Ecumenical & Inter-Religious Relations Staff Report to LEIRN
National Workshop on Christian Unity
Minneapolis, Minnesota; May 1, 2017
We celebrate Bishop Eaton’s presence at our LEIRN session and look forward to the Tuesday morning plenary, when she and Bishop Denis Madden will lead reflections on “After 500 Years: Catholics and Lutherans Together on the Way.”
Lutheran-Catholic Relations/500th Anniversary of the Reformation
The anniversary year is giving prominence to this relationship, and participation in anniversary events continues at all levels of this church. Keep up with events through www.elca500.org. Our office welcomes reports of activities in your synods or local settings: please send them to Kathryn.Johnson@elca.org.
On March 2, the ELCA Conference of Bishops’ Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations Committee hosted a joint meeting with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs Committee. The committees adopted a joint statement on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation (in your folders) and co-hosted a Lutheran-Catholic service of common prayer in the Lutheran Center chapel, following the Common Prayer liturgy developed for the commemoration held in Lund, Sweden last October 31, and based on the Lutheran-Catholic dialogue report, From Conflict to Communion. Full communion and ecumenical dialogue partners were present as special guests. The service was followed by a festive reception and dinner. A video of the service, the service program booklet, and the signed joint statement are available at: http://elca.org/livestream.
You might also enjoy Bishop Eaton’s Webcast, “Ecumenical Witness and the Reformation,” October 27, 2016: www.elca.org/webcast.
On Good Friday, April 14, Bishop Eaton together with Bishop Wayne Miller of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod, other synod leaders and churchwide staff participated in a “Walk for Peace” initiated by Cardinal Blase J. Cupich. A week prior, the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago launched an anti-violence initiative in the city of Chicago. Cardinal Cupich invited the ecumenical and inter-religious community to join together in calling for peace, addressing the root causes of violence including poverty and racism. The march began at St. Benedict the African Church in the Englewood neighborhood, and participants traced the Stations of the Cross and paused to remember those whose lives have been lost to violence in Chicago this year. Lutherans participated in strong numbers out of our shared concern for the city and our desire for deeper reconciliation as Lutherans and Catholics.
Among the many settings using the Lund liturgy this year was the annual meeting of the U.S. Lutheran-Catholic dialogue, Round XII, which is shaping its report on Faithful Teaching. Bishop Madden and the Rev. Lowell Almen are co-chairs.
Multiple activities respond to the actions of the 2016 Churchwide Assembly concerning the Declaration on the Way:
The co-chairs and members of the Declaration on the Way task force have provided leadership for many synodical events to discover, explore, and deepen understanding about Lutheran-Catholic relations, and to consider the ecumenical dimensions of the 500th anniversary – with focus on the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, From Conflict to Communion, and the Declaration on the Way. We welcome these invitations as opportunities for partnership.
We are grateful to Augsburg Fortress for creating an online study guide for the Declaration on the Way. This is a resource for deepening our reception of the agreements, and strengthening local Lutheran-Catholic relations. It is available for free download from the Augsburg Fortress website & www.elca.org/ecumenical.
Finally, Professor Gordon Lathrop has written a theological and practical resource to help expand our understandings of hospitality in Eucharistic worship: “How do we bless Roman Catholic or other ecumenical guests who feel they cannot come to communion?” (in your folders). It is available at http://www.elca.org/en/Our-Work/Congregations-and-Synods/Worship/FAQ
On November 15, the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago ceremoniously returned a rare 9th century Greek manuscript of the complete New Testament to the Greek Orthodox Church. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA), Bishop Demetrios of the Chicago Diocese, and members of the staff of the GOA were also present. Conversations have led to the possibility of renewed dialogue between the ELCA and the GOA, possibly on the topic of care of creation.
FULL COMMUNION PARTNERSHIPS
On March 26, a worship service in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Formula of Agreement – the full communion agreement between the ELCA and the PCUSA, the RCA, and the UCC – was held at the Amistad Chapel in the UCC Center in Cleveland. Bishop Eaton preached, lifting up the Formula’s framework of mutual affirmation and admonition as critical for holding our life together as churches in a world that is deeply divided. Local judicatory leaders and others were invited to be present and to participate in various ways. The service was held in conjunction with a meeting of the heads of communion, ecumenical officers, and ministry staff. Revisions will be made to update the Orderly Exchange document, and the next iteration of the coordinating committee will be convened as a theological roundtable tasked with exploring questions of church and Empire, topics which the international world communions, Lutheran & Reformed, have also examined.
