Bishop Younan Congratulates Bishop Atle Sommerfeldt and Looks Forward to Continued Accompaniment Together

Church leaders gather round for a blessing of the laying on of hands as Alte Sommerfeldt is consecrated as Bishop of the Diocese of Borg by Presiding Bishop Helge Haugland Byfuglien, Sunday, 29 January 2012. Photo © Linn Cathrin Olsen/SCANPIX

FREDRIKSTAD, NORWAY/JERUSALEM, 1 February 2012 – This past weekend Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan “joyfully participated” at the consecration of Rev. Atle Sommerfeldt as bishop of the Diocese of Borg in the Church of Norway.

Younan was present for the consecration both in his role as bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) and as president of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

This may have been their first meeting as Bishop and Bishop for the two, but Sommerfeldt and Younan are far from strangers to one another. Younan previously worked in close cooperation with Sommerfeldt in his former role as General Secretary of Norwegian Church Aid, a position Sommerfeldt held for the past 17 years.

Sommerfeldt and Younan will continue to cooperate closely in Sommerfeldt’s new role as bishop, as the Diocese of Borg and the ELCJHL continue in their Partnership Agreement that has been a part of both of their ministries for more than a decade.

In his words of greeting Younan spoke to the differing contexts and challenges of their respective church dioceses, yet pointed to the essentials of spirituality, mission and purpose that hold the same across context. Essentials in which the theology of Accompaniment is rooted. Essentials that push us to ask and discuss together the broader questions of how to deepen love of God and love of neighbor; and how to strengthen community and unity in a spirit of diakonia.

Younan also thanked the Church of Norway for its important work for peace, justice, equal rights, and human dignity. Younan uplifted four examples of this work:

  • The Church of Norway’s recent Strategic Plan for Sami Church Life;
  • The Joint Statement Opposing Religious Extremism adopted by the Islamic Council of Norway and the Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations;
  • The strong position of the Church of Norway and the Norwegian government on building peace and justice, and reconciliation based on forgiveness, especially in their promotion of “a two state solution in the Holy Land, meaning a State of Palestine along 1967 borders, side by side with the State of Israel—in peace, justice, equality and cooperation, and with Jerusalem being shared between Jews, Muslims and Christians; Palestinians and Israelis”;
  • And finally, in the Church of Norway’s support and work in building good interfaith relations, such as in the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land, which is convened by Canon Trond Bakkevig, representing the Church of Norway.

In closing, Younan invited Sommerfeldt and the Diocese of Borg to “come and see” and visit the ELCJHL, saying “we remain always ready to welcome you.”

And in looking forward to their continued accompaniment of one another in their Partnership Agreement, Younan encouraged their respective dioceses to continue to “explore how, as we live in Norway and the Holy Land, we may continue to accompany each other for mutual benefit […] in the spirit of prayerful encouragement.”

Younan was last in Norway in October for the consecration of Rev. Helga Haugland Byfuglien as the first Presiding Bishop of the Norwegian Bishop’s Conference.

Art and Music Weave Together at Håkon Gullvåg Exhibition Opening

Palestinian musician and composer Rim Banna performs with the Norwegian chamber orchestra the Trondheim Solists at a concert for the opening of the Haakon Gullvaag exhibition in Jerusalem.

JERUSALEM, 20 December 2011 – The sanctuary of the Church of the Ascension resonated this past Saturday evening as strains of music wove around the newly unveiled art exhibition from Håkon Gullvåg.

The Norwegian chamber ensemble the Trondheim Soloists, the Norwegian musician and composer Henning Sommerro traveled to Jerusalem especially for the exhibition opening and transfixed the audience with their program that ranged from classical to traditional to contemporary and introduced works from around the world. They were joined in their performance by Palestinian artist and composer Rim Banna, whose songs were particularly haunting.

Gullvåg, the renowned Norwegian surrealist painter himself was present for the exhibition opening.

Gullvåg originally created the exhibition, entitled “A Modern Approach to the Divine Image” as a temporary installation for Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, the National Cathedral of the Church of Norway. But it is in this Jerusalem installation that the biblical and religious motifs truly “come home” to their historical context.

Concert-goers were welcomed before the nights’ performance to view the new installation, and stayed long afterward to study the art and to meet and to discuss with the artist.

Gullvåg also offered the use of his Jesu Fødsel to Bishop Younan for use with his 2011 Christmas Message, and has promised a new work of art for the soon to be built Evangelical Lutheran Church at Bethany-beyond-the-Jordan at the Baptismal Site of Jesus.

The Trondheim Soloists Orchestra, Henning Sommerro and Rim Banna also gave performances earlier in the week at the Latin Patriarchate Church in Ramallah and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

Opening speeches were given by H. E. the Norwegian Minister of Government Administration, Reform, and Church Affairs Rigmor Aasrud and Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan, the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL).

