Monday, November 23, 2015

A letter to the network

Dear Lutheran Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Representatives Network,

Greetings to you in this season of Advent. In the spirit of preparation, we are writing to bring to your attention a forthcoming inter-religious resource, and to enlist your help in launching an ELCA-wide conversation on inter-religious relations in 2016 and beyond.

We live and work in an increasingly multi-ethnic and inter-religious context. In our daily encounter with diversity, what are the theological and practical challenges we face? What from our Lutheran tradition is instructive for understanding our inter-religious calling and living out our commitments? In short, what does it mean to be Lutheran in a multi-religious world?

In late 2012, the ELCA Consultative Panels on Lutheran-Jewish and Lutheran-Muslim Relations undertook an inter-religious case studies project to explore these questions. A call for submissions went out inviting real-life cases of inter-religious engagement in ELCA ministry contexts. Over 50 case studies were received and woven together with historical analysis, practical tips, and theological reflection, culminating in a book project that will be published by Lutheran University Press in early spring 2016: Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves: A Lutheran Calling in a Multi-Religious World.

This book will be a contribution toward the 500th observance of the Reformation, and a resource for ELCA-wide study, dialogue, and reflection. This will serve as a foundation for a process to be led by Presiding Bishop Eaton in the coming years to develop an ELCA vision statement on inter-religious relations, as a compliment to “Ecumenism: The Vision of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America” (1991). At their recent meetings, the ELCA Conference of Bishops and Church Council have been made aware of this project and the longer-term trajectory toward a statement.

At this time, we invite you to provide leadership in your synods and regions in launching this ELCA-wide conversation on inter-religious relations. Over the next few weeks, Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations staff, in partnership with the book’s authors, will be preparing a workshop template based on key questions and ideas in the book. This template will be adaptable for use at synod assemblies, convocations, theological conferences, rostered and lay leader gatherings, and other educational settings in 2016 and beyond. The workshop template and other resources will be sent directly to you, and also to the Conference of Bishops, by year-end. They will also be posted at,, and on the LEIRN blog.

In the meantime, we encourage you on behalf of the Office of the Presiding Bishop and the LEIRN Board to contact your synodical bishops and staff, your Synod Assembly Planning Teams, ELCA college and seminary leaders, and others in your synods and regions to make yourself available to lead workshops in 2016 and beyond, or to support this work in other ways.

At the same time, you might also volunteer to support similar work around the Declaration on the Way. We are pleased to report that in October the ELCA Conference of Bishops unanimously affirmed the 32 Statements of Agreement, followed shortly thereafter by a unanimous affirmation of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. Earlier this month, the ELCA Church Council accepted the 32 Statements of Agreement, and forwarded them to the Churchwide Assembly:

  • for reception of the 32 Statements of Agreement, acknowledging that “receiving these agreements recognizes that there are no longer church dividing issues with respect to these Statements…” (Declaration on the Way); and 

  • for commending to the ELCA the Declaration on the Way; From Conflict to Communion; and the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification as resources for the common life of the church as we approach 2017 and beyond. 

You will receive more information and resources about this in the coming months. You can download the full text at

We give thanks to God for you, and for this network that can be activated to build bridges of Christian unity and inter-religious understanding. Your work in your own contexts, and together across this church, is instrumental for living out our common calling in these complex yet encouraging times. Peace be with you as we prepare for the birth of the One who unites and sustains us as sisters and brothers in Christ, and as children of God with all of our neighbors.

In hope,

Kathryn M. Lohre
Assistant to the Presiding Bishop and Executive, Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations

Rev. Chris Olkiewicz
President, Lutheran Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Representatives Network

Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves: A Lutheran Calling in a Multi-Religious World

Foreword - Elizabeth Eaton
Preface - Esther Menn and Peg Schultz-Akerson 
Introduction - Darrell Jodock
Chapter 1 - Mark Swanson
New Realities, New Thinking Since 1990
Chapter 2 - Carol Schersten LaHurd
Guidelines for Interacting in the Real World
Chapter 3 - Jonathan Brockopp
Exploring the Uncomfortable Questions: The Experience of Inter-Religious Work
Chapter 4 - J. Paul Rajashekar
Our God and Their God: A Relational Theology of Religious Plurality 
Conclusion - Darrell Jodock

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

October Update

Lutheran-Mennonite Staff Meeting

On September 24 Andre Gingerich Stoner, director of interchurch relations for the Mennonite Church USA, came to Chicago to meet with both Kathryns. He had initiated the conversation, wanting to make sure that we would continue to live into the relationship deepened both in the US and internationally by Lutheran actions of repentance concerning persecutions of Anabaptists—and he came full of ideas.

