PHOTOS: 2014 Joint Reformation Service

(© D. Hudson/ELCJHL)

JERUSALEM – The Arabic, English, and German congregations gathered together on Friday, October 31st, 2014 for the annual Reformation Day service at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem.

Bishop Younan Celebrates 190th Jubliee with Berliner Missionswerk (BMW)

Bishop Younan and Director of Berliner Missionswerk Rev. Roland Herpich led a prayer at the Brandenburg Gate in remembrance of the start of World War I. (© BMW)
Bishop Younan and Director of Berliner Missionswerk Rev. Roland Herpich led a prayer at the Brandenburg Gate in remembrance of the start of World War I. (© BMW)
Bishop Younan and Director of Berliner Missionswerk Rev. Roland Herpich led a prayer at the Brandenburg Gate in remembrance of the start of World War I. (© BMW)

BERLIN – Bishop Younan joined the Berliner Missionswerk (BMW), a partner of the ELCJHL, for the celebration of their founding 190 years earlier in Berlin on August 31st, 2014. The celebration was both a jubilee of celebration and a conference to discuss religious issues affecting the BMW and its partners.

Bishop Younan addressed the Conference of International Partners of BMW on “cheap reconciliation” – the idea that reconciliation can be misused to prolong injustice. Bishop Younan discussed reconciliation in the context of ignorance and violence and the need for mutual recognition in the Middle East.

During the Jubilee on August 31st, 2014, Bishop Younan and the BMW dedicated a stone from the Holy Land to the BMW as a gift of partnership.

Those who had traveled from around the world to attend the jubilee were also invited to stay and pray at the famous Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to remember the outbreak of World War II 75 years earlier. Bishop Munib Younan as well as the Director of Berliner Missionswerk Rev. Roland Herpich led a public prayer for the representatives who joined them at Brandenburg Gate. The public prayer was followed by a memorial service at St. Mary’s Church in Berlin.

The ELCJHL would like to congratulate the Berliner Missionswerk on 190 years of service and we look forward to continuing in strong accompaniment in mission here in the Holy Land.

Norwegian Church Aid and Ecumenical Council of the Church of Norway Condemn Violence in Gaza

The atrocities of war have reached frightening dimensions in the Gaza Strip. 100 000 people are internally displaced trying to escape the assault, and the death tolls are on the rise. Three out of four that have been killed are children, women andother non-combatants. The widespread demolition of civilian infrastructure, hospitals, clinics, schools, water and sanitationfacilities, threatens the war-affected population’s access to basic services and human rights.

The staff, working at the social institutions of the churches’ in Gaza, tells us that people are seeking shelter in their churches, hospitals and schools. The church institutions are located in poor and vulnerable areas of the Gaza Strip. They report of anexhausted population who has no place to seek protection from the war. Many elderly citizens do not have the energy to flee, and remain at homes.

“Civilians have the right to protection in war. Israel is not doing enough to protect the civilian population in the Gaza Stripwho are trapped in the warfare.” Helland and Hagen Agøy say.

“We strongly condemn the brutal attacks by the Israeli military forces against the civilian population in Gaza, just as wecondemn the firing of rockets by militant groups in Gaza at populated areas in Israel,” Helland and Hagen Agøy emphasizes,as they joins the Secretary General of the World Council of Churches, Olav Tveit, in his appeal on 11th of July for putting an end to the escalation of the brutal cycle of violence.

The Lutheran Church in Jerusalem, represented by Bishop Mounib Younan, appeals to all people of good will. “Palestine andIsrael now need justice, peace and dignity and not more radicalization, revenge and bloodshed that follows unilateraldiplomatic or military support to one side or the other in the conflict. Palestinians and Israelis need peace and dignity,”Bishop Younan writes from Jerusalem.

“We are also worried for the security of Israel’s population. But a solution to the repeated attacks against Israelineighborhoods surrounding the Gaza Strip, has to be developed through sustainable political solutions and not by military means, where Gaza’s civilians are paying the highest price,” Helland and Hagen Agøy conclude.

