January 23, 2009
Bishops release report on visit to Holy LandBishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada released "Report and Reflections from the Bishops' Academy Visit to the Holy Land," an account of their recent visit to the Middle East.
The Jan. 22 report was signed by Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, and Susan C. Johnson, ELCIC national bishop, on behalf of academy participants.
Bishops from both churches visited Israel and the West Bank Jan. 6-13, and a few visited Jordan Jan. 3-6.
The 44 bishops met with religious, political and community leaders in the region, and visited sacred sites. The visit focused on supporting the mission and ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, learning about what life is like for Israelis and Palestinians, and advocating for peace and justice for all people there.
In their report, the Lutheran leaders noted that the war in Gaza between Hamas and Israel started shortly before the trip began, but the group decided to continue with their visit as planned.
"Throughout our time in the Holy Land, the situation in Gaza was a dramatic backdrop to our travels and for our conversations with people from different faiths and viewpoints who endure fear and bear oppression in ways that we have never known," Hanson and Johnson wrote.
The report recounts much of what the bishops experienced during their Holy Land visit. They concluded the report by pledging to continue to "accompany" the ELCJHL, to learn more about the situation in the Middle East and how to change it, "and to advocate in every way possible for the justice that will lead to the security and shared homeland that is the only foundation for lasting peace."
"We will be faithful in ongoing visitation to our Palestinian brothers and sisters, determined in our call to be a public church, and communicate with our governments for their intervention in the Middle East," the Lutheran bishops wrote. They added they will be "persistent in our efforts to build bridges with inter-religious partners, and courageous in telling the truth of the 'facts on the ground' in the Holy Land."
More: The Lutheran's editor Daniel J. Lehmann accompanied the bishops. Read his blog > >>