He has been in touch with Indiana-Kentucky synod Bishop Bill Gafkjen about a presence during Indiana-Kentucky’s synod assembly in June; this discussion is ongoing. We also discussed a number of possibilities to live into our ongoing reconciliation (including educational and interpretive efforts); supporting the international tri-lateral dialogue on baptism; and engaging issues of peacemaking. Some of these efforts would require significant planning or seeking outside funding; others are more within our immediate grasp.

The Declaration on the Way…

… continues on its way!

LEIRN board members should have received bound copies, along with an Executive Summary and the action taken by our Conference of Bishops. Their affirmation on October 5 was unanimous, as was the endorsement of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops the next week. The Declaration was discussed also at a Joint Staff Meeting of the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council on Promoting Christian Unity in late September; while the implications at international levels are still being worked out, it was clear from their response that the U.S. churches were encouraged to do all they could to promote the Declaration’s dissemination and reception.

This may help you make friends with the printed text:

  1. The Preface (pp. 9-10) gives a structural overview of the document; take a quick look. 
  2. The Introduction (pp. 10-15) provides entry into inspiration and aspiration of the Declaration.
  3. The Statement of Agreements (pp. 16-21) is the heart of the document. These Statements are affirmations on Church, ministry and Eucharist that Lutherans and Catholics have already made together; on the subjects of these Agreements there are not church-dividing issues between us. The Declaration proposes that these Statements be received into the life of our churches.
  4. Then look enough at Section III (the supporting evidence for the Statements on pp. 22-71) and Section IV (some remaining differences on pp. 72-113) to get a feel for what is there.
  5. Finally, read the Conclusion (pp. 114-7)
A number of the bishops were talking about what might be done locally with this text, and you may also have ideas.

North American Four Bishops’ Meeting

In late September, Kathryn L accompanied Bishop Eaton to the annual meeting of the four North American Lutheran, Anglican, and Episcopal National/Presiding Bishops’ meeting, also known as the “four-way.” The meeting took place in Washington DC in the context of Pope Francis’ visit to the US, and his addresses to Congress and the UN. Apart from the business of the meeting, the four way joined in a celebratory dinner in honor of Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, and participated in an interfaith series of events hosted by the Washington National Cathedral: “Coming Together in Faith on climate.”

During the business meeting, there was significant discussion about lay presidency, in light of the ELCIC’s recent action, and sharing about the paper JALC commissioned paper, “Background and Reflections on the Policy Regarding Authorized Lay Ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.” Online tools for mapping shared ministries were lifted up, including the TEC asset map and the Waterloo Directory. There was sharing about common challenges regarding theological education; and conversation about global trends facing the ACC, as well as the LWF, and their interconnectedness.

As for decisions, there was consensus to begin to take the next steps toward pursuing full communion amongst the Lutheran, Anglican, and Episcopal churches in North America. There was also agreement to develop a common statement on the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities and this is underway. Advent devotions will be developed for 2017, lifting up the LWF theme and subthemes.

NWCU National Planning Meeting

Chris and Kathryn J attended the planning meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, site of next April’s meeting. We chose a theme, “Waking from a Dream of Separateness,” from Thomas Merton’s account of his 1958 experience in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. This seemed a suggestive theme for a number of reasons: Thomas Merton’s “Fourth and Walnut experience” was only blocks from the hotel where we will meet; and Merton was raised up again as one of the four Americans mentioned by Pope Francis when he spoke to Congress during his September visit: "Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.”

Planning continues for the individual plenaries and seminars, but will certainly include a number of sessions focusing on pastoral practice in interfaith settings, on creation care, and on ecumenical practice. There will be a seminar for the Declaration on the Way which will welcome all comers.

LEIRN sessions will include an opportunity to prepare for leadership on the forthcoming publication Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves: A Lutheran Calling in a Multi-Religious World, which we began to discuss last month. We would appreciate your input on what else might be part of this strategic plan, and how LEIRN might play a role. Thank you!

