Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Munib Younan Elected President of Lutheran World Federation

While I was riding my bike in Iowa, Palestinian Bishop Younan was elected president of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

Here is a link to the LWF assembly news:

And the story...

Palestinian Bishop Elected President of the Lutheran World Federation

Bishop Munib A. Younan is a Passionate Campaigner for Peace and Inter-Faith Dialogue in the Middle East

STUTTGART, Germany, 24 July 2010 – Bishop Munib A. Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) has been elected President of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) by the Eleventh Assembly here, a gathering of 418 delegates and others from the LWF member churches.

Three hundred and sixty registered delegates voted, representing 145 member churches from 79 countries. Rt Rev. Dr Younan received 300 votes affirming his election, 23 against; there were 37 abstentions. There were no other nominees.
Younan, 59, succeeds Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, who has been President of the LWF since the organization’s last Assembly in Winnipeg, Canada, in 2003.

Ordained in 1976 after study in Palestine and gaining a degree from Helsinki [Finland] University, Younan was a youth pastor and teacher in his homeland. From 1976 to 1979 he was pastor of the Church of the Redeemer in Jerusalem and he has also served parishes in Beit Jala and Ramallah. He studied at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and he holds an honorary doctorate, granted by Wartburg Theological Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa.

The president-elect has headed his church body since 1998 and was the third Palestinian bishop of the church founded by Germans in the nineteenth century and previously led by clergy from Germany. A member of the LWF since 1974, the ELCJHL has about 3,000 members.

The bishop was the first to translate the Augsburg Confession, a key document of the Lutheran Church, into Arabic.

Younan is a former vice-president of the LWF, is president of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches and serves with three Jerusalem patriarchs and nine other bishops on the International Christian Committee of Jerusalem. He is also a co-founder of the Council of Religious Institutions in the Holy Land, made up of the two chief rabbis of Israel, heads of the local churches, the Chief Judge of the Islamic Court in Palestine and other Muslim leaders.

He is the author of Witnessing for Peace, a book about the search for peace in his homeland and numerous articles on churches and the search for peace in the Holy Land.

His wife, Suad, is Director of the Helen Keller School in the Jerusalem suburb of Beit Hanina, which educates visually-impaired children. She is also the chair of the women’s committee of the ELCJHL.

The couple has three children and one grandchild.

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“Who could imagine the Holy Land without Christians?” Younan asked -- see the story at this link:

“Who could imagine the Holy Land without Christians?”

Pray that Christians not flee the Holy Land, says LWF president-elect

STUTTGART, Germany, 25 July 2010 – In his first sermon as president-elect of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Rt Rev. Dr Munib A.Younan told a congregation today that Christians should be “children of the light,” and urged them to “pray that Palestinian Christians may not lose faith and leave the country.” He was preaching at the Andreaskirche in Uhlbach, a suburb of Stuttgart.

Christ walked in the Holy Land, he said. “Who could imagine the Holy Land … without Christians?” the bishop asked. Younan is bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHC).

“We as Christians and especially as Lutherans have a role to play in the Middle East in reconciliation and interfaith dialogue,” the president-elect said.
“I sometimes ponder the fact that there have been Christians in Palestine since the first Pentecost,” he said, and added, “Now we Palestinian Christians are less than 1.5 per cent of the population.” Palestinian Christians leave their homeland for three reasons: “ the difficulties caused by the political conflict, a lack of jobs and growing political and religious extremism.”

“Even so,” he continued, “Palestinian Christianity has survived 2,000 years. We have never ruled the country, nor were we ever in the majority. We do not have much property, power, money or influence. Yet we have survived.”

That survival, he said, is because “we have carried the death and resurrection of our Lord in our bodies, souls and minds.” Palestinian Christians should be “brokers of justice, instruments of peace, ministers of reconciliation, defenders of human rights including women’s rights and apostles of love,” he said. The bishop has been active in a variety of inter-religious activities in his homeland and has held high positions in local ecumenical and inter-religious groups.

Christian love reaches across religious and ethnic boundaries, Younan told the congregation. He recalled being asked about a Christian woman who had been seen caring for a Muslim child. He had responded, “As Christians we are called to serve every human being regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, religion or political affiliation.”

Younan said that as “children of the light,” a phrase from the biblical book of Ephesians, Christians should work to promote justice, peace and reconciliation and “to eliminate Islamophobia, xenophobia and antisemitism.”

