From Dan Martins-
After breakfast in the hotel restaurant with our friends Bishop Marty and Donna Field of West Missouri, the work day for bishops began at 9am with Morning Prayer at our meeting room tables, while the spouses headed out for a field trip to Thistle Farms.
We then got into our morning session, which featured four presentations followed by a panel discussion around the themes of justice and reconciliation. The presenters and panelists were Bishop Suheil Dawani of the Diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East, Hisham Nassar, MD, also of that diocese; Rabbi Steven Gutow, Executive Director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs; and Canon David Porter, the Archbishop of Canterbury's Director of Reconciliation. The Diocese of Jerusalem is in fund-raising mode, mostly to help fund their expansive educational and medical social ministry in four countries, mostly among non-Christians, and the presentations were aimed at supporting that project.
I was particularly struck by one of Bishop Dawani's slides that quantified the decline of Christian numbers in the Holy Land over the past century. As recently as the end of World War II, Syria was one-third Christian and the city of Bethlehem has a solid Christian majority. Now, for a combination of reasons, there is a danger that Christianity will disappear from the land where Christianity was born. Rabbi Gutow was a compelling advocate for a fearless tenacity in the struggle for reconciliation between Israel and the Palestinians, and a two-state solution. Canon Porter, who is Scots-Irish from Belfast, brings impressive credentials to his new position on the Archbishop's staff. He ended with the sobering reminder that peace and reconciliation are usual quite costly. Usually, somebody who deserves justice doesn't get it. But embracing that difficult truth is preferable to perpetuating the cycle of violence, and lies at the very heart of gospel ministry.
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