Our other full communion partnerships are tended to in regularly occurring coordinating committee meetings. Please find more information in our staff reports to the LEIRN Board published at http://leirn.blogspot.com/.
This year, we hosted two meetings with colleagues visiting from the World Council of Churches. The first was in January to explore preparations for the 14th World Mission Conference to be held in March 2018 in Arusha, Tanzania, prepared by the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism under the theme “Moving in the Spirit: Called to Transforming Discipleship.” The second, in April, was a relational visit from Mr. Stan Noffsinger, director of the Office of the General Secretariat, to explore how the WCC might accompany the ELCA in these divisive times in the US. This visit continued concern expressed in the April 2016 “racial justice visit” to the U.S., during which WCC Central Committee moderator Dr. Agnes Abuom declared, “We come with heavy hearts because we have been following developments in this nation. The WCC recognizes the many positive actions of churches here, but they do not seem to be enough.”
In February, the National Council of Churches’ Executive Committee invited Ecumenical Officers to attend its meeting in Hollywood, California, to explore the role of the Ecumenical Officers in light of the NCC’s recent restructure, which focuses on Head of Communion leadership. The 2017 Christian Unity Gathering will be held in November in Baltimore.
On March 2, Christian Churches Together in the USA hosted a forum in New Jersey on the persecuted church. The forum created space for praying together, raising awareness about anti-Christian persecution, exploring the needs of the churches facing persecution, and developing guidelines for a coordinated ecumenical response of US churches. A statement was released following the Steering Committee meeting in April.
On March 29, the Circle of Protection – a broad ecumenical coalition convened by Bread for the World, the National Council of Churches, Christian Churches Together, and Sojourners – hosted a prayer vigil, press conference, and Congressional visits in opposition to the proposed cuts to the federal budget in human needs, healthcare, and foreign aid programs. This coincided with the ELCA Advocacy convening in Washington DC, allowing for ready participation of ecumenical and advocacy staff.
We are currently working with the president of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, and his staff to reconvene our bilateral Jewish-Lutheran dialogue, building on our long-standing partnership in advocacy. We continue to participate in the national Jewish-Christian dialogue table on pastoral issues co-convened by the National Council of Churches and the National Council of Synagogues, with the next meeting taking place in May 2017 in Philadelphia.
Our Lutheran-Muslim relations have taken two forms in recent months: rapid response to anti-Muslim bigotry, and continued engagement in long-term relationship-building, education, dialogue, and cooperation for the common good. We are working in partnership with the Islamic Society of North America on church-mosque pilot projects in three synods: Southeastern Pennsylvania (Bishop Burkat), Southwestern Washington (Bishop Jaech), and Southeast Michigan (Bishop Kreiss). This important work, our growing partnership, and Bishop Eaton’s leadership will be highlighted during the July 2017 Islamic Society of North America Convention.
We are also partnering through the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign to respond to increased incidents of anti-Muslim bigotry over the past year, and to concerns about anti-Muslim policies, including the recent Executive Orders. We have participated in statements, press conference, events, and strategic planning sessions. Thanks to Bishop Gafkjen for giving a statement and to Bishop Graham for participating in the November 18 press conference in DC: https://youtu.be/ijoNgnI8Er8
INTER-RELIGIOUS TASK FORCE
Chaired by Bishop Patricia Lull, the Inter-Religious Task Force is working to develop an inter-religious policy statement that will complement the 1991 Ecumenism vision statement. The Task Force is on schedule to complete its first draft by the end of this summer, at which time a consultative process for input and feedback will unfold across this church, and with ecumenical and inter-religious partners. The timeline calls for a proposed statement to come through the Church Council to the 2019 CWA.
Historic Black Church Relations
As we work on racial justice and reconciliation within the ELCA, we are also working in partnership with Historic Black Churches, both in coalitions and bi-laterally.
For a second year, the ELCA was a co-sponsor of the cross-racial dialogue convened by the Conference of National Black Churches in Charleston, South Carolina, December 13-15, 2016. The CNBC is the annual conference of the Historic Black Churches in the US. This continues to be an area of growing partnership between Racial Justice Ministries, the African and European Descent Lutheran Associations, and Ecumenical & Inter-Religious Relations.
