Bishop Younan Meets With The Heads of Churches in Jerusalem

Bishop Munib Younan speaks with Latin Patriarch Patriarch Fouad Twal and Syrian Orthodox Archbishop Swerios Malki Murad. © Danae Hudson/ELCJHL

JERUSALEM – Bishop Munib Younan met with the heads of churches at the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem today to give his Easter greetings. Ten of the thirteen heads of churches were present, as well as priests and Bishops from Jerusalem. The Lutheran delegation to the meeting included Bishop Younan, Propst Wolfgang Schmidt, representative of the Evangelische Kirche Deutschland in Jerusalem, the pastors of the English Speaking Congregation and Special Assistants to the Bishop, Revs. Angela and Martin Zimmann, Rev. Saliba Rishmawi of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Beit Jala, Rev. Jari Honkakari of the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM), and Lutheran World Federation (LWF) Jerusalem representative Rev. Mark Brown.

The Heads of Churches in Jerusalem. © Danae Hudson/ELCJHL

At the meeting, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal welcomed the churches and spoke of accompanying the people, as in the story of Emmaus when Jesus walked with the disciples and “their hearts burned within them.” He then invited the other Bishops present to speak and offer prayers. Bishop Munib Younan discussed the inauguration of the Pontificate, as well as his hope that the heads of churches will continue to support the textbook study, Victim’s of Our Own Narratives, initiated by the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land (CRIHL). Bishop Younan encouraged all those gathered to think of ways to encourage the use of the study in schools.

Reformation Celebrated at Church of the Redeemer

Church of the Redeemer: Reformation Service Church of the Redeemer: Reformation Service Church of the Redeemer: Reformation Service

The Church of the Redeemer, Old City Jerusalem celebrated the Reformation with a full congregation (standing room only, literally) of people from around the world. The pipe organ was accompanied by a brass band and the singing of more than 400 people from around the world. As is tradition in this church, the Lord’s Prayer is recited in all persons’ native language, offering a unique blend of English, German, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Arabic, and many, many more spoken to the familiar cadence and melodies familiar to the Protestant church worldwide.

Church of the Redeemer: Reformation Service

Reformation Day is a holiday celebrated by Lutherans (among other Protestant churches) in remembrance of the subsequent reformation of the Church of Rome by Martin Luther through his posting of the thesis on the door of his church on All Saints day, 31 October 1517. The 95 Theses were quickly translated from Latin into German, printed, and widely copied, making the controversy one of the first in history to be aided by the printing press. Within two weeks, copies of the theses had spread throughout Germany; within two months throughout Europe.

Listen to the opening hymn and view more photos.

Younan Speaks at VELKD General Synod

Bishop Younan speaks at the VELKD General Synod, 3-4 November 2011.

MAGDEBURG, GERMANY/JERUSALEM, 15 November 2011 –In early November, Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan was invited to attend and to speak at the Vereinigte Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche Deutschlands (VELKD) General Synod in Magdeburg, Germany.

While at the General Synod, Younan delivered a farewell speech for the outgoing Presiding Bishop Johannes Friedrich, whom Younan first met during the 1980s when Friedrich was serving as Propst at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. Younan spoke to the spirit of accompaniment in which Friedrich has lived his life, and his lifelong commitment to both intra-church relations and ecumenical relations.

“Bishop Friedrich, from my view, you have set a benchmark for leadership within the German Churches… Whatever your position, we know that we will always have you as a brother in Christ—a brother to whom we can always turn, not because of particular interests, but because of our mutual love in Christ Jesus.”

“Bishop Friedrich, your humility, your clarity, and above all your love shown to all of us has touched our hearts.”

With great appreciation for his years of service, Younan presented Friedrich with a Mother-of-Pearl representation of the Holy Communion from the village of Beit Sahour—the village of the Christmas Shepherds—as “…a reminder of the centrality of our shared communion as we continue to grow together around the table in all our communion throughout the world/”

Younan also assisted in the installation of new Presiding Bishop Gerhardt Ulrich, from the Nordelbischen Evangelisch-Luterische Kirche (NEK).

On Friday, 4 November, Younan addressed the General Synod on behalf of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), speaking on grace, peace, and the prophetic call of the church in our world today both in Germany, in the Middle East, and as a global communion of churches.

Younan also spoke to the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation and it’s continuing influence and importance for the Lutheran church, thanking the VELKD and the German National Committee of the LWF for the anniversary preparations already underway, and for the active support and initiatives by regional and federal German authorities.

“The reformers’ view of the gospel’s importance for the Christian faith and the freedom of the Christian have remained an integral part of the Lutheran witness ever since [the reformation], and gives shape to our ecclesiology even today. It is appropriate, therefore, that the [500-year] commemoration has been designated by the LWF Council as Luther 2017: 500 Years of Reformation.”

In closing, Younan called upon the church to continue to “look toward the future of the church universal in the perspective of how our memories of conflicts, persecutions and divisions may continue to be healed.”

“Let us work diligently together,” Younan said, “so that the Christian World Communions, of which the LWF is one, may be given inspiration, hope and vision to seek the unity in that gospel which is ‘the church’s true treasure’ (Martin Luther).”

