Covering the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada National Convention
Bishop Younan Keynote Address
Munib Younan, the Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, in an impassioned message to the assembly Thursday night, reminded convention goers that in Christ, God’s grace is given to us as a free and unconditional gift.
“The theme Liberated by God’s grace did not come out of our heads but was taken directly from the theological writings of Martin Luther.”
Bishop Younan offered a glimpse into his views on grace.
“We live in a world of wealth,” he said. “Everything costs and everything has a price. My relationship with God is not built on my merits but on liberation by God by grace through faith.”
Battling against religious extremism, populism, greed, hatred and division that is trying to kidnap not only the church but the entire world, Bishop Younan said it is our responsibility to let the light of God’s free gift of grace shine for the sake of our neighbours.
Breaking down the three subthemes of this year’s convention theme, Bishop Younan talked about Salvation is Not for Sale, pointing out that extremism is the antithesis of love.
“Extremists promote their own agenda, not God’s agenda,” he said. “Faith has been contaminated. They pick and choose scripture to suit their own purposes.
Speaking about Human Beings Not for Sale, Bishop Younan said human beings have come a long way in 500 years but there is still work to be done.
“Humans are still considered to be only commodities, and their only value is seen in terms of profit.”
Bishop Younan said that human trafficking is a business.
“While we may like to think of slavery as a thing of the past,” he said, “the reality is the exploitation of workers is done in a quieter less visible way today. We can call them migrant workers, temporary workers or undocumented domestic help but in the end it is still white slavery.”
Pointing to the plight of the thousands of refugees that seek safety and welcome outside their war-torn countries, Bishop Younan thanked those who have lent a hand already but said more needs to be done.
“Many refugees are seen only as political commodities or considered to be economic liabilities.”
Bishop Younan lays part of the blame for the crisis on western colonization.
“When we speak on human rights and colonization in Canada,” he said, “we must really address the issue of First Nations people.”
Bishop Younan compared our relationship with our indigenous population to how Palestinians are treated in Jordan. As partners in mission, he offered the ECJHL’s support in terms of building relationships with them.
He also stated that his church could offer help in how to live with Muslims, if we wanted the help. The 1400 years of peace between the two bodies has been a gift from God.
“It’s beyond time for the global church to contend with it’s history of support and participation in colonialism.”
The Bishop urges us to raise our voices against the colonial empire that still exists today and to speak up for the human rights of all.
“God created all of us in God’s image,” he said. “Those who are liberated by God’s grace are those who are working for the dignity of human beings.”
Pointing to Creation Not for Sale, Bishop Younan said creation is a gift from God. We did nothing to deserve such beauty, such diversity and such abundance.
He was disappointed at the United States’ decision to back out of the Paris Agreement, stating that the agreement has been signed by most of the world. He said the agreement signals a global understanding that the earth is the responsibility of every nation.
“We are all caretakes of the precious gift of our earthly home and of every creature that lives upon it. This is God’s creation and human beings are to care for it. We are to tend to God’s beautiful garden.”
Bishop Younan feels shame that the world’s resources aren’t shared more evenly. He also pointed to the church’s misguided resistance to scientific knowledge as a hindrance that could lead to disaster. He said the crisis of climate change provides a new important opportunity for our global Lutheran communion to commit to constructive engagement with scientific knowledge.
“If we are able to be like trees planted by the streams of living water, we must do our best to preserve the climate in which those waters flow. If we are able to be deeply rooted, we must do our best to address the interlocking systems that will lead to much greater displacement than we have already seen in climate related disasters.”