calendar January 25, 2009 in News

Lutheran bishops reflect on Holy Land visit

Bishop Claire S. Burkat was among a contingent of ELCA bishops attending the 2009 Bishops’ Academy in the Middle East January 6-14.  The unprecedented visit by many of North America’s Lutheran bishops was made more significant by the outbreak of war in Gaza.


The Bishops Reflect

The Conference of Bishops posted a reflection on the trip on the ELCA website.

"During our travels, we heard many variations of the words: "You came at just the right time to uphold our spirits," and we were glad we came. In this kairos time together, God opened our hearts to one another. We began to understand more fully the details of the relentless persecution and cruel effect of the Israeli occupation of Palestine on the lives and spirits of the Palestinian people.

"But we also saw partnerships among Christians, Jews, and Muslims that offered hope that our shared Abrahamic tradition can lead to a shared land and a shared Jerusalem."

Read the complete message here.


Reports from the trip


Christians express fear, concern

RAMALLAH, West Bank (ELCA) — Israel is targeting the small Palestinian Christian community here, threatening a key connection to the West and worrying Christian leaders, said Dr. Rafiq Husseini, chief of staff to the president, Palestinian National Authority. He made the comment Jan. 13 in a meeting here with seven North American Lutheran bishops. Read more.

Bishops meet key Muslim leader

RAMALLAH, West Bank (ELCA) — A key Muslim leader here told a group of seven North American Lutheran bishops Jan. 13 that Christians and Muslims must work together for peace and justice. Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Al-Tamini, supreme judge of the Islamic Shari’a Courts in Palestine, suggested that world Muslim and Christian leaders meet soon and deliver "a strong message to the world" for peace in the wake of failed political negotiations and escalating violence in Gaza. Read more.

Dash to the finish

The final day of a trip to the Middle East by North American Lutheran bishops ended with a flurry of activity, with most clergy visiting West Bank schools while a smaller delegation made contact with political and government leaders. Read more.

Bishops pray at separation barrier

BEDDO, West Bank (ELCA) — North American Lutheran bishops visited this small Palestinian village in the West Bank, northwest of Jerusalem, an area where the Israeli separation barrier cuts through Palestinian agricultural lands, making way for Israeli settlements to be constructed. Many of the bishops helped plant olive trees near the barrier as signs of peace. Read more.

Bishops learn about Bethlehem ministry

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (ELCA) — With the vision "that we might have life and have it abundantly," a Lutheran congregation here has embarked on a ministry of preaching, teaching and healing, aimed at empowering the people who live in this conflicted area. Read more.

Tree power

Monday found Lutheran bishops from North America planting olive trees, praying for peace and understanding along a separation wall and listening to students at a West Bank school speak frankly about their future. Read more.

Bishops preach at Middle East worship

BETHLEHEM, West Bank (ELCA) — Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) attended and preached at worship services Jan. 11 at five Lutheran congregations in Jerusalem and throughout the West Bank. Read more.

Lutherans worship at Church of the Holy Sepulchre for first time

JERUSALEM (ELCA) — For the first time North American Lutheran bishops, spouses and staff worshipped Jan. 9 at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a historic religious site built on the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. Read more.

Bishops hear from families of conflict victims

JERUSALEM (ELCA) — One man mourns a daughter, the other grieves a father. Their losses put them on an unlikely path to friendship in an area of the world marked by Palestinian-Israeli strife.

Read more.

An extraordinary experience

Jan. 9 — In a brief email, Bishop Burkat says the trip is "an extraordinary experience." On January 9, Bishop Hanson and Bishop Younan celebrated Eucharist in the chapel of the Resurrection in the church of the Holy Sepulchre. This is the place of Jesus’ crucifixtion and resurrection. According to Bishop Younan, this is the first time Protestants have held services here. "Our presence here is enormously appreciated by our Lutheran brothers and sisters" in the ELCJHL, she said.


Lutherans worship at Jesus’ baptism site

AMMAN, Jordan (ELCA) Jan. 6 — About 60 people, including about 10 bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), worshipped at the site of Jesus’ Baptism on the banks of the Jordan River on the Feast of the Epiphany, Jan. 6.  Joining the bishops were members of Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church, Amman, a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL). Learn more


Bishop Hanson calls for peace in Gaza

AMMAN, Jordan (ELCA) Jan. 7 — The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), said the United States government needs to take a more active role in stopping the conflict in Gaza. Stopping the conflict needs to be a top priority, and it must be accomplished as soon as possible, he said. Learn more


Prayers for peace

Bishop Burkat shared the following prayers, which were distributed to bishops participating in the trip:God of mercy and compassion,

Of grace and reconciliation,
Pour your power upon all your children in the Middle East;
Jews, Muslims and Christians,
Palestinians and Israelis.
Let hatred be turned into love, fear to trust, despair to hope,
Oppression to freedom, occupation to liberation,
That violent encounters may be replaced by loving embraces,
And peace and justice could be experienced by all. Amen
The Rev. Said Ailabouni, Pastor
Grace Lutheran Church, La Grange, IL
Sustain together in undiminished hope, O God of hope,
Those who continue to labor with undiminished determination
To build peace in the land from which, of old, out of brokenness, violence and destruction,
nevertheless hope emerged for so many of faith.
Bless all the spiritual seed of Abraham together with the light of your Presence.
For in the light of your Presence we have found a way of justice and mercy
and a vision of Peace.
We praise you O God, Giver of Peace, who commands us to Peace. Amen
Rabbi Herbert Bronstein, Emeritus
Northshore Congregation Israel, Glencoe, IL
In the Name of God, The Everlasting Merciful, The Cherisher
Of the Worlds and Worthy of all Praise,
Our Lord: You have created us…made us into Nations and Tribes
that we may know one another
(Not that we may despise each other). So…
Help us to love each other.
Take the hatred and anger from our hearts so that the People of the Book,
Christians, Jews and Muslims,
In the Middle East may live in Peace and Justice. Amen
Dawud Ahmad Assad
Council of Masques, USA, New York, NY


Pre-trip information

Visit "a mitvah," bishop says

The Bishop’s Academy, an annual time of theological reflection for leaders of both churches, is being held in the Middle East in order to help bishops experience the reality of life in Israel and Palestine and accompany their sisters and brothers in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jerusalem and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) in their witness and service.

“The people of the ELCJHL live with this fear and uncertainty daily,” Bishop Burkat said, explaining why the bishops are proceeding with the trip despite the hostilities in the region.  “I consider it an honor and a mitzvah to be a vessel for whatever shalom, salaam, or peace that Christ can bring through us” to this situation, she said.


For your prayers

"starO God, it is your desire that all the nations of the earth live in peace and harmony. You sent your prophets to turn your people from war. And to fulfill your will, you sent your Word Jesus Christ, to become flesh and dwell with us amid our brokenness. As the Prince of Peace he invites all people into your kingdom, where violence and oppression will cease and Shalom will reign. Gracious God, look with mercy on those areas of our world afflicted by war, especially Israel and Palestine. Send the light of Christ into the darkness of conflict, protect the innocent who are in harm’s way, and comfort those who have been injured or lost loved ones, homes, or freedom. Especially be with our sisters and brothers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jerusalem and the Holy Land as they witness and serve in your name. Protect and guide Presiding Bishop Hanson, Synodical Bishop Burkat, many bishops of the ELCA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, their spouses and churchwide staff as they gather in the Middle East this week to witness to your peace, justice and mercy in the midst of this troubled land.