communion in Southern Africa.

To see this article in its original format, you can visit the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) website.

PHOTOS: Joint Arabic and English Easter Service and Egg Hunt

JERUSALEM – The Arabic and English Speaking Congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem shared a joint celebration for Easter on April 5th, 2015.  The sermon was given by Bishop Munib Younan in both Arabic and English.  Visitors from around the world attended, including a group of Jewish Israelis who were touring the Old City.

After the service, an Easter egg hunt was held for the children of both congregations.

 

PHOTOS: Good Friday Ecumenical Via Dolorosa Walk

JERUSALEM – The Lutheran and Anglican churches joined for the Good Friday Via Dolorosa Walk on Friday, April 3rd, 2015.  The walk follows what is traditionally known as the “Way of Pain” and the procession of Jesus Christ to the cross.  The walk ended at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem with prayers and veneration of the cross.

PHOTOS: 2015 Maundy Thursday

JERUSALEM – The Arabic, English, and German Speaking Congregations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem joined together for the Maundy Thursday Service on Thursday, April 2nd, 2015.  Reflections were given in both English and German and the Gospel was read in Arabic by Bishop Munib Younan.  Prayers were read in Arabic, English, German, as well as Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian, and Danish.  Ecumenical clergy attended the service, including Methodist, United Church of Christ, and Presbyterian.  At the end of the service, clergy gathered to strip the altar and met the congregation outside.

After the service, the congregation gathered outside the church to process through the Old City.  Children, women, and men from the Arabic Speaking Congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer carried the cross during the procession through the Old City to the Garden of Gethsemane.  At the garden, a candlelight prayer service was held.

PHOTOS: Church of the Reformation Celebrates Palm Sunday

BEIT JALA – The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Beit Jala celebrated Palm Sunday with palms and flowers before joining the local Catholic Church for a procession through Beit Jala.  After the service, the congregation gathered outside the sanctuary to process through Beit Jala, meeting the Catholic procession halfway through the city.

 

 

PHOTOS: Arabic Speaking Congregation of Jerusalem Celebrates Palm Sunday

JERUSALEM – The Arabic Speaking Congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem celebrated Palm Sunday at the Chapel of the Ascension on the Mount of Olives.  Children processed around the chapel with palms and were blessed by Bishop Munib Younan.

During the service, Young Adult in Global Mission (YAGM) Coordinator, Julie Rossate, presented Rev. Sani Ibrahim Azar and the Arabic Speaking Congregation of Jerusalem with a mosaic from their partner Rock Spring Congregational Church in Arlington, Virginia.

Christian Love and Dialogue Can Influence Middle East Crisis – LWF

Students from the kindergarten of the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour take a break from learning their Arabic alphabet to pose for a photo. Photo: ELCJHL
Students from the kindergarten of the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour take a break from learning their Arabic alphabet to pose for a photo. Photo: ELCJHL
Students from the kindergarten of the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour take a break from learning their Arabic alphabet to pose for a photo. Photo: ELCJHL

LWF President Younan’s Public Lecture in Beirut

(LWI) – Rampant religious fanaticism in the Middle East calls Lutherans and other Christians to secure a shared future for all through love and dialogue, said Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan, President of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

Younan made these remarks on 19 March, when he delivered a public lecture on “Reformation and Politics” at the Near East School of Theology (NEST) in Beirut, Lebanon. The bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) emphasized that Lutherans don’t seek to “Christianize” politics but to improve society through engagement.

“Although Christians are numerical minorities in the Middle East, we can have tremendous influence to utilize for the benefit of all persons and communities in our region,” Younan said in his paper focusing on “Lutheran Contributions to the Political Life of the Middle East.”

He was responding to a presentation by Rev. Dr Margot Kässmann, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) special envoy for the 2017 Reformation Jubilee.

“Constitutional development is a central concern for the rebuilding of the Middle East. In that process, Arab Christians emphasize commitment to equal citizenship with equal rights and equal responsibilities,” Younan said.

The LWF president said Lutherans should know that Martin Luther, who triggered the Protestant Reformation 500 years ago, would find the suffering being endured by the people of Iraq and Syria reason to involve himself in such a crisis.

Luther would question the false distinction between religion and politics, promote interfaith engagement, address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a factor contributing to the current religiously-sanctioned fanaticism and promote moderation, the bishop noted.

