Monday, November 30, 2009

Nine ELCA synod bishops are visiting the Middle East

Forty-five Lutheran (ELCA) bishops visited the Holy Land earlier this year; now nine more will travel to the region as part of the bishops' initiative to support the ELCA's churchwide strategy, "Peace Not Walls - Stand for Justice in the Holy Land."

November 24, 2009

Nine ELCA Synod Bishops Preparing for Middle East Visit

Here's a link to the story on the ELCA website:

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Nine synod bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) are preparing to visit Israel and the West Bank Nov. 28-Dec. 8, as part of the ELCA Conference of Bishops' initiative to support a churchwide strategy for engagement in the region.

The trip, Bishops' Academy II, includes bishops who were unable or opted not to join colleagues whotraveled to the region in January of this year. At that time Israelis and Palestinians were fighting in Gaza, and the conflict's effect on the bishops' visit was unknown as the bishops were preparing to begin their trip.

Forty-four bishops attended Bishops' Academy I, representing the ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC). They visited the West Bank and Israel, and met with religious, political and community leaders. The bishops also visited religious sites. Their visit focused on support and encouragement for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL).

On this trip the itinerary will be similar. The bishops will meet with United Nations representatives; visit and worship with ELCJHL congregations; meet with groups of Christians, Jews and Muslims; visit the holocaust memorial Yad Vashem; hold discussions at a synagogue and participate in a Shabbat service; meet students in Lutheran schools; visit a refugee camp; plant trees and worship near the Israeli separation barrier; visit the Lutheran World Federation's Augusta Victoria Hospital in East Jerusalem; and visit Hebron, a West Bank city where Palestinians and Israeli settlers reside.

The trip's purposes are to deepen awareness of the situation in the region; to demonstrate accompaniment by building relationships with religious groups to promote peace; and to strengthen the church's advocacy for a just peace, said the Rev. Peter C. Johnson, ELCA Global Mission regional representative, Cairo, Egypt, in a telephone interview. Johnson will lead the bishops on their visit.

The itinerary will be as balanced as possible, acknowledging that the ELCA is in an accompaniment relationship with the people of the ELCJHL, Johnson said. Also coordinating the visit is Martin Shoffner, ELCA Global Mission, Jerusalem.

"I hope they will have a deep understanding of the complexities on the ground," Johnson said of his hopes for the bishops' visit. "This is another opportunity for the ELCA to enter deeply into an area of the world in crisis for many years. I hope this will help the church engage in this area more publicly."

"They (ELCA bishops) are welcome to visit us," said the Rev. Munib A. Younan, bishop of the ELCJHL. "We are happy they can finally come. I want to assure them that even though there is no war now, things are not better because there is (still) an impasse in the region." He said people in the region are concerned about the U.S. government's role in the Middle East.

"We are very worried about the situation. But this is the reason for accompaniment -- that you come and visit in a time of need," Younan said.

ELCA synod bishops planning to be part of Bishops' Academy II are the Rev. Michael L. Burk, Southeastern Iowa Synod, Iowa City; the Rev. Warren D. Freiheit, Central-Southern Illinois Synod, Springfield; the Rev. Robert D. Hofstad, Southwestern Washington Synod, Tacoma; the Rev. B. Penrose Hoover, Lower Susquehanna Synod, Harrisburg, Pa.; the Rev. Michael A. Last, Western Iowa Synod, Storm Lake; the Rev. Mark E. Narum, Western North Dakota Synod, Bismarck; the Rev. Robert A. Rimbo, Metropolitan New York Synod; the Rev. Thomas A. Skrenes, Northern Great Lakes Synod, Marquette, Mich.; and the Rev. Steven S. Talmage, Grand Canyon Synod, Phoenix.

In most cases, the bishops are taking spouses on the trip. Bishops and spouses provided synodical and personal funds for the visit.


Information about Bishops' Academy I is at on the ELCA Web site.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or
ELCA News Blog:

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