Parliament of the World’s Religions

The next week, Chris Olkiewicz joined Kathryn L and several other Lutherans in Salt Lake City for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Our delegation was small, including primarily professors at ELCA colleges and seminaries, but we discovered that there were approximately 50-60 ELCA Lutherans participating overall. Many of our folks offered excellent workshops or participated in panels.

The Parliament is the longest-standing, largest global gathering of its kind. This was the sixth Parliament, the first held in Chicago in 1893. From this point onward, the Parliament will be held every two years, with every other gathering held in the US. Plenaries featured renowned scholars, activists, and religious leaders (such as Karen Armstrong, Jane Goodall, Tariq Ramadan, John Esposito, etc.) focusing on the themes of women’s leadership; emerging leaders; climate change; war, violence, and discrimination; and indigenous peoples. Over 1200 workshops were offered and there was a lively exhibit hall. CADEIEO had a strong presence, including a booth in the exhibit hall! One of the most moving aspects of the Parliament was the free langar meal offered by the Sikh community each day, as part of their service and hospitality. We also enjoyed an evening of sacred music and dance held at the Mormon Tabernacle in Temple Square; our late arrival meant that we were seated where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sits! Overall it was a very interesting experience, by which we were stretched, challenged, and enriched.

Inter-Religious Book Project/Synod Opportunities

This is the week that the final manuscript for the book project is submitted to Lutheran University Press! The working title is: Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves: A Lutheran Calling in a Multi-Religious World. The book will become available in spring 2016, just in time for NWCU, and synod assembly season.

As we discussed last month, we want to develop a strategic plan for engaging LEIRN in the process of lifting up and encouraging use of this resource next year and beyond. This will be the first step in launching an ELCA-wide conversation about our inter-religious commitments and calling. There is increasing awareness of this project, and of the invitation to consider lifting it up at 2016 synod events, and beyond, as well as enthusiasm from the ecumenical and inter-religious liaison committee of the Conference. But we need more communication about this in order for this to become a reality.

In late November and early December we will turn our attention to developing the powerpoint workshop template and other resources referenced in the flyer. We invite you, and the members of the network, to begin approaching your synod bishops and synod assembly planning teams about the possibility of including a workshop or other educational forum at 2016 assemblies and educational events. I hope to gain permission from the publishers to share with the Board and the Network an electronic version of the manuscript so that you can read it in its entirety as part of your preparations this winter.

Board Highlights

  • The network meeting schedule for NWCU is taking shape. The Workshop overall is trying to accommodate the request from participants for a bit more unscheduled time. This means we may need to deal with somewhat reduced time for network business, and there is not likely to be a joint session with a sister network this year. 
  • UMEIT is developing a session on local ecumenical and interfaith initiatives in the Louisville area to which all NWCU participants will be invited. In a sense, this accomplishes some of the goals of a joint network meeting. 
  • LEIRN time will focus on an update and conversation with ELCA/EIR staff, strategizing around the deployment of the new inter-religious relations book, and elections. Stay tuned for more details as the schedule takes shape. 
  • The means for distributing copies of Declaration on the Way to LEIRN members is currently being discussed. Because of the cost of printed copies, it may need to be as a PDF document. 

Next meeting: November 20, 2015.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

September Update

From Kathryn Lohre and Kathryn Johnson

Welcome to Kathryn Johnson

We were pleased to welcome Kathryn Johnson on September 1 as director for ecumenical and inter-religious relations. It is truly a joy to welcome a colleague who brings the breadth and depth of ecumenical expertise and relations to our work, along with a deep faith and passion for Christian unity.

ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Muslim Relations/Inter-Religious Book Project

On August 27, the authors of the inter-religious case studies book project met at The Lutheran Center to workshop the penultimate draft of the manuscript. On behalf of LEIRN, Rev. Chris Olkiewicz participated in a review process leading up to this meeting – thank you. The working title is, “Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves: A Lutheran Calling in a Multi-Religious World.” Lutheran University Press will receive the final text in early October, and we are still on track to publish in spring 2016. Here is the outline:

  • Foreword, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton 
  • Preface, Esther Menn and Peg Schultz-Akerson 
  • Introduction, Darrell Jodock 
  • Chapter 1 "New realities, New Thinking Since 1990," Mark Swanson 
  • Chapter 3 "Exploring The Uncomfortable Questions: The Experience of Inter-Religious Work," Jonathan