Bishops' Academy 2009
Middle East Travel Jan. 6-13, 2009
More than half of the 66 bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the ELCA secretary, and five of the six bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
(ELCIC), plus spouses and staff visited the Middle East, Jan. 6-13, 2009. Participants met with Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian religious, community and political leaders, visited congregations and schools, and sites of religious significance.
The visit was the 2009 Bishops' Academy, an annual event in which leaders from both churches engage in theological reflection and study.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land
(ELCJHL) and its bishop, the Rev. Munib A. Younan, plus staff of the Lutheran World Federation
(LWF) are partners with the ELCA and ELCIC in planning the visit.
A small delegation, including the Rev. Mark S. Hanson
, ELCA presiding bishop, and the Rev. Susan C. Johnson
, ELCIC national bishop, traveled to Jordan, Jan. 3-6. They met Jordanian religious and political leaders
, plus ambassadors from Canada and the United States, before traveling to Jerusalem to meet their colleagues.
The Lutheran bishops' visit to Israel, Jordan and Palestine is a part of the 2005 ELCA Churchwide Strategy for Engagement in Israel and Palestine
. Bishops and spouses provided synod and personal funds for the visit.
The bishops discussed holding their annual academy in Israel and Palestine for years, said the Rev. Dean W. Nelson, bishop, ELCA Southwest California Synod, Glendale, and chair of the bishops' academy committee. In 2005 the LWF Council met in Bethlehem and Jerusalem, making such a visit seem possible, he said. Adoption of the ELCA Middle East strategy was an important catalyst, Nelson said.
"That action provided the framework for us to move forward in planning this trip," he said. "We expect this trip will enable us to grow in our awareness of the reality of life in Israel and Palestine, accompany our brothers and sisters in the ELCJHL in their witness and service, and become better advocates in our own countries for an end to the ongoing hostilities in the Holy Land." Nelson added he hopes that the presence of such a significant number of North American church leaders will have a positive impact on those working for peace in the region.