Bishop Younan and the ELCJHL are deeply saddened by the great loss of our brother in Christ, Bishop John Schreiber of the ELCA’s Southeast Michigan Synod, our partner synod. We considered him a wise prophet who spoke out on behalf of peace with justice in Palestine/Israel. He understood our realities on the ground here and was a cherished friend who worked with us in a common mission. May God Bless his life and ministry, and grant comfort and support to his family, friends and colleagues.
Three ELCA bishops and their planning delegation traveled to Palestine and Israel in early February to plan the January, 2009, conference of bishops, where 55-60 bishops from the US and Canada and their delegations are planning to attend. The delegation visited Bishop Munib Younan and the congregations of the ELCJHL, the partner of both the ELCA and the ELCIC, to hear about faith and life in the Palestinian Lutheran church. The group met Palestinian and Israeli officials from the governments and other organizations to seek out information about prospects for peace and justice in the Holy Land. The people of the ELCJHL were heartened that their partners were coming to see for themselves the realities on the ground.
Click here to read Pastor Eric Shafer’s blog about the trip and links to his videos.
Pastor Mark and Marcia Holman were installed Sunday at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer’s English-Speaking Congregation in Jerusalem. Pastor Mark comes most recently from Lutheran Services in America, and Marcia is a special education specialist. Mark will serve as pastor, following Pastor Russ Siler who was here for 4 years and retired in June. Marcia will serve in the ELCJHL schools. Bishop Younan preached from Mark 10, about how we are all called to serve as servants. Sunday was also the last day for Paul Pierce and Kathy Kamphoeffner, who served the American Friends Service Committee in Jerusalem for 4 years, who are moving to Cairo to do the refugee ministry for the ELCA.
A delegation of youth and adults from the Southeast Michigan Synod of the ELCA visited the ELCJHL and its youth in late June. The group spent three days with the youth of Bethlehem, Beit Jala and Beit Sahour, first working at the Beit Sahour school, painting lines for the soccer field and planting/cleaning the grounds. They toured the wall in Bethlehem and a refugee camp there and together they added their creative expressions to the wall. In Jerusalem, they helped with a day camp, were invited to a home for a meal and were led on a tour of Jerusalem by Shukri Merizian, tour guide extraordinaire. They worshipped in Ramallah and went with their youth group to a local village park and pool.
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.
Bishop Younan’s visit to Church World Service in New York
from the ELCA News Service
by John Brooks
The Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, Jerusalem, is in the United States this month for a series of speaking engagements at Lutheran institutions and at the Global Mission Festival this week in Winter Park, Fla. Younan spoke Jan. 18 at Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pa., met with students and faculty Jan. 19 at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), and preached Jan. 20 and 21 at Trinity Lutheran Church, Lansdale, Pa. (Here Bishop Younan is pictured with ELCA Southeastern Pennsylvania Bishop Claire Burkat. Picture by Rev. Eric Shafer)
Muhlenberg College is one of 28 colleges and universities of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA); LTSP is one of eight ELCA seminaries; Trinity Lutheran Church is an ELCA congregation. The remainder of Younan’s schedule includes several public appearances:
- Yale University, New Haven, Conn., Jan. 22
- Progressive National Baptist Convention, Houston, Jan. 23-24
- Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) and meetings at the ELCA churchwide office, Jan. 25
- ELCA Global Mission Festival, Winter Park, Fla., Jan. 27 + St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church, Winter Park, Jan. 28
- A series of meetings in New York, including Lutheran organizations and congregations, Jan. 28-31
LSTC is an ELCA seminary; St. John is an ELCA congregation.
A week before he left for the United States, Younan and 12 other Middle East Christian church leaders issued in a Jan. 7 statement to express deep concern about deteriorating relations between Fatah and Hamas leaders in the Palestianian Authority. In their statement, the church leaders said they “feel the time has come to call for intense prayer to Almighty God for peace and an opportunity for calm.”