“As a leader from a minority movement himself, Luther would no doubt understand us when we say that our danger is not in living with the ‘Other’ but when fanatics seek to persecute us,” Younan said in his address.

He pointed to the historic document From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017 to illustrate Lutheran ecumenical accountability, which emphasizes unity, transformation, the power of Jesus Christ and joint witness.

“Together, we show that the church of Jesus Christ is indeed always engaged in reform and renewal,” he said.

The waves of violence that have overtaken the Middle East have disproportionately affected the small Christian communities there, Younan said, adding that all communities are potential victims of the ongoing violence.

“Lutheran reflections on the proper authority of church and government can help shape how all communities in the Middle East move forward toward a shared future,” he concluded.

The ELCJHL bishop is on the board of NEST, an inter-confessional Protestant institution that trains pastors and other church workers in the Middle East for ministry in the churches and their related organizations.

To read the article in it’s original format, you can visit the website of the Lutheran World Federation.
To read Bishop Munib Younan’s entire speech, you can download it here. (Word)

World Council of Churches (WCC) Delegation Visits Holy Land

Participants in a meeting with church leaders hosted at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem by Patriarch Fouad Twal. (© WCC/Marianne Ejdersten)
Participants in a meeting with church leaders hosted at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem by Patriarch Fouad Twal. (© WCC/Marianne Ejdersten)
Participants in a meeting with church leaders hosted at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem by Patriarch Fouad Twal. (© WCC/Marianne Ejdersten)

JERUSALEM – Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), as well as Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC Central Committee, Metropolitan Dr Gennadios of Sassima and Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, vice-moderators of the Central Committee, spent time with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land during their pilgrimage to Palestine and Israel on March 7th-12th, 2015.

The delegation held worship at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem with Propst Wolfgang Schmidt, Representative of the Evangelische Kirche Deutschland (EKD) in Jerusalem and Rev. Carrie Smith, pastor of the English-Speaking Congregation in Jerusalem and Special Assistant to Bishop Munib Younan on Monday, March 9th, 2015.  At the conclusion of worship, the group went together to visit the Haram Esh-Sharif and Al-Aqsa Mosque where they met with the director of the Islamic Waqf in charge of the holy site.

As well as visiting the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the delegation, with Bishop Munib Younan, were invited with the Heads of Churches to an official lunch at the Latin Patriarchate by Patriarch Fuod Twal.

“Our role is to give Christian witness to the world and work for justice and peace,” said WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit in regards to his visit to the Holy Land.

The Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, including Patriarch Theophilos III of the Greek Orthodox Church, Patriarch Fuod Twal of the Latin Church, and Bishop Munib Younan of the ELCJHL, held a discussion with the WCC delegation on the significance of ecumenism in a time of growing extremism.  In regards to the talk and the visit, Bishop Munib Younan stated, “The more we feel united, the more we can combat any kind of extremism that is existing in the Middle East.”

To read more about the WCC visit, you can visit their website.

Church Council from Church of Norway Visits ELCJHL Church Council

Bishop Munib Younan addresses the assembled Church Councils. (© D. Hudson/ELCJHL)
Bishop Munib Younan addresses the assembled Church Councils. (© D. Hudson/ELCJHL)
Bishop Munib Younan addresses the assembled Church Councils. (© D. Hudson/ELCJHL)

BEIT JALA – Bishop Atle Sommerfeldt, Bishop of the Diocese of Borg, Church of Norway, and the Church Council from the same region visited the Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan of the Holy Land from Thursday, February 26th, 2015 to March 2nd, 2015 in a bid to strengthen their relationship and to learn more about the operation of each church’s council.

The meeting included discussions on being the Lutheran Church in each church’s unique context as well as finding new ways in which the churches could further develop cooperation between not only each Church Council, but between the church bodies as a whole.

Bishop Younan remarked on the visit: “This is a remarkable thing that we have really met the two church councils – with our ELCJHL pastors – and have discussed the issue of Lutheran identity in both Norwegian and Palestinian contexts.  We have seen both the similarities and differences.  Meetings of church councils will only deepen the relationship between the two churches.  I am asking others to seriously think of adopting an agenda where church councils have the opportunity to meet – worshipping with us and seeing our reality as well as discussing issues of concern, differences, and even issues of disagreement in each church deepens our sense of communion.”

Bishop Munib Younan and the ELCJHL thank Bishop Atle Sommerfeldt and the Church Council of the Diocese of Borg for their visit and for further deepening the relationship between the two churches.