After a two-year process, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) has been officially accepted as a member of the World Council of Churches (WCC). In Bishop Munib Younan’s address to the WCC, he stated, “That the World Council of Churches invited my relatively small church to be a full member of this Christ-centered organization is an action of solidarity that has not gone unnoticed in the Middle East. We are strengthened by your willingness to accompany us in the pathways of God’s calling.”
The ELCJHL was formally accepted into fellowship by a unanimous decision during a meeting of the Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches near Geneva, Switzerland on Tuesday, the 5th of March, 2013. The ELCJHL becomes the 350th church to join the WCC.
Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary of the WCC welcomed the ELCJHL saying, “The church represents a significant voice in a region where churches are under constant pressure for many reasons, and where the need for Christian presence, witness and service is very much needed…the fact that this decision made by exception shows the commitment of the fellowship of the WCC to give particular weight to the place of the churches in the Middle East in our midst, to receive their contribution for the benefit of the whole and to accompany them.” Rev. Dr Walter Altmann, moderator of the WCC Central Committee, thanked the ELCJHL for its “prophetic voice” in the Middle East.
Though the ELCJHL did not meet the normal size requirement to join the WCC, the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit pointed to the ELCJHL’s ecumenical work as being given large consideration in the Executive Committee’s vote, saying, “The ecumenical commitment of this church locally, regionally, and internationally is an important factor in this decision.” Bishop Younan, in thanking the committee for their decision, noted the importance of the work the WCC does in bringing churches together and the dependence of all churches on one another, no matter the size: “…It is self-evident that regardless of location, size, strength, or material possessions, no church body can be separated from the love of Christ shown to us in the communion of the saints. All churches, east, west, south or north are interdependent in our diverse gifts, traditions, and talents to be servants of the crucified Lord whom we love along with our neighbors who are God’s gift to all of us.”
The ELCJHL is a church of approximately 3,000 members with congregations throughout Jerusalem, Jordan, and the West Bank. “Although we are not great in number, our ministries are vast in their ecclesiastical, educational, cultural, and political scope. We are invested in women’s and children’s work, ecumenical and interfaith dialogue with every human being regardless of gender, political, or religious affiliation,” Bishop Younan pointed out. The ELCJHL is heavily involved in humanitarian ministries, including schools, youth leadership, women’s outreach, ecological care, as well as strong ties to the Lutheran World Federation and their Jerusalem program. The ELCJHL has more ministries than congregations, showing a deep commitment to their people, even with a small membership. Bishop Younan acknowledged this in his keynote thanking the WCC, stating, “As we read in the second chapter of Acts, only 12 apostles were needed to complete the work of the Holy Spirit and bring to life God’s church on Earth.”
The World Council of Churches is a worldwide fellowship of Christian churches that promote Christian unity as the core of their mission, as well as Christian service through their member churches in over 110 countries. The ELCJHL will join a number of churches in the Middle East already part of the WCC, including Orthodox and Protestant denominations. The WCC has a number of programs already in place in Jerusalem and the Occupied Palestinian Territories including the Jerusalem Inter-church Center, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), and the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF), programs that are supported by the ELCJHL. “We are interdependent in our common mission and dialogue to bring justice, eradicate poverty, and work toward a better stewardship so that all God’s children may have a sustainable future.”
To learn more about the ministries of the ELCJHL, visit the Ministry Page.
To read Bishop Younan’s Address to the WCC, you can find it here. (PDF)
By: Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land