A significant dimension of the Bishops’ Academy was the presence of Bishop John White, president of the AME Council of Bishops, along with Rev. Darby. We are exploring possibilities for re-engaging our churches’ dialogue, which took place in the 1990s. It will be important to consider fresh models that combine theological dialogue and common action for the sake of the Gospel. Your synod initiatives will continue to be critical for shaping this future together.
The Lutheran World Federation Assembly will take place in Windhoek, Namibia on May 10-16 under the theme, “Liberated by God’s Grace.” Following Pre-Assemblies for women and youth, delegates from 145 member churches will convene to set the vision and priorities of the communion for the next period, and to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. New leadership will be elected, including a new president. Regional Pre-Assemblies have taken place over the last year, including a joint pre-assembly of the North American and Latin American and Caribbean Regions held in Suriname in September. The ELCA delegation consists of 10 people, including Chris Olkiewicz. There will be approximately 50 ELCA members attending the Assembly in various capacities. Information about the Assembly, including the Pre-Assembly messages, can be found at: https://www.lwfassembly.org/ and through social media at #LWFAssembly
Together with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the ELCA continues to engage in conversation with the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). Another meeting of heads of churches is being planned for the fall.
Churches Uniting in Christ
On the evening of June 4 in Dallas, heads of communion, local judicatory leaders, ecumenical officers, and local clergy and lay leaders will participate in a national worship service of recognition of ministries amongst the Churches Uniting in Christ. A public forum on race relations will be held on June 3, along with a pulpit exchange between local clergy and national CUIC leadership on the morning of June 4.
Reformation Day Event
Bishop Eaton will co-host a public witness event on Reformation Day, October 31, 2017, with Vice President Horne, Bishop Gafkjen, and Bishop Graham at Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, DC. Details will be forthcoming.
It is time to register for the National Workshop on Christian Unity and the annual meeting of the Lutheran Ecumenical and Interreligious Representatives Network. Please go to nwcu.org to complete your registration, where you will also find a full Workshop brochure. Our LEIRN meeting agenda is below. ALL LUTHERAN ECUMENISTS ARE WELCOME, not only network members.
In this special year commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, a number of prominent national leaders, including ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton, are prepared to engage us in reflection and learning around the theme "Reform, Repent, Reconcile." It is going to be an extraordinary opportunity.
There are a number of possible options to help manage the cost of participation. Small scholarships may be available to help reduce your registration cost. All ELCA seminarians are eligible to receive free registration. If either of those options is of interest to you, contact me at email@example.com.
I look forward to our time together in Minneapolis, May 1-4!
Lutheran Ecumenical and Interreligious Representatives Network
Annual Meeting—Minneapolis, MN
May 1-4, 2017
8:30 a.m.Registration opens
10:00 a.m.Executive Board Meeting
11:30 a.m.LEIRN Newcomers Lunch
If this is your first LEIRN meeting, come to the registration table at 11:30, and the board will take you to lunch.
1:00 - 4:30LEIRN Session I
ELCA Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations Update
Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton
Kathryn Lohre, Executive for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations
Kathryn Johnson, Director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations
Please be prepared to share a happening from your synod, with a special focus on Reformation commemoration events.
Introduction to Executive Board Elections
2:15 - 4:15LEIRN Session II—Joint Plenary with CADEIO
On October 30, 2016 the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation held an ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation in Lund, Sweden. During the service Pope Francis and LWF President Bishop Munib Younan signed a Joint Statement in which they “call upon Lutheran and Catholic parishes and communities to be bold and creative, joyful and hopeful in their commitment to continue the great journey ahead of us.” How is the Holy Spirit calling us in our local communities to journey together boldly and creatively, with joy and hope? This session will feature personal narratives from the experience in Lund; the reflections of two of our bishops on the implications of the Joint Statement, From Conflict to Communion, and Declaration on the Way for local pastoral practice; an exploration of the canons on reception of communion from Catholic and Lutheran perspectives; and a time for sharing our personal experiences of unity and hopes for a more full communion in the places where we minister.
