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Forum staff reports, Published January 06 2009

Local bishops decide against Mideast trip

MINNEAPOLIS – More than 30 bishops from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are heading for the Mideast despite the fighting in Gaza.

The two bishops presiding over the Fargo-Moorhead area will not be making the journey.

Northwestern Minnesota Bishop Larry Wohlrabe of Moorhead had planned to join the bishops for their trip to the Middle East. However, in a letter to pastors in his synod, he stated that he decided not to go because of the concerns of family members and colleagues, a sense that the pilgrimage may no longer be able to accomplish its goals and concern that the presence of the delegation “might be more of a hassle than a help to” their hosts.

Eastern North Dakota Bishop Bill Rindy of Fargo said he signed up for the trip but decided not to make the journey because the synod had more pressing needs for the funds.

The Rev. Jon Anderson, bishop for the Southwestern Minnesota Synod of the ELCA, will be one of five from Minnesota leaving Monday. He says their leaders believe they will be safe. And he says that in times of trouble, pastors go to be with the people affected.

Church leaders say the goal is to support the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, which has congregations and schools in Israel, Jordan and the West Bank. The bishops also hope to meet Jewish and Islamic leaders to get a better understanding of the conflict in the region.

About 20 of the 34 bishops are already overseas, and they’re encouraging remaining bishops to make the trip. The trip has been in the works for a couple of years.

The bishops plan to return to the United States on Jan. 16.