Thursday, July 17, 2008

ELCA Middle East staffing update

I'm late sharing this information about changes and additions to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA - staff whose work intersects with the ELCA's Peace Not Walls campaign. I have added a few links to the ELCA memo.

Middle East for Networking Update
June 10, 2008

1. Director for Middle East Policy in Washington , D.C. [from Rebecca Larson, Executive Director, ELCA Church in Society]
On behalf of Church in Society and Global Mission I would like to announce the hiring of the Reverend Susan P. Wilder as the new Director for Middle East Policy in Washington , D.C. and welcome her to the ELCA. She will be based in the ELCA Washington office - - and will begin her work June 16.

Rev. Wilder lived in Jerusalem with her family between 1999 and 2002 and brings to this position a knowledge of and passion for the issues affecting people in the region. She has served in ecumenical and interfaith networks as grassroots organizer, speaker, and educator, working to raise awareness about the nature of the Israeli/Palestinian impasse and how the faith community can be a change agent for peace. She has worked in partnership with Israelis and Palestinians in pursuit of a just peace. In advocacy with congress, the White House, and the State Department she has articulated a vision for compassionate justice that addresses the welfare of all concerned.

Rev. Wilder is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church, U.S.A. , and has served churches in the Washington , DC area. In this way she also embodies the commitment of the ELCA to work ecumenically on these important issues and to work toward a stronger, combined public presence by people of faith, both in the Holy Land and for advocacy work in the United States. Rev. Wilder will make a significant contribution to the ELCA's public work and witness.

2. Communications Assistant to Bishop Munib Younan and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and Palestine (ELCJHL - [next three notices from Robert Smith, Europe Middle East Desk Director, ELCA Global Mission]

Allison Schmitt, called to serve as ELCJHL communications assistant, is currently employed as a writer, editor and photographer at Luther Seminary ( St. Paul , Minn. ). She received a B.A. in Mass Communications from Mankato State University ( Mankato , Minn. ) in 1990 and a M.A. in Systematic Theology from Luther Seminary in 2007. Her previous experience includes desktop publications, writing, editing, research and design for various newspapers and publishing companies. She has excellent computer skills and is familiar with numerous software programs. Allison is a member of an ELCA two-synod Peace with Justice group, has participated in letter-writing campaigns for Bread for the World. Her previous international experience includes one month volunteering at the Quo Vadis Interfaith Dialogue Center in Tamil Nadu, India .

3. Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM) Program and Trips Coordinator
Martin Shoffner has been called by the ELCA to serve a dual function: half of his position is designated for the coordination of ELCA trips to Palestine (including official delegations); the other half is designated for the coordination of the Young Adults in Global Mission (YAGM - program being instituted in Palestine . The YAGM program means that Martin represents another six missionaries who will be coming to work during 2008-9 with the schools and other institutions of the ELCJHL.

Martin is married to Suzanne Shoffner, a PC(USA) pastor, who is designated as a Global Mission Associate. Martin recently retired from his home-building business in North Carolina . He graduated from Guilford College (Greensboro, NC) in 2007 with a dual degree in Peace and Conflict Studies and Anthropology.

4. ELCA Regional Representative for the Middle East
Rev. Peter Johnson has been called to serve as the ELCA Regional Representative for the Middle East . He and his family will be based in Cairo . The regional representative position will be a new relationship for ELCA accompaniment in the Middle East. Under Robert Smithʼs direction, Peter will travel throughout the region, supervise ELCA missionaries, evaluate current programs and relationships, and maintain strong accompaniment with our companions.

Peter has served as a pastor for 10 years, most recently at Nokomis Heights Lutheran Church (Minneapolis , Minn.). He earned both the M.Div. and the MA in Islamic Studies through Luther Seminary (St. Paul , Minn.). Peter is married to Michelle, a business communications specialist; together, they have three children. A good portion of Peterʼs childhood was spent in Cairo.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Newly-updated Church Toolkit for Israeli-Palestinian Peacemaking

Churches for Middle East Peace has updated its successful "Church Toolkit for Israeli-Palestinian Peacemaking."

This email is also available online at:

Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) is pleased to release its newly updated "Church Toolkit for Israeli-Palestinian Peacemaking." The Toolkit was first created in May 2006 and is designed to equip local churches and activists with tools to engage in awareness-building, education and advocacy activities in their communities.

