JERUSALEM, 20 January 2012 – Earlier this week Bishop Younan invited ELCA Seminary group in the Holy Land for international study courses to visit with him over lunch at the Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Younan, who has served as Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) since 1998, and as President of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) since 2010, began conversation speaking about the rootedness and importance of a Theology of Accompaniment, saying:
“This theological idea comes from Luke 24, where the two disciples were walking together on the way to Emmaus—confused, asking questions. And Jesus was all the time facilitating the dialogue, hearing their queries. Until they get to Emmaus, and Jesus breaks the bread, and in the Eucharist they see Jesus to be as he is, because the accompanied each other—Jesus accompanied them, they accompanied Jesus, and both of them accompanied each other.”
“I think this is exactly how we are working—the ELCJHL and the ELCA. We are working in a theology of accompaniment that is so strong. That respects the local church—the local church in the United States, and the local church here, the ELCJHL. And always in accompaniment, we never count how many members belong to that church or to this church. We accompany each other as sisters and brothers in Christ…”
“We accompany each other by asking one another ‘how can we proclaim the Gospel of Christ and administer the sacraments in our context in a very strong way?’ ‘How can we help each other?’”
Together, the group also explored issues of the Arab Spring, the current political situation in the Holy Land, Arab Christian emigration, the call to service in the wider community, and witness.
The seminary groups have been spending time this January visiting Holy Places and Holy People as they learn about this Holy Land: past and present. Most of the ELCA Seminary groups have also visited ELCJHL Schools and Educational Programs during their visits and worshipped with ELCJHL congregations.
Groups included ELCA students preparing for ordained or diaconal rosters, families, and guests. The students will return later this month to their seminaries to begin spring semester classes.
The more than 100-person gathering included groups from three of the eight ELCA seminaries. Represented were the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC), led by Professors Esther Menn and Barbara Rossing; the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg (LTSG), led by Professors Robin Steinke and Marty Stevens, with Professor Kristin Largen; and Wartburg Theological Seminary (WTS) in Dubuque, Iowa, led by Professor Thomas Schattauer.
Also joining the groups for the lunch was Jonathan Steiner, an MDiv Middler from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia (LTSP), who came to learn more about the Holy Land because of his sister, Michele Steiner’s, year of service abroad as a 2011-2012 ELCA Young Adult in Global Mission (YAGM) serving with the ELCJHL in Jerusalem.
Also, YAGM Courtney Weller, on leave this year from her MDiv studies at LTSG, spent time with the group from her seminary as they were introduced to some of the ELCJHL congregational and educational ministries. Courtney is serving this year at the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour.
Because of a prior scheduled trip to Jordan, the group from the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary (LTSS) , led by Professor Lamontte Luker, was unable to attend the luncheon, but visited with ELCJHL congregational and educational ministries earlier in their trip.