The bishop and several other visitors from the LWF Assembly were introduced to the congregation by Rev. Margarete Goth, pastor of the church situated amid Uhlbach’s famous vineyards and not far from the burial chapel with tombs of Wuertemberg royalty from previous centuries.

Younan’s term as LWF President begins as the Eleventh Assembly ends here 27 July.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

ELCA Middle East Network Newsletter highlights boycott, divestment and sanctions policies

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Peace Not Walls Campaign has issued its July 2010 Middle East Network Newsletter. There is a lot of information in this edition, including an important memo detailing ELCA policies regarding boycott, divestment, and sanctions and relevant actions from 2005 and 2007 churchwide assemblies. I've posted a few excerpts here, but do go to the link for the entire update.

Middle East Network Newsletter - July 9, 2010 -

ELCA Presiding Bishop meets with staff of National Security Council

Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson met with Denis McDonough, chief of staff of the White House National Security Council, on July 1 to support the current U.S. administration in its efforts to take a principal role in achieving peace. Click
here to read the news story -


ELCA policies re boycott, divestment, and sanctions and relevant actions from 2005 and 2007 churchwide assemblies
(This summary has been prepared by Dennis Frado, Director, Lutheran Office for World Community, and Pat Zerega, Director for Corporate Social Responsibility, Church in Society.)

Find background and documents for all relevant Churchwide assembly actions, including the 2005 Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine and 2007 and 2009 memorials -

In 2005, Churchwide Assembly called for: 6. stewarding financial resources-both U.S. tax dollars and private funds -in ways that support the quest for a just peace in the Holy Land; and 7. giving generously to help ensure the continuation of the schools and other ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land and the humanitarian work of The Lutheran World Federation through Augusta Victoria Hospital and other ministries.

In 2007, Churchwide Assembly refined the call saying: 5. To call upon the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to underscore the call for economic initiatives by this church and its members in the "Peace, Not Walls" campaign.

Such initiatives, in consultation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, could include:
• purchasing of products from Palestinian providers and
• exploration of the feasibility of refusing to buy products produced in Israeli settlements. Also to be explored is the entire investment activity by this church. Examination of investments would exclude the option of divestiture.

In 2005 the Corporate Social Responsibility program developed a response to the Churchwide Assembly's action urging ELCA members to participate in the Peace Not Walls campaign. After study, the Advisory Committee on Corporate Responsibility (ACCSR) recommended in November of 2006 (and subsequently adopted in the spring 2007) the following plan of action for the programs work:
+ Continue to exercise our weapons economic social criteria investment screen. + Continue the dialogue with Caterpillar on development of a human rights policy, expressing our continuing concern with the presence of their product in the Middle East hostilities and destruction of Palestinian homes.
+ Continue to review the possibility of approaching other companies on a human rights (resolution) basis.
+ Consider at the ACCSR the opportunities and limitations for fulfilling the mandate of the Peace Not Walls campaign relative to the stewardship of resources, specifically in the area of multinational corporations that have established facilities or operations in the Occupied Territories (as defined by the United Nations).

Whenever possible, this work would be undertaken with our ecumenical partners whenever their strategy is in line with our Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine.

In April 2009 the ACCSR approved a guide for congregations, synods and Lutheran institutions on how to develop a Selective purchasing policy. One segment of that guide is around the Middle East -

In addition the Peace Not Walls campaign website describes a variety of possible positive investments in the Palestinian economy that can be made through travel, purchasing crafts and supporting the ELCJHL's Schools, the Augusta Victoria Hospital and Global Mission personnel. The ACCSR has approved a number of social investment criteria screens which provide a way for the ELCA to look at its investments through the lens of faith -

All of the screens begin with the social policy of the Church. The ELCA's social statements and social policy resolutions outline the policy of the church on a variety of current issues. This is interpreted for investment practices through the development of a social criteria investment screen. When a screen is approved by the Church Council, it is distributed to a range of Lutheran entities for them to implement. But, we must remember that, regardless of the subject matter, every screen is given for guidance to the bodies that implement them, whether it is a synod, individual congregation or something as large as the Board of Pensions.

CSR recognizes that various investors will implement these screens along a continuum. Some examples include the ability to fund research in an area or carrying out a specific fiduciary duty. Each member and each organization will implement a screen based on their own set of standards. The ELCA has no policy to support or direct a procedure of divestment. Absent such a policy, the ELCA could not make a decision for divestment of investments. It should also be noted that all separately incorporated entities of the ELCA including the Board of Pensions implement ELCA policy recommendations within their own guidelines and fiduciary duties. When it comes to the specific situation concerning the economic activities of the Peace Not Walls campaign, the 2007 Churchwide assembly action specifically excludes the option of exploration of divestment. (see point 5 in 2007 assembly action - ) Some of CSR's activities involve dialogues and resolutions.

