The Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches has voted to accept the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land as a full member of their organization.
Concluding a two-year process wherein the WCC leadership considered the application of the ELCJHL, the committee voted unanimously earlier this month to accept the church.
In a speech given to the WCC after their vote, ELCJHL Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan pointed to the longstanding cooperation his church has had with the WCC.
"The ELCJHL is richly blessed by the accompaniment we have received through this ecumenical body, and we hope that we have returned some of that goodness to you," said Younan.
"…in this age of globalization, we join with the churches in the world around us to be instruments of peace, harbingers of justice, initiators of dialogue."
For its part, the WCC has several programs operating in Jerusalem and the overall Palestinian Territories, including the Jerusalem Inter-church Center, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel, and the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum.
With approximately 3,000 members in Jerusalem, Jordan, and the West Bank, the ELCJHL did not fit the regular size requirement for a member church with the WCC. However, their work with the WCC and their ecumenical efforts won over the Executive Committee.
In addition to the ELCJHL, other member churches in the WCC that are based in the Middle East include the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Iran, the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Coptic Orthodox Church, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and the Episcopal Church in Jerusalem and the Middle East.
According to its website, the WCC will officially update its count of member churches after the WCC 10th Assembly is held in South Korea from Oct. 30 to Nov. 8.
Founded by a group of German and English evangelical Christians in the 19th century, the ELCJHL has congregations in Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahour, and Ramallah, and also in Amman, the capital of Jordan.
The territory of the ELCJHL is part of a region known for its chronic warfare and sporadic persecution of Christians. For example, the congregations in Ramallah and Amman mainly serve refugees from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
According to Open Doors USA, as a politically stable constitutional monarchy Jordan provides "a certain amount of freedom for traditional Christians."
"There is relative tolerance for Muslim-background believers; however, leaving Islam is not officially recognised and public evangelisation of Muslims is against government policy," reads the entry for Jordan on Open Doors' website.
"Converts can find their marriages annulled and children taken from them. They also encounter discrimination and the threat of mental and physical abuse. Radical Islamists are becoming more active in society and there have been reports of violence and killings of Muslim-background believers."