“It would appear that all kinds of mediation and attempts at reconciliation have so far failed resulting in a deadlock in the situation,” the church leaders wrote. “The latest allegation and threats which have been aired through the local and international media have resulted in some large-scale fighting which will soon be very difficult to stop. Added to this, the threatening language … by representatives of both movements and other related parties are both unprecedented and very aggressive. Such occurrences can only bring a civil war nearer by the hour. The outcome would be so drastic that it will obscure the real priorities of the whole Palestinian issue.”
The church leaders urged people to pray for their neighbors rather than “hurling accusations at each other.” Fighting with and kidnapping opponents will not bring down the Israeli Security Wall that surrounds and, in some places, cuts through Palestinian land, nor will it end an embargo on the Palestinian people, the leaders wrote. “We believe we have an obligation to change course especially for the sake of all of our children and young people who deserve a better future devoid of hatred and bitterness,” the church leaders wrote. They called for an “all out effort” to unite Palestinians and concentrate on interdependence and the opportunity for peace and security for all people living in the Middle East, including Christians, Jews and Muslims. The Christian church leaders offered themselves as mediators “or in whatever role deemed necessary and helpful by our people,” their letter concluded. Bishop Munib Younan spdeparted Wednesday for a 10-day trip to the United States to visit partner churches, organizations and others involved in interfaith dialogue. His public speaking schedule follows, call ELCA offices in Chicago (1-800-638-3522 talk to Christoph Schneider-Yattara, Joe Clairmont or Rev. Said Ailabouni)
A delegation of mostly staff from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America visited the Holy Land in January to meet and speak with their sisters and brothers in the ELCJHL. In addition, they talked with people and officials from various Palestinian and Israeli organizations and towns. Mr. Chuck Steinbach of Appleton, Wisconsin, who coordinated the planning for the visiting dance troupe Al Raja from Ramallah this summer, was happy to go and meet the kids at their school and present them with a new digital camera.
15 people, including 7 young adults from the USA and 3 from Sweden, are visiting the ELCJHL for over 2 weeks. The Southeast Michigan Synod of the ELCA, a companion synod of the ELCJHL, has been planning the trip for over a year. They wanted their young people and others from ELCJHL partners to meet the young people of the ELCJHL in their own churches and homes to learn about the church’s ministry and life here. They went to each congregation, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, where 6 of the ELCJHL youth there welcomed them, showed them their lives in Amman and then traveled with them to Petra.
The original plan to have a group of ELCJHL youth accompany the group the whole time was unworkable because they didn’t have permits to get from one city to the other. From permits to checkpoints, roadblocks to the Wall, the visiting group began to see that a normal life is virtually impossible under military occupation. So the group ebbed and flowed, depending on which Palestinian youth could attend each day. Nevertheless, they formed a strong bond through the stories and sharing of experiences.
At each congregation, group leader Scott Thams presented the churches with CDs of the Bible in Arabic and gave them bracelets they had made to raise funds for the trip that said “Bridges not Walls” in Arabic and English. He brought greetings from the synod, where they have been working hard to raise awareness of the harsh Palestinian reality and the need for a just peace.
On Sunday, September 7, 2003 Rev. Russell Siler was installed as the pastor of the English-speaking ministry at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem. Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan installed Rev. Siler and many pastors from various countries, speaking in their languages, laid hands of blessing on Rev. Siler as part of the installation service. Bishop Younan and Rev. Siler both preached. Many guests from Jerusalem were present with the congregation, worshipping in the Cloister Chapel of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer.
From May 22 – 28, 2003 Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and an eight-member delegation visited the ELCJ churches and schools; Lutheran World Federation projects; Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders and Palestinian and Israeli officials. Highlights included visits with children and teachers at ELCJ schools, the graduation ceremonies at Talitha Kumi and Beit Sahour Lutheran schools and a worship service at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Old City Jerusalem, at which Bishop Hanson preached the sermon with Bishop Younan doing the Arabic translation