Presenters: Dr. Rocky Piro, Dr. Kathryn Johnson, Bishop Patricia Lull, Bishop Dennis Madden, Fr. Ron Roberson
10:30 - 11:45LEIRN Session III
Responding to Anti-Muslim Hatred, Violence, and Bigotry
Catherine Orsborn, Campaign Director, Shoulder to Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims, Upholding American Values
I moved to Wichita in November, was appointed LEIRN representative in December, and “accidentally” came across the ecumenical powerhouse in Wichita at the Martin Luther King Jr Worship Celebration. The Greater Wichita Ministerial League had planned an incredible two-hour worship service with music that brought the congregation to its feet and a preacher that provoked at least 100 “Amen”s. In the worship program was an invitation to join them so I did. At my first meeting, there were 5-minute speeches from at least 10 organizations who wanted to use the ministerial league’s network to share their information. In addition to education programs and a day of free medical care in the park, there were announcements of grants and scholarships. A woman from Wichita State University told the story of a young man whom the ministerial league had helped get started in school. We were encouraged to get involved in “Beyond Tolerance” dinners and a pulpit exchange program. It was a powerfully positive 90-minute meeting.
For those who don’t know where to start their ecumenical connections, this is so hopeful. Even in places where mainline congregations act as silos, ecumenism is happening. I love our mainline inter-denomination dialogues and partnerships, but I also understand that we don’t need to agree on our baptismal theology or even the ordination of women to break bread together and serve the community side by side. Unity does not require uniformity. I am happy to now be a member of TGWML: “serving the community of Wichita with the love of Jesus Christ.”
Mari Larson, Representative for Central States Synod
COMING SOON: Registration info for the National Workshop on Christian Unity!
From Kathryn Johnson and Kathryn Lohre
NCC Jewish-Christian Dialogue
In mid-November 2016, the National Council of Churches/National Council of Synagogues Jewish-Christian dialogue on pastoral issues convened in Charleston, South Carolina. Mary Finklea attended in person and Kathryn Lohre joined via Skype for the second half of the meeting. Topics of conversation included the impact of the presidential election of both communities, white privilege, and (interestingly) Israel/Palestine. This was the first time this issue was allowed on the agenda since the breakdown in dialogue in 2012. The focus was primarily on Jewish concerns regarding a joint statement from the NCC and WCC General Secretaries following a forum in September.
LSTC Orthodox Event
Overlapping with the Jewish-Christian dialogue was a significant event at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago with the Orthodox. On November 15, LSTC ceremoniously returned a rare 9th century Greek manuscript of the complete New Testament to the Greek Orthodox Church. In addition to President Nieman and seminary faculty and staff, Presiding Bishop Eaton, Rev. Don McCoid, Bishop Wayne Miller (Metro Chicago), and Kathryn Lohre were present. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA), Bishop Demetrios of the Chicago Diocese, and members of the staff of the GOA were also present. Conversations over the course of this event and afterward have led to the possibility of renewed dialogue between the ELCA and the GOA, perhaps on the topic of care of creation. This is a topic that is championed by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and is an issue of common concern and possible collaboration in the coming years.
Shoulder to Shoulder Press Conference
On November 18, Shoulder to Shoulder held a press conference to lift up the faith community’s shared concern over the spike in anti-Muslim and other religiously-motivated hate crimes in the after math of the election and to express solidarity with Muslims in the face of rising levels of anti-Muslim bigotry throughout and after the campaign, and allegations of a possible Muslim registry. The ELCA was represented by Bishop Graham (Metro DC), Rev. Amy Reumann (DC Policy Office), Kathryn Lohre, and Bishop Gafkjen (Indiana-Kentucky Synod, Chair, Conference of Bishops). Bishop Gafkjen gave a statement on behalf of Bishop Eaton and the ELCA. The press conference garnered significant media attention locally and nationally, including coverage from the NYTimes, PBS, and NBC. Here is a link to the full video: https://youtu.be/ijoNgnI8Er8
After the press conference, Kathryn Lohre had a meeting with partners from ISNA regarding a new set of church-mosque pilot project we are building in three synods: Southeast Penn., Southwestern Washington, and Southeast Michigan.
First Call Conference, Region 1
In November Kathryn Johnson joined Secretary Chris Boerger to speak with first-call pastors from Region 1 about the work our offices. With the waters of Puget Sound visible from the windows, they agreed that first-call situations are a good time to engage pastors in what lies beyond their communities.
Conference on Reform in the Catholic Church, Germany
Also in November Kathryn Johnson attended a conference arranged by the Lutheran Church in Germany on reform in the Catholic Church – successor to a Catholic conference on understanding Luther. Kathryn talked about changes in Catholic use of the Bible, especially in English-speaking communities.