Younan, who had the opportunity to view the artwork beforehand during a visit to Trondheim, spoke to how “by the gift of inspired art forms, the meaning of life in God and with each other is interpreted in a variety of ways, which help us as we contemplate the divine mysteries that exceed our rational understanding.”

The curator for the exhibition is Daniel Johansen and the project manager is Venke Aaretun.

The Gullvåg exhibition will continue at the Church of the Ascension throughout the Christmas, Epiphany and Lenten seasons, finishing after Easter. The Church of the Ascension is located next to the Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Lutheran World Federation campus on the Mount of Olives.

Visitors are welcome to view the exhibition Mondays through Saturdays from 8:00am through 1:00pm. Entrance to the exhibition is included in the general entrance to the church (5 shekel).

If you are unable to visit the exhibition in person, view the artwork on Håkon Gullvåg’s website here.

Click here or on the photo above to view more photos from the event.

Bishop Younan Speaks to Accompaniment and Mutual Understanding at Installation of Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien

JERUSALEM, 5 October 2011 – Bishop Munib Younan was pleased to be present in Trondheim, Norway this past weekend for the installation of Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien as Presiding Bishop of the Church of Norway Bishops’ Conference.

In his words of greeting to Haugland Byfuglien, Younan spoke of the newly-installed Bishop’s passionate commitment to justice: “When you speak of justice we are touched, because your engagement is driven by love, even on difficult issues.”

Younan, bishop of the ELCJHL, has known Haugland Byfuglien since she became Bishop of Borg diocese in 2005. The Borg diocese is a partner diocese of the ELCJHL, and in his words of greeting Younan recalled “I quickly came to appreciate you as a sister that one can trust and confide in. So no wonder, then, that your fellow bishops would unanimously elect you to be their candidate for Presiding Bishop.”

Younan, who also serves as president of the Lutheran World Federation, also noted with great appreciation Haugland Byfuglien’s service as Nordic vice president for the LWF and their opportunities to further their relations there.

Haugland Byfuglien’s installation took place only two and a half months after the shocking attack on Norway, and Younan expressed the solidarity of the Lutheran world communion with the people of Norway and the religious communities of Norway. “We have prayed, and we shall still pray, for the victims of this horrendous attack.”

Younan continued, “We are your allies in combating – with peaceful means – any kind of incitement or hatred that some circles are trying to promote. We are your allies for a culture of mutual understanding and we oppose all culture of anti-Semitism, islamophobia, christianophobia and xenophobia that exist in our world. We look forward to continued cooperation with the Church of Norway on these values because the Church of Norway has carried these values to the world.”

Younan also expressed his admiration to how the Church of Norway ministered to all, saying “we in the outside world admired the way in which the church became a church of the suffering and gave pastoral care both to those who belong to the church and those who do not.”

Younan also expressed admiration for the way in which the King, the Prime Minister, and the Government of Norway cared for the situation.

In celebration of the day Younan presented Haugland Byfuglien with a Jerusalem cross from the ELCJHL as “a token of [the ELCJHL’s] prayer that the cross of Christ may be your comfort and strength.” Younan also asked Haugland Byfuglien, as she wears the cross, to “remember us in the Middle East with your prayer that justice will soon prevail.”

Shock and Horror at Attacks in Norway

Floral tributes outside Oslo Cathedral © Gunnar Grøsland

LWF prays for victims and expresses its solidarity

Geneva, 24 July 2011 (LWI) – The President and General Secretary of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) have reacted with shock and horror to the attacks in Norway’s capital, Oslo, and on the island of Utøya.

In a letter of condolence addressed to Permanent Presiding Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien of the Church of Norway and President Rev. Arnfinn Løyning of the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church of Norway, LWF President Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan and LWF General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge assured the Norwegian church leaders of the Lutheran communion’s solidarity.

“In this shocking and horrific time for Norway, our hearts go out to you, to all the people of your churches, and to all Norwegians,” they said. “Especially in our prayers are the families and loved ones of those whose lives were so senselessly taken yesterday.”

In the words of Junge and Younan, the LWF communion was praying that the courage of the Norwegian people would not be broken at this time of mourning for the victims of the tragedy, and of grieving by those near and dear to them.

They noted that for many years Norway had been a “beacon of peace and peacemaking, locally, nationally and internationally.” The LWF leaders spoke of their deep sorrow “that Norway itself now has suffered such violence.”

Speaking on behalf of the whole LWF, they concluded by expressing the hope that “in the aftermath of your shock and grief, Norwegians will soberly recommit themselves to your special calling in our troubled world–to work for peace and justice, and thereby help to make this world a better place.” (281 words)

Visit the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) site for the original article and to learn more.

Pastor Fred Strickert and Diaconal Minister Gloria Strickert Installed to the English-Speaking Congregation at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, ELCJHL

Rev. Fred and Gloria Strickert, Laying on of Hands, Gloria Strickert and Rev. Elizabeth McHan Presentation Pictured here: Rev. Fred and Gloria Strickert, Laying on of Hands, Presentation of Gloria Strickert and Rev. Elizabeth McHan.