Lay Preacher’s Academy Holds Conference at Dead Sea

DEAD SEA, JORDAN – The Lay Preacher’s Academy, a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land designed to promote congregational lay members into the ordained ministry of the church, held a preaching conference at the Dead Sea in Jordan.  Participants practiced their sermon skills as well as listened to lectures on subjects such as worship and communion presented by Bishop Munib Younan and Dr. Munther Ishaq.  The conference was part of the continuing education of the Lay Preachers.  The first graduates of the Academy will be honored this fall when they complete the course.

To view photos from the conference, you can visit the ELCJHL’s photo gallery

Statement of the Presidents of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC)

AMMONNEWS – The General Secretary of the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC), Fr. Michel Jalakh, called the Presidents of the Council to an extraordinary meeting in Amman, Jordan, on June 19th, 2014, which was hosted by His Beatitude Theophilos III.

The Presidents were mindful of the commitment of His Majesty King Abdullah II to advocating for the Christian presence in the Kingdom, and were grateful for his continued support. In attendance were His Beatitude Theophilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem, President of the Eastern Orthodox family, His Beatitude Ignatius Youssef III Younan, Patriarch of Antioch for Syriac Catholic Church, President of the Catholic family, His Grace Munib Younan, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, President of the Evangelical family, and His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church, President of the Oriental Orthodox family, represented by the co-Presidents.

Pastor Dr. Habib Badr, President of the National Evangelical Church of Beirut and Honorary Treasurer of MECC attended also the meeting.

The Presidents were joined for lunch by members of the diplomatic corps and honored Jordanian and international guests. His Beatitude Theophilos III welcomed guests and introduced his co-Presidents as well as Fr Michel Jalakh, Middle East Council of Churches Secretary General. Following lunch, the Presidents resumed discussion and released the results of their meeting in the following statement:

The current unexpected events taking place in Iraq join a further deterioration within countries in the region, and the Presidents share in the suffering of these tragic events along with the innocent victims of hatred and violence.

The people of Iraq are at risk of being dominated by political and religious extremism, a fact that calls upon us and the whole world to raise awareness and take immediate measures. The Presidents of the Middle East Council of Churches condemn all forms of violence against churches, mosques and other religious institutions. They encourage all Christians and people of goodwill to stand strong and not be afraid and to remember that they, together with their Muslim brothers and sisters, are the children of the same land and all share a common human nature and destiny.

Therefore, we must respect and support one another as brothers and sisters.

The Presidents stand in compassion and prayer for all those in exile, displaced in Syria and in neighboring countries. We call upon all concerned parties to seek reconciliation without racial or religious discrimination. We call to release the two kidnapped archbishops Boulos Yaziji and Yuhanna Ibrahim, in addition to all kidnapped priests and innocent people.

Furthermore, the Presidents of MECC, comprised of the Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Evangelical, and Catholic families, call upon peacemakers in the entire international community, to defend the dignity and rights of all humans as well as freedom of religious expression, to quickly and effectively interfere in order to help our people to be liberated from the dreadful spiral of hatred and violence. We strongly condemn all forms of violence, regardless of who is the perpetrator, while simultaneously praying for peace, justice and reconciliation. We extend these prayers all over the world, but especially for all people of the Holy Land, to pursue peace, so that Jerusalem may be a beacon of peace throughout the world.

We, the Presidents of the MECC, ask the Holy Spirit to guide our churches in the bond of love in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

To read the article at it’s original site, you can visit Ammon News.

ELCA presiding bishop joins call for peace in the Holy Land

CHICAGO (E​LCA) – As the conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip further escalates, the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, pre​siding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), expressed her profound concern for members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land in a July 17, 2014, letter to that denomination’s bishop, the Rev. Dr. Munib A. Younan.

