Bethlehem, 10 January 2018 – Glowing tributes of the foundation that Bishop Younan established at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land (ELCJHL) matched the glow of friends, family, Jerusalem and international leaders, and dignitaries from Palestine and Jordan, as they celebrated the third Bishop of the ELCJHL.
Over 500 guests filled the Convention Palace in the small village of Bethlehem during the evening celebration of Bishop Younan’s 42 years of service to the church as youth pastor, as pastor of three ELCJHL churches, and as Bishop for 20 years.
Fellow Lutherans as well as ecumenical representatives, international organizations, and interreligious attendees honored him in song, speeches, gifts and photos.
In keeping with Bishop Younan’s longtime passion for gender justice, his wife Suad Younan was recognized for her own regional and international leadership toward gender justice. Many also thanked her for being a strong support for Bishop Younan throughout the years.
Susan Johnson, Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), emphasized how Bishop Younan insisted that the church in the Middle East value her role as a female bishop by always referring to Bishop Johnson as Her Grace. She also highlighted the genuine friendship that developed as their roles as bishops grew. “You carved out a place for me in every meeting and helped me grow into my role as bishop. You are my brother,” she said.
During the service, Bishop Younan was presented with a gold cross from the pastors of the ELCJHL led by Bishop-elect Sani Ibrahim Charlie Azar, who will be consecrated as his successor on January 12, 2018. “I partnered with you from the beginning in your work with youth. After that you took many positions, Beit Jala, Ramallah, and Jerusalem, until you were elected in 1998. Our hope is that you will remain a pillar of the church, and of all the projects that have been launched during your time as Bishop of the church,” said Bishop-elect Azar.
A representative from the Orthodox churches in Jerusalem said, “We come to bid farewell to our brother who served the Holy Land with dedication. He has been holding up Jerusalem, and has built and established many organizations and schools that serve the church and country, and those have become a strong foundation that are unique in the church that was established by Christ 2000 years ago.”
Apostolic Administrator of Jerusalem Pierbattista Pizzaballa of The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem also emphasized the value of Bishop Younan’s regional work.“If your community grows and flourishes all of our communities grow and flourish because we are one body. We celebrate the Lord for what he did through you. Thank you Bishop Munib Younan for being instrumental in the Lord’s providence among us.”
Bishop Younan served 7 years as the President of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) where he worked closely with LWF General Secretary Martin Junge. However, General Secretary Junge recalls Bishop Younan’s global influence even before his term as LWF President. “You came as a youth delegate in 1984 when some memorable decisions were being made: Apartheid in South Africa, equal participation of women and young people in the life of the communion.” General Secretary Junge, continued,
“I come here with a word of gratitude because these decisions taken decades ago are natural today. As a leader of the LWF you stood by them, reminding our churches that we have a commitment to all of them.”
The Rev. Dr. Andrea Zaki, President of the Egyptian development organization, CEOSS, who because of political restrictions could not join the events this evening from Egypt, sent a video message as a friend and as a colleague of Bishop Younan.
Toward the end of the evening, Bishop Younan approached the podium to honor those who faithfully walked with him during his leadership as Bishop of the ELCJHL and to indicate that he is not retired from the Gospel. “For the office may be passed on, and the Evangelical Lutheran bishop may retire according to the constitution of the church, but the call to serve the Gospel of Love cannot retire. The call of God never ends! For this reason, I will continue to be a servant of the Gospel, in whatever way God calls me next. I am out of office but not out of mission.”
Numerous gifts were bestowed upon Bishop Younan at the end of the evening.