The Washington Times - January 2, 2009, 02:26PM

Talk about timing.

In November, I got a press release about a trip of 39 bishops belonging to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America - plus five bishops from their sister denomination in Canada, 27 spouses and 14 church staff - to the Holy Land from Jan. 6-13 to meet with Israel, Jordanian and Palestinian leaders, visit religious sites, etc. Several of us religion writers were asked if we’d like to go along but I declined, saying religious leaders travel every week to Israel and surrounding countries. Why would this be different?


That was then. Now these bishops are finding themselves flying into a tinderbox. Not surprisingly, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson has called for peace in the region. Don’t know if anyone is listening much, tho. The group will stay in Israel although a smaller group of bishops will be spending time in Jordan from Jan. 3-6.

The original intent of the trip was to craft a Lutheran Middle East strategy and to support already-existing Lutheran ministries in the area. The bishops have no intent of cancelling; now especially, Bishop Hanson said Thursday, their trip is “timelier than ever.”

 - Julia Duin, religion writer