            “Our hearts are heavy as we read about and see images of the violence being inflicted on both Israelis and Palestinians. This suffering and loss of life are inexcusable before God. As followers with you of the Prince of Peace, and as children of God, the Creator and Sustainer of all life, we long for peace and a just resolution to the escalating conflict between the State of Israel and the Palestinian people,” Eaton wrote, adding that she is responding directly to Younan’s call to participate in interventions and actions “to create hope in a hopeless situation.”
In a July 16 public statement, Younan asked that Christians and “all people of good will intervene in the present situation of unacceptable violence and bloodshed.” He said, “If we cannot take steps towards peace, we will continue to be held hostage by extremism. Please do not leave us alone in this moment of struggle. The whole Middle East is boiling. We need your prophetic voice and support so that peace built on justice and reconciliation built on forgiveness will prevail.”
In her letter to Younan, Eaton shared that “we join you in your call for a cessation of all hostilities between Israel and Hamas and a return to direct peace talks to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable peace based upon a two-state solution and adherence to international human rights and humanitarian law.”
The ELCA presiding b​ishop wrote that she will encourage all ELCA congregations to continue their prayers for peace in the Holy Land, including participation in “a minute of silence” during Sunday worship.
Although her intended visit to Jordan and the Holy Land scheduled for later this month has been postponed, Eaton told Younan that she looks “forward to our time together.” In her letter, she noted the “steadfastness” of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land: “The church’s strong witness for coexistence grounded in peace with justice permeates every level of congregational, educational and diaconal service. Our faith is strengthened by knowing how, even in the midst of great difficulties, the Body of Christ is working in Palestine and Jordan for the good of all communities.
“Along with the witness of your pastors and lay leaders, your witness, Bishop Younan, has strengthened our confidence that peace can indeed be achieved among the two peoples and three religions that share the Holy Land. Your statements, speeches and sermons have been a model for promoting both political and interreligious coexistence, along with your strong support of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land, which you helped found,” Eaton wrote.
The ELCA presiding bishop also expressed her gratitude for Younan’s capacity to uplift “the voices of moderation and against extremism.” She expressed her appreciation in particular for the long-standing work of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land’s schools in demonstrating “the importance of education through a curriculum based on peace, nonviolence, peaceful co-existence and the strengthening of civil society for the benefit of all communities.”
Through an ELCA “Peace Not Walls” action alert issued July 17, ELCA members are being encouraged to contact members of U.S. Congress to ask for an end “to the latest round of violence.” The alert offers a sample letter which ELCA members can use to contact U.S. Senators and Representatives, featuring elements of Younan’s July 16 statement that calls for the “immediate cessation of hostilities in Gaza.”
Younan also calls for the resumption of direct peace talks to achieve a comprehensive and sustainable peace; critical support for healthcare infrastructure; material support for interreligious cooperation and peacebuilding through the educational and diaconal ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land; and that the global Christian community, including member churches of The Lutheran World Federation, provide necessary assistance to those who have been internally displaced or affected by the current wave of violence and to help the economic and development of the growth of the Palestinian people.
The ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land are member churches of The Lutheran World Federation – a global communion of 144 churches representing more than 70 million Christians in 79 countries. The ELCA is the communion’s only member church from the United States.

To read the full text of Bishop Eaton’s letter, practice advocacy with the ELCA’s Peace Not Walls Ministry, or read the ELCA’s “Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine,” visit the ELCA’s press release regarding Bishop Eaton’s letter.

ELCJHL Renews Mutual Agreement With Kuopio, Finland and FELM

Bishop Jari Jolkkonen of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and Bishop Munib Younan of the ELCJHL shake hands.
Bishop Jari Jolkkonen of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and Bishop Munib Younan of the ELCJHL shake hands.
Bishop Jari Jolkkonen of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland and Bishop Munib Younan of the ELCJHL shake hands. (© Danae Hudson/ELCJHL)

JERUSALEM – The companion agreement between The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, Diocese of Kuopio, and the Finnish Evangelical Lutheran Mission (FELM) was signed in St. John’s Chapel at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem on Tuesday, March 18th, 2014. Bishop Munib Younan, representing the ELCJHL, Bishop Jari Jolkkonen, representing the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, Diocese of Kuopio, and Rev. Dr. Seppo Rissanen, representing FELM signed the documents to continue their mutual agreement of accompaniment.  The ELCJHL is happy to continue its work with both the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, Kuopio Diocese and FELM.