This summer and fall will be an exciting time with the run-up to the November election and preparations for a transition to a new Administration and the 111th Congress. It is vital that church advocates work now to energize existing networks and build new ones to ensure that Middle East peace efforts continue now and are made a top priority in January 2009.

CMEP encourages you to download the Toolkit and use it to augment your current activities or begin new initiatives. You might use the Toolkit to establish a new committee or group dedicated to peacemaking. Or you might share it with your church leadership, whether it be your pastor or priest or social action committee chairperson. You might also want to pass it along to other churches in your area.

Below are links to access the Church Toolkit, an excerpt from the introduction, which provides a summary of the purpose of the Toolkit and the resources it provides, as well as comments from advocates who have used the Toolkit. If you would like to have a copy of the toolkit mailed to you or if have any questions, please contact the CMEP office at

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Access the Toolkit
View Toolkit as a Webpage -

Download and Print Church Toolkit as a PDF file -

To Download and Print the Toolkit, along with the included Resources go to the Toolkit Homepage -

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Excerpt from the Introduction and Guide to the Church Toolkit for Israeli-Palestinian Peacemaking

Many American Christians share a concern for peace in the Holy Land. They are drawn to this troubled region because of their spiritual connections to the places of Jesus' ministry, their relationships with the struggling Christian community, their concern for the suffering peoples of the conflict and their commitment to peacemaking. They often want to learn more about current events in Israel and Palestine and to better understand the conflict and possibilities for its resolution. At the same time, many see the complexities and controversies of Israeli-Palestinian issues and wonder where to begin.

Many churches and church organizations have policy positions and statements on the Middle East, mission personnel serving in the region and relationships with Holy Land churches. If you and your congregation or committee are just getting started, look for resources from your church or denomination. Learn more about the Christian community in the Holy Land - who they are, where they live, where they worship and how the conflict is affecting them. Pray for the Christians in the Holy Land. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem - a lasting peace for the two peoples and the three faiths. Using church guidance and resources, take action in support of peacemaking.

The Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) Church Toolkit is designed to assist congregational leaders in planning a worship service, prayer vigil, adult Sunday School series, workshop, panel discussion, advocacy initiative or other community activity by highlighting topics as well as resources for more information.

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What People Are Saying About CMEP's Toolkit:
"Thank you for the toolkit. I plan to give the members of our Missions Committee a copy of this toolkit for them to read and to discuss how our church can use the information. I feel that it will be a helpful tool to get us further involved in working for peace in the Middle East."
Sue Woodling - Raleigh, North Carolina

"The toolkit is an excellent resource for congregational, regional and conference use. I have made multiple copies to distribute at the Bi-annual Assembly of the Northwest Region of The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)."
Marvin Eckfeldt- Kent, Washington

Send us your comments on how you've used the toolkit in your local area! Email

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Churches for Middle East Peace

Churches for Middle East Peace
110 Maryland Ave. NE
Suite 311
Washington, DC 20002

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Franz Schemmel reflection: Re-creation is dying and rising, the path to hope

Pastor Franz Schemmel wrote this essay for the newsletter of Messiah Lutheran Church here in Weatherford, Texas, upon return home from our June trip to Palestine and Israel.

I have been frequently asked since returning from the Holy Land on June 18 whether I had a good time. It's a natural question, one we usually ask vacationers, and we hope to get a big "Yes" in response. In struggling to find an adequate reply, I have settled on this: I did not have a good time, but I had a good recreation, better stated as re-creation. Martin Luther, following St. Paul, describes the life of the baptized as a daily dying of the old person and a rising of the new. Perhaps it needs to be said that the dying doesn't always come easy, and the new life, like a baby's new life, starts out in weakness and tears and takes some long while to become self-confident and strong.

The dying part of this trip's re-creation took an unusual form: I found that I had to let go of something that I have always thought of as good. I had to let go of optimism. In this realization I took my cue from our hosts. Nearly everyone we spoke to had lost confidence in the value of the current peace process. Our Palestinian Lutheran friends have been waiting for the last two U.S. administrations to broker a peace that would bring about a Palestinian state. What they have seen instead is a steady increase on the limitations brought to their lives by the restrictions of Israeli military rule, the continuous construction of the separation wall that divides them not only from the Israelis but also from one another, and a hardening, rather than a softening, of attitudes between the conflicting parties in the general population. These difficulties have encouraged a steady emigration of Christians from the Holy Land, with the younger and best educated leading the way. I.e., for the Palestinians the larger trends are bleak indeed.