JERUSALEM, September 17, 2010 – On Sunday, September 12, 2010, Pastor Fred Strickert and Diaconal Minister Gloria Strickert were installed to the English-Speaking Congregation of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem. Bishop Younan preached and presided at the service. Propst Dr. Uwe Graebe, representing the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), Rev. Mark Brown, chair of the congregational council and ELCA pastor serving as Regional Representative with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Jerusalem, and Rev. Sani Ibrahim Azar, Pastor of the Arabic-Speaking Congregation at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer and President of the Synod of the ELCJHL assisted.

Present for the laying on of hands were clergy from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, the Church of Sweden, the Church of Scotland, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, the Church of Norway, the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ, the United Church of Canada, The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) & the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Pastor Fred Strickert, PhD, graduated from Christ-Seminary Seminex (LSTC) and received a Ph.D. in Biblical Studies from the University of Iowa. He was ordained in Papua New Guinea in 1975 and rostered in the AELC, ALC, and ELCA. He has taught on the seminary level in Papua New Guinea and India and taught at Wartburg College, in Waverly, Iowa, for 24 years. He has led student travel courses for several decades to the Middle East, Honduras, and Tanzania. He has also published on New Testament and Archaeology issues, as well as the Palestinian struggle including Rachel Weeping: Jews, Christians, and Muslims at a Fortress Tomb (Liturgical Press, 2008), co-authoring with Rev. Mitri Raheb, Bethlehem 2000: Past and Present (Interlink Publishing, 1998); and editing Alison Jones Nassar’s Imm Mathilda: A Bethlehem Mother’s Diary (Kirk House Publishers, 2003) and Bishop Munib Younan’s Witnessing for Peace: In Jerusalem and the World (Fortress Press, 2003).

Diaconal Minister Gloria Strickert, is a graduate of Wartburg Seminary and was consecrated as a Diaconal Minister in 1996. She has served in Spiritual Care in hospitals in Waterloo, Iowa, for fifteen years and previously worked in education ministries in the LCMS and LCA. She also worked in Papua New Guinea for six years and spent a year as a Global Mission Volunteer at Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem.

The congregation also recognized the many members who were beginning service with an Affirmation of Vocation.

In his sermon, Bishop Younan spoke of the theology of accompaniment in connection to the English-Speaking Congregation of the ELCJHL, saying, “We are very proud that the ELCJHL and the ELCA have together developed a deep theology of accompaniment in which we walk together with love, in faith and hope that, through the witness of the other, God is revealing God’s very self to us… For this reason, we step out in faith to accompany and encourage our expatriate brothers and sisters. So that people who come from various denominational backgrounds and cultures can find in this congregation a home, and here they may experience the love of God reaching out to the world.”

In closing, Bishop Younan encouraged the congregation to remember the element of joy in the parables of Luke 15, saying, “I believe that each and every worship service must be a time of joy as we, together as sinners, experience the power of forgiveness and the strength of God’s love for us. We come here lost like the sheep, and the coin; but we are found by God’s love. We are sinners; yet forgiven. This joyful realization must envelop our lives and send us out from this service empowered by the grace of God. We must go out with joy, proclaiming this love that comes from God.”

The ELCJHL rejoices in the new ministry of Pastor Fred and Gloria Strickert, together with the English-Speaking Congregation at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, ELCJHL.

Click here to learn more about the ministry of the English-Speaking Congregation at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.

Norwegian bishops meet with partners, visit Holy Land sites

2010 Norwegian Bishops Delegation

Norwegian bishops and officials joined Bishop Munib A. Younan on a tour of the Haram es-Sharif (“Noble Sanctuary”) in Jerusalem’s Old City in late January. Here they pause in the Al-Aqsa (“Farthest”) Mosque for a group photo. The bishops visited sites in Jordan, Israel and Palestine during their week-long trip to the Holy Land. It included visits with Dr. Rafiq Husseini, Chief of Staff Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and with Nasser A. Lozi, chief of the Royal Hashemite Court of Jordan’s King Abdullah.

ELCJHL Meets with International Partners (COCOP)

The Coordinating Council for the Cooperation of Overseas Partners of the ELCJHL (COCOP) celebrated its 30th year of partnership at the recent annual meeting in May at Dar Annadwa conference center in Bethlehem. On the study day before the council meeting, Rev. Hannes Ganssbauer from Germany, who was instrumental in the early years of the partnership, gave the history of the partnership, and Mrs. Aida Haddad, wife of the late Bishop Emeritus Daoud Haddad, gave reflections from the Bishop’s writings. As usual, the group heard updates from the churches, schools and ministries and strategized about future plans. The week concluded with a memorial service for Bishop Haddad at Augusta Victoria’s Festival Hall.