Saturday, July 24, 2010

LWF President-elects First Press Conference: Hardest questions first

Press Conference with Munib Younan
Reported by John Spangler

Right out of the box, the questions came hard and fast for President-elect Munib Younan following his election. The first question was offered by secular press and it was clear that they wanted the Bishop to stake out the lines in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict: “Are the Jews God’s chosen people?”

The bishop affirmed all three times he was pressed on the Israeli/Palestinian questions that he believes that as complex as the issue is, justice for Palestinians and justice for Israeli’s is the only way to achieve a suitable peace in the seemingly intractable conflict in the Middle East. He thought that his election might bring greater strength of spirit to Arabic Christians, who are such a profound minority in the territory now. Younan navigated the thorny questions on conflict Palestinian politics carefully and thoughtfully.

Secondly, on the first question’s heals was another line of difficulty: this one on the culturally specific hot button issue in the Christian world these days: “Do you believe in the ordination of women? Homosexuals?

Reporters got aggressive here and followed up trying to find out how he might deal with an issue of disagreement among some groups in the communion. Younan said quite clearly that “My church 10 years ago decided to allow women to be ordained and now is preparing a woman for ordination. Now we must continue to encourage the evangelical churches to be open to women, for it is an integral part of the Lutheran tradition.” Once more the follow up came whether he himself believes in the ordination of homosexual persons, he finally said “it would be wrong to state my opinion now. And he said flatly to a third follow up on the question of “We are committed to this process of study until 2012. Please be patient. Because the churches in Africa and Asia in the next two years are studying marriage, family and hosmosexuality and will come to the council at that appointed time.”

"When God created us in his image, it is male and female, when he saved us from the cross, it was for all. He calls us as human beings."  And his last statement on the issue was it is his desire to focus on “what unites us more than what divides us.”

The bishop also received other kinds of questions, equally offering potential pitfalls: are you prepared for this role? What is your vision for the Lutheran World Federation? Will his role change in his present setting due to this new global recognition?

“I took the nomination as a call from Christ.” Said the president-elect. “I believe that the lord calls me to this job to be the servant of this communion, that he would qualify me. In essence, he expects that God is telling him “don’t worry my brother, we will succeed.” 

Even though these seemed particularly "hard ball" questions for the newly elected leader, there is no reason to expect that they will get easier as time goes on.

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