The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility is where the work of CSR traditionally takes place. The ELCA CSR program works at ICCR with partners from a variety of denominations, religious orders and the socially responsible investment community. In 2005 a sub-group gathered to see if there was work around the Middle East that could be done together. The work has centered on the development of corporate human rights policies, equal employment opportunity and a presence of factories in the settlements.

All of the dialogues that ELCA participates in are framed by the Issue Papers which have been developed -

These are used to guide the internal work of the CSR program as well as give guidance to those voting proxy resolutions throughout the church.

Another topic much discussed is sanctions. These are sometimes defined as punitive or restrictive measures taken, usually by several countries in concert, to pressure a country to change its certain policies. For example, economic sanctions ban trading with a given country, and diplomatic sanctions can result in the withdrawal of relations anddiplomatic representation. ELCA has no specific policy about sanctions.

Lastly, the ELCA has a specific procedure concerning any possible boycott.

A boycott has been defined as a collective effort to abstain from the purchase or use of products or services provided by a targeted firm, government, or other agency. The purpose of a boycott is to persuade the targeted entity to cease certain practices judged to be unjust, and/or to perform certain practices deemed to be just. Boycotts in the faith community have been taken both against an individual company -- such as the Nestlé infant formula boycott which began in the 1970s -- or an industry such as the lettuce boycott of the 1980s. Boycotts only work if there is an economic impact and media coverage. The ELCA's procedure concerning a boycott is detailed and therefore would likely take some time to be considered.

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There is so much more in the July 2010 Middle East Network Newsletter. Find it at this page:

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Lutheran youth visiting Israel and Palestine post reflections

There is a wonderful array of pictures, video and personal reports from the the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Holy Land Youth Mission at this website -

The ELCA/ELCJHL Holy Land Youth Mission is traveling in the Holy Land July 7-22 with 11 people, including six high school students and young adults, to develop relationships and a better understanding of the life, faith and realities of our sisters and brothers in Christ and others who live there. This initiative grew out of the Southeast Michigan Synod’s tradition of taking youth to the Holy Land to visit their international companion, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) -

The group is meeting with ELCJHL youth and visiting groups working for peace with justice, learning about peace-building in the realities of occupation and will learn about advocating for justice and peace upon return home. This initiative also is an outcome of the heightened interest in the Holy Land generated by the Bishops’ Academy trip there in January. You can follow the journey here or on Facebook at ELCA/ELCJHL Holy Land Youth Mission -!/group.php?gid=127509912072

Frequency of posts will depend upon internet capability.

On July 13 Pastor Julie Rowe began her entry this way:
"Unity in diversity. Diversity in unity. Steps away from the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where Christians from around the world come to the empty tomb of Jesus, the English-, Arabic- and German-speaking congregations of the Redeemer Lutheran Church celebrated worship together, speaking and singing the same words and songs of faith in their own language. We stood and sang, the same melody, yet different languages, cadences and consonants colliding, finding it difficult yet magical in a way, being able to share favorite words and hymns together yet separately. For some, it was too hard, for others it was interesting and inspiring.

"So it is with us here, Americans in Jerusalem visiting our Palestinian Lutheran companions. We are one faith, one body, one baptism, yet live such different lifestyles and cultures. But united melodies run through us all: when one member of the body suffers, we all suffer. When one member rejoices, we all rejoice. We follow the One who breaks down the walls, the barriers, the hostility, through truth-telling and justice-making, and calls us all to be messengers of reconciliation.

"Yet as one member of the group asked today, "How do we really make peace when people are treated so unequally. How do we make peace when one people is subject to occupation by another? Is it really possible?"

Read the entire post at this web link:

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bishop Munib Younan holds up the need for `daily bread'

Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan, a Palestinian Christian bishop from Jerusalem points to the need for the “daily bread” of justice across gender divisions, ethnic differences, economic inequities and national boundaries.

The search for justice also means work to protect the integrity of God’s creation.

See the video at the website of the Lutheran World Federation Assembly (and you should scroll down to the bottom of the page):

Bishop Dr Munib A. Younan
Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
LWF Vice-President, Asia

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