I am lucky. I have an American passport and can return to the equanimity of Weatherford, and I do not claim a visceral understanding of the deep disappointment of the Palestinians. But I am still saddened by my own loss of expectation that the political leadership of any persuasion in this country will do what is necessary to bring hope, justice, security, and peace to our brothers and sisters of all faiths in the Holy Land.

But it is the dying that makes possible the rising, as the scriptures teach us. Our Holy Land friends bear witness to this as well. As Rev. Mitri Raheb, pastor of Chistmas Lutheran Church in Bethlehem said to us, "I am not optimistic, but I am hopeful." Optimism depends on what we see. Hope depends on faith.

It is hope that inspires Pastor Raheb to open a college of fine arts in a place where all spirits are beaten down. (

It is hope that empowers Palestinian Lutheran schools to teach nonviolence in a place where violence is the path of least resistance.

It is hope that brings together the grieving Israeli and Palestinian parents of the Parent's Circle ( to seek a path of reconciliation out of their common bond of pain.

All these witness to us that the deep things of our faith are not made void by hatred, disaster, or war, but are instead made stronger by the hope from the Spirit that comes when false hope is lost. The birth of that true hope is true re-creation.

Blessings and peace,

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Monday, July 7, 2008

Lutheran World Federation calls for support for ongoing Israeli-Palestinian negotiations

LWI News online:
LWF Council Press Release No. 14-2008

LWF Council Calls for (...) Support for Ongoing Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations

ARUSHA, Tanzania, 1 July 2008 (LWI) - The Council of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) [...] applauded the current ongoing negotiations between the Israeli government and Palestinian authority, and encouraged the two leaderships to aim at reaching a final status agreement to a two-state solution and a shared Jerusalem.

"The Council calls upon the member churches to remind their members of the long-standing support of the LWF and World Council of Churches for an all inclusive, shared Jerusalem, as also reflected in the statement of the heads of Churches in Jerusalem in 2006," the Council stated.

The LWF governing body rejected any armed struggle to solve political divisions and encourage the Palestinian people to overcome their divisions, and pursue a unified strategy for justice, rule of law and a pluralistic state.

The Council reiterated its strong support for the ecclesiastical, educational and diaconal work of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and Holy Land in the face of grave challenges.

The Council is the LWF's governing body meeting between Assemblies held every six years.

Editor's E-Mail:

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Lutheran world Federation:

For more background see - Israel’s 60th Anniversary Should Be an Opportunity for Reorientation and Renewal: LWF General Secretary Appeals for Dialogue for Just Peace in Holy Land -

For information about the work of the LWF in the Jerusalem area -

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Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Lutheran youth undertake summer encounters

The July calendar from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) features youth of the church and their plans for summer encounters.

These and previous calendar pages can be useful in congregation newsletters, study groups and prayer circles. You can find download the calendar and photo at the ELCJHL calendar web page:

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ELCJHL young people are gathering for a number of different adventures this summer both within the ELCJHL and with international partners.

At the end of June, Pastor Sani Ibrahim Azar took about 50 youth 16 and under up to Nazareth for an ELCJHL Youth Retreat. This trip was easy to plan because those under 16 don't need a permit.

Unfortunately, the Israeli civil administration didn't give permits for 5 of the 10 young men from the Boys' Home in Beit Jala to go to our ELCA partner synod in New England to visit and go to a camp. So 4 of the boys will have to go through the Amman airport on their own to the states (West Bank people cannot use the Tel Aviv airport).

Pastor Imad Haddad from Beit Sahour accompanied youth from the Beit Sahour school choir and debke dancing team to Finland in June, where they performed and got to know their partners.

Pastor Azar of Redeemer church is also taking both a group adults and a group of youth on separate trips to their partner church in Bad Toelz, Germany. Thanks to all of our partners who are sharing these opportunities to enable our young people to learn from one another and build bridges between nations and churches.

(Prayer) Gracious God, watch over our young people and those they visit as they travel and gather this summer in all different places and surroundings. Guide their feet and shape their minds and hearts into strong and faithful leaders in our churches, society and homes, living with all neighbors in peace and justice. In Jesus' name, Amen.

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For lots more about the ELCJHL, see the church's web site:

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