11 Women Bishops Head to Holy Land

November 03, 2011

Four Christian denominations represented

By Wayne Rhodes, Editor, Faith in Action
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Eleven ecumenical women bishops from the United States, West Indies and Africa will leave Nov. 12 for a 10-day trip to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. The trip is sponsored by the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) and the denomination's Council of Bishops.
Goals of the trip are to stand in solidarity with women from Christian, Muslim and Jewish traditions working for peace in the region; gather facts and stories to equip the delegation members as educators and advocates for peace after returning; and to explore partnerships for ongoing education and advocacy to affect positive change.
Four Christian denominations will be represented in the delegation: United Methodist, Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal and Christian Methodist Episcopal.
United Methodist Bishop Deborah Kiesey (Dakotas), president of GBCS's Board of Directors, is leading the delegation. "This pilgrimage will not only inform each of us as bishops regarding the complexity of the region," she said, "but it will also allow us to stand in solidarity with, and work alongside those women who are daily working to bring about peace."
United Methodist missionary
Janet Lahr Lewis, a missionary of the General Board of Global Ministries who serves in the Middle East as liaison between ecumenical groups, Israel and Palestine, will accompany the delegation.
Other staff support is being provided by Linda Bales Todd, GBCS Women's Advocate, and Alex Baumgarten of the Episcopal Office of Government Relations.
The women bishops in the delegation are:
  • United Methodist: Bishop Violet Fisher, Wilmington, Del.; Bishop Jane Middleton, Mechanicsburg, Pa.; Bishop Joaquina Nhanala, Maputo, Mozambique; Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, Pasadena, Calif.; and Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, Jackson, Miss.
  • African Methodist Episcopal: Bishop Sarah Davis, Jamaica, West Indies, and Houston, Texas; Bishop Carolyn Tyler Guidry, Jackson, Miss.; and Bishop Vashti McKenzie, Nashville, Tenn.
  • Christian Methodist Episcopal: Bishop Teresa E. Snorton, Birmingham, Ala., and
  • Episcopal: Bishop Laura Ahrens, Hartford, Conn.
The itinerary includes stops in Nazareth, Bethlehem, Capernaum, Haifa, Jerusalem/Ramallah and Gaza. Besides meeting with women working for peace in the region, there will also be tours of Holy Christian sites.
Among many briefings, the delegation expects to meet with Altufula Women's Rights Organization, Israeli/Arab Women's Initiative, Jericho YWCA, Lekiya-Bedouin Women's Project and Wi'am Conflict Resolution Center's Women's Project — Bethlehem.
The delegation will return Nov. 21.