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.