The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ELCA), issued a letter yesterday calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and southern Israel and asking ELCA members to to make Sunday, Jan. 4, "a day for justice and peace in the land of peace." The letter affirmed plans for the Conference of ELCA Bishops and their Canadiana counterparts to visit religious, government and community leaders, congregations and schools in Jordan, Israel and the West Bank Jan 6-13. Bishop Hanson's letter is at this link - http://www.elca.org/Who-We-Are/Our-Three-Expressions/Churchwide-Organization/Office-of-the-Presiding-Bishop/Messages-and-Statements.aspx - and at the end of this bulletin.
Here's is the ELCA's new release:
ELCA NEWS SERVICE
January 1, 2009
ELCA Presiding Bishop Calls for Gaza Ceasefire; Bishops Prep for Visit 09-001-JB
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), said the ELCA joins with all people calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and southern Israel. Hanson also asked ELCA members to join Middle East religious leaders who requested that Sunday, Jan. 4, be "a day for justice and peace in the land of peace," he wrote in a Dec. 31 pastoral letter.
Hanson issued the letter as the ELCA Conference of Bishops and bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCiC) prepare to visit religious, government and community leaders, congregations and schools in Jordan, Israel and the West Bank. They scheduled the visit months ago as part of their annual academy, a time of theological reflection and study.
At least 39 ELCA bishops, plus 5 ELCIC bishops, 27 spouses and 14 ELCA churchwide staff are expected to make the Jan. 6-13 visit. A smaller delegation will visit Jordan beginning Jan. 3. The visit is intended to show support for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and Holy Land (ELCJHL), led by its bishop, the Rev. Munib A. Younan, and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). The bishops also want to learn more about the complexities in the region, and to promote just and peaceful solutions to the conflict.
"This is a tragic yet opportune time for North American Lutherans to visit their partners in Palestine," said Younan, also an LWF vice president, in a news release. "They will have a unique opportunity to witness the challenges of living in this disputed land."
Leading the delegations from the North American Lutheran churches are Hanson and the Rev. Susan C. Johnson, ELCIC national bishop. The visit is being coordinated with staff and leaders from both churches, the ELCJHL and the LWF. Hanson is also LWF president.
The ELCA and the ELCIC are monitoring events as the bishops prepare for their visit, Hanson wrote. This week bishops and staff of both churches met several times by conference call "and are united in their assessment that the trip is timelier than ever and should proceed," he said in the letter.
"In this very difficult time, the bishops hope that their presence can be a source of comfort to these partners and manifest support for these ministries," Hanson wrote.
"The continuing loss of life, infliction of serious injury and devastation of property will only deepen hatred and divisions, and will serve no good end. Only negotiations, leading to a two-state solution, will bring about a durable peace with justice for both Israelis and Palestinians," the presiding bishop wrote.
The ELCA and ELCIC bishops invited prayers from members. "On behalf of their churches, the bishops offer to their Christian sisters and brothers and to all people affected by the conflict, their steadfast support, and their efforts and prayers for peace to prevail and healing to begin," Hanson's letter concluded.
Financial gifts sent to the ELCA in response to the conflict in Gaza will support relief efforts of Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH), an LWF facility on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, and relief efforts of ELCA International Disaster Response, said Megan E. Bradfield, associate director for international development, ELCA Global Mission. AVH is responding to the medical needs of cancer and dialysis patients from Gaza, she said.
The full text of Presiding Bishop Hanson's statement is at http://www.ELCA.org/bishopstatement on the ELCA Web site.
Information about the bishops' Middle East visit is at http://blogs.ELCA.org/09cobacademy/ on the ELCA Web site.
Here is the full text of Bishop Hanson's letter:
December 31, 2008
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
"For all the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. For a child has been born for us, a son given to us; authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His authority shall grow continually, and there shall be endless peace for the throne of David and his kingdom. He will establish and uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time onward and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this." (Isaiah 9:5-7)
In this New Year, we turn again to the Lord of hosts -- praying urgently for the justice, righteousness and peace hailed by the birth of the newborn babe in the manger, the humble child, the Prince of Peace.
In these days of terrible violence, death and destruction in Gaza and southern Israel, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) joins its voice with all in the region and around the world who call for an immediate ceasefire. The continuing loss of life, infliction of serious injury and devastation of property will only deepen hatred and divisions, and will serve no good end. Lamenting the recent escalation of violence, only negotiations, leading to a two-state solution, will bring about a durable peace with justice for both Israelis and Palestinians.
The ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) are carefully monitoring events in the region as their bishops prepare for their upcoming Academy visit, the planning for which began two years ago. Bishops of both churches have met several times this week by phone, and are united in their assessment that the trip is timelier than ever and should proceed. In keeping with the 2005 ELCA "Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine," the trip emphasizes accompaniment with its Lutheran partners in the region, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) and The Lutheran World Federation (LWF). In this very difficult time, the bishops hope that their presence can be a source of comfort to these partners and manifest support for these ministries.
ELCA congregations are invited to join with the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, including Bishop Munib Younan of the ELCJHL, who have called for this Sunday, January 4, to be "a day for justice and peace in the land of peace." The ELCA joins them in calling upon, "officials of both parties to the conflict to ... refrain from all violent acts, which only bring destruction and tragedy, and urge them instead to work to resolve their differences through peaceful and non-violent means." And the ELCA joins them in praying, "for the victims, the wounded and the broken-hearted. May the Lord God Almighty grant all those who have lost loved ones consolation and patience. We pray for all those living in panic and fear, that God may bless them with calm, tranquility and true peace."
The ELCA and ELCIC bishops invite the continuing prayers of their church members for building peace among Christians, Jews and Muslims and all of the region's peoples. On behalf of their churches, the bishops offer to their Christian sisters and brothers and to all people affected by the conflict, their steadfast support and their efforts and prayers for peace to prevail and healing to begin.
The Rev. Mark S. HansonPresiding Bishop
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
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