Inter-Religious Task Force
The Task Force, appointed by Bishop Eaton, had its first meeting in late November, 2016. Chaired by Bishop Patricia Lull (St. Paul Area Synod), the Task Force is working on an initial draft of an inter-
religious policy statement that will complement the 1991 Ecumenism vision statement. The meeting included presentations that encompassed the breadth of the ELCA’s history of inter-religious relations. Additionally, the Task Force had conversation about priorities for what should be included with the Presiding Bishop, developed a timeline for bringing the policy statement to the 2019 Churchwide Assembly, and established a drafting team. In mid-January, the drafting team returned to Chicago to work on a thick outline. A full draft is expected by late summer 2017, and a consultative process across the church and with ecumenical and inter-religious partners, as well as with LEIRN, will then unfold.
Shoulder to Shoulder Executive Committee Retreat
On December 9 Kathryn attended a retreat of the Shoulder to Shoulder Executive Committee, which she was asked to join in mid-2016. The meeting focused on strategic planning for 2017. There was consensus that grassroots engagement, as well as building national leadership for responding to the ongoing rise in anti-Muslim bigotry would be a two-pronged priority. The Steering Committee will meet in late January to discuss the strategy and to define tasks for moving it forward.
Conference of National Black Churches
For a second year, the ELCA was a co-sponsor of the cross-racial dialogue convened by the Conference of National Black Churches in Charleston, South Carolina, December 13-15. The CNBC is the annual conference of the Historic Black Churches in the US. Bishop Eaton was present, as was Judith Roberts (ELCA director, Racial Justice Ministries), Rev. Lamont Wells (president, African Descent Lutheran Association), Cathy Crimi (vice president, European Descent Lutheran Association), and Kathryn Lohre. Bishop Herman Yoos (South Carolina Synod) was present for a moving worship service at Mother Emanuel AME. Bishop Eaton gave a moving presentation on the complicity of the ELCA in racial injustice and commitment of the ELCA to racial justice and reconciliation. The verdict was reached in the Dylann Roof trial on the final day of the Consultation, and conversations with AME partners were and important dimension of our witness.
Together with Tim Wengert and Susan McArver, Kathryn Lohre was a presenter to the 2017 Bishops’ Academy meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, January 4-9. The theme was the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Kathryn presented on the rapidly changing ecclesial, ecumenical and inter-religious landscape, and lifted up three sets of relations that are critical to our Reformation witness today: with Catholics, with Muslims, and with the Historic Black Churches. She also offered mini-case-studies on full communion relations, conciliar life, Jewish relations, and Muslim relations for table top conversations.
A very significant dimension of the Academy was the Bishops’ pilgrimage to Mother Emanuel. They were accompanied by Bishop John White, president of the AME Council of Bishops. Contact had been made in advance by our office to share the details of our churches’ dialogue in the 1990s. Bishop White engaged in an extended conversation with Bishop Eaton, Bishop Kreiss (chair, CoB Ecumenical & Inter-Religious Liaison Committee), Bishop Gafkjen, Bishop Yoos, and Kathryn about the possibilities for renewing and deepening our bilateral dialogue. Bishop White affirmed the AME’s commitment in his remarks to the congregation assembled for Epiphany Worship at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Charleston, at which AME Presiding Elder Rev. Joe Darby preached. (Mary Finklea was present!) It was an important step, building upon our history and looking toward the future together.
Declaration on the Way/USCCB
Kathryn Johnson is working with Media 1517 to complete a Study Guide for the Declaration on the Way. Pr. Sue Lang enthusiastically tackled production of a draft, and matters of formatting, etc. lie ahead. The hope is to have the Study Guide available electronically at least by the March 2 joint meeting of the USCCB Committee for Religious and Interreligious Affairs with the ELCA Conference of Bishops’ Liaison Committee on Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations. This meeting will also include Common Prayer, using the order of worship prepared for October 31, 2016 in Lund, with the entire Conference of Bishops.
The USCCB has announced that Rev. Alfred Baca from the Diocese of Orange in California, has been appointed as Executive Director of the Secretariat on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. He succeeds Fr. John Crossin, who retired in December, and will begin his work full-time in Washington in July.
World Council of Churches
In January two representatives of the World Council of Churches visited the Churchwide Office to provide information about the 14th World Mission Conference in Arusha, Tanzania, from March 8-13, 2018. The theme is “Moving in the Spirit: Called to Transforming Discipleship.
The WCC is also compiling responses to the its ecclesiology consensus document, “The Church Towards A Common Vision.” The ELCA was one of about 50 WCC members submitting a response.