ELCJHL and National Evangelical Church in Beirut Concelebrate Holy Communion

The concelebration between Bishop Munib Younan of the ELCJHL and Rev. Dr. Habib Badr of the National Evangelical Church in Beirut.
The concelebration between Bishop Munib Younan of the ELCJHL and Rev. Dr. Habib Badr of the National Evangelical Church in Beirut.
The concelebration between Bishop Munib Younan of the ELCJHL and Rev. Dr. Habib Badr of the National Evangelical Church in Beirut. (© National Evangelical Church in Beirut)

BEIRUT – On March 9th, 2014, in conjunction with the meeting of the Executive Committee of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches (FMEEC), Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Holy Land and Rev. Dr. Habib Badr of the National Evangelical Church of Beirut concelebrated Holy Communion.

In 2006, the ELCJHL and six Reformed churches in the Middle East signed a mutual recognition agreement called the Amman Declaration.  Through this declaration, the churches recognize each other as apostolic churches in preaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments.  We mutually accept the validity of each church’s ministry and we continue to ask the Holy Spirit to bless this declaration and that it would lead us to the unity .

Bishop Younan preached in the service, emphasizing the modern temptation in the Middle East is to both read the Scriptures incorrectly and to allow extremism to spread.  In light of these temptations, we should, as churches, be united and in this unity we can be an integral part of our people and living witnesses to Arab society.

Rev. Dr. Habib Badr, head of the National Evangelical Church in Beirut, proclaimed the concelebration of Holy Communion as a historic moment as this was the first time that the ELCJHL and the National Evangelical Church in Beirut celebrated at the Lord’s table together.  This is a sign for the Evangelical Churches in the Middle East that there is no other way, except through unity and a common Evangelical witness.

To see photos from the concelebration, you can visit the ELCJHL’s photo gallery.
To read more about the Amman Declaration, you can visit the ELCJHL’s website.

Diyar Consortium and Dar al-Kalima Inaugurate Sports Hall

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (AP) — Canadian speed skater Cindy Klassen, a six-time Olympic medalist, has helped inaugurate a $1.2 million indoor gym for Palestinian women in the biblical town of Bethlehem.

Women’s participation in sports is still relatively unusual in Palestinian society, which encourages gender separation in much of public life.

Several women’s soccer teams have formed, but they lack training facilities.

The 1,300-square-meter (14,000-square-feet) sports center opened Sunday, with funding from Canadian Lutheran World Relief and the Mt. Calvary Lutheran Church in the Canadian city of Calgary. The center will also offer space to volleyball and basketball teams as well as tennis players.

Klassen, 34, says that “women here in the West Bank don’t get many opportunities in sports.” She says she hopes the center will enable Palestinian women to train and build confidence.

To read the article in its original format, you can visit the AP website.

To read articles about the inauguration in Arabic, you can visit any of the links provided here:
Dar al-Kalima Schools
Palestine News Network
Atlas Sport

Evangelical Lutheran School Beit Sahour and Erich-Maria-Remarque Realschule School Sign Partnership

Shaking Hands
Signing the partnership
Evangelical Lutheran Beit Sahour School and Erich-Maria-Remarque Realschule
School sign partnership. (@ ELCJHL)

BEIT SAHOUR – On Saturday, January 4, 2014, a group from Erich-Maria-Remarque Realschule in Osnabrück, Germany visited the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour to sign a school partnership. This partnership was signed by representatives of both schools in cooperation with the German Palestinian Association.

The goals of this partnership include the following:
• To build up a partnership between the two schools of Beit Sahour and Osnabrück.
• To promote and develop links between the schools by bringing together the students and staff from different backgrounds and cultures.
• To agree to a shared vision for collaboration through joint projects and regular visits.
• To provide further opportunities for the students and the staff from both schools to develop both personally and educationally through the participation in this partnership scheme.

We are thrilled to be in partnership with Erich-Maria-Remarque Realschule of Osnabrück, Germany. We look forward to building a strong relationship and close ties with the students and staff of this school. In addition, we will develop a student exchange program between the two schools. This exchange program will begin in the next academic year.

Shaking Hands
Shaking hands to make official the signing of the agreement. (©ELCJHL)