Bishop Younan Attends Retirement of Bishop Maria Jepsen of the North Elbian Church

Bishop Maria Jepsen of the North Elbian Church

HAMBURG, November 19, 2010 – “I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:15-16).

It was with these words from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians that the Rev. Dr. Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) and President of the Lutheran Federation (LWF) greeted Bishop Maria Jepsen on the occasion of her retirement in Hamburg, Germany in late November.

Younan further spoke, “We thank you always in our prayers for the partnership we have shared in the Gospel between our small but vibrant church [the ELCJHL] and the North Elbian Church.”

Younan was honored to be able to attend the celebration of Bishop Maria Jepsen’s service to the North Elbian Church as Bishop and to Lutheran churches worldwide since her election in April of 1992 as the first woman bishop in the Lutheran world.

“Ever since Martin Luther’s declarations concerning the priesthood of all believers, we have striven to uplift an inclusive and expansive model of the church.” Younan said, and continued, “Yes, there have been many cultural and societal barriers to overcome, and there are many more for us still to overcome, but as the new day dawned with your consecration as bishop, we rejoiced together with you, as the German church became an example for the whole world and the ecumenical community.”

Younan thanked Jepsen for her excellent pastoral leadership, her strong Lutheran identity, the way in which she was able to express the global nature of Lutheranism, and her ecumenical involvement.

“[Bishop Jepsen], you have offered all of us a good example: we cannot witness alone without our sisters and brothers from other confessions and from every continent. Yes, there are differences, but what we have in common is so much greater, for that which unites us is much more than that which divides us, and together our common witness brings the mission of Christ to the world. And so I say thank you.”

Bishop Younan Addresses the Evangelische Kirche Deutschland (EKD)

Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland (EKD)

HANNOVER, November 7, 2010 – “We as Christians share the same loaf. We share the same responsibility for a hungry world, hungry for spirituality and hungry for justice,” said Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) in his words before the Evangelische Kirche Deutschland (EKD) in early November.

Younan shared words of thanks for the leadership of Bishop Johannes Friedrich, the EKD’s partnership with the ELCJHL, and the dialogue the church bodies share. Younan also congratulated Praeses Nikolaus Schneider in his new role as president of the council of the EKD.

Younan called for ever-strengthening relationship, saying:

“Our grassroots are expecting to see us acting together, witnessing together, living together, and loving together. For this reason, it is essential that we strengthen our relationships both in Israel-Palestine and in the whole Middle East. It is essential that we—the EKD, the ELCJHL and its COCOP partners, the LWF, and all Christians—work together with one voice in a common witness—a witness that is living, dynamic, and steadfast.”

Younan concluded his address with a prayer for the common evangelical Lutheran witness of the ELCJHL and the EKD and their partners as they commit to “making every effort to maintain the unity of the Sprit in the bond of peace.”

Bishop Younan Plants Tree in the Luther Garden at Wittenberg

Bishop Younan plants a tree in Wittenberg and in Jerusalem

WITTENBERG, November 5, 2010 – It was the dove that came back with a freshly plucked olive leaf in its beak and the sign of hope that must have been to Noah and his family that Bishop Younan reflected on as he planted a tree in the Luther Garden in Wittenberg, Germany in early November.

“When Martin Luther was asked what he would do if he knew the world would end tomorrow, his response was that he would plant an apple tree. For Noah, the world had actually come to an end. The mythological world of the early chapters of Genesis was now a thing of the past, drown in the chaotic waters of the flood. Yet the presence of a living tree announced the promised future of a world transformed in God. Not just any tree, but the freshly plucked leaf of an olive tree.”

And as Younan planted a tree in the Luther Garden, a garden that will be filled with new and abundant life, seeded by the churches of the Lutheran communio in these years building up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, olive trees were planted at each of the congregations, schools, programs, and partners of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, the church in which Younan presides as Bishop.

In his reflection, Younan spoke of the hope for the future that the olive tree continues to embody for the people of the ELCJHL. “The olive tree can be surprising,” Younan said. “A single small shoot growing up from the bottom of an all but dead tree, can signify the beginning of a new era of abundant life, growing for centuries, and providing for generations of families not yet born.”

Younan spoke about how a single small shoot can enliven hope, and planted this new tree “as a visible symbol of the faith, love, and hope by which we pray that God may transform the world.”

Younan ended with verses 8 and 9 from Psalm 52:

But I am like a green olive tree in the house of God.
I trust in the steadfast love of God forever and ever.
I will thank you forever, because of what you have done.
In the presence of the faithful I will proclaim your name, for it is good.

Local church representatives, Mayor Eckhard Naumann of Wittenberg, and Minister-President of Saxony-Anhalt Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Bohmer were among those present for the tree planting.

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.

Christmas hope and faith in the Holy Land

Christmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem

Worshippers sang “Silent Night” and carried candles as they marched from Christmas Lutheran Church to the International Center of Bethlehem along the city’s ancient cobblestone streets.

Preaching at the Christmas Eve service was Dr. Uwe Gräbe, propst of the the German-speaking congregation of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Jerusalem.  Also presiding at the service were Bishop Munib Younan, Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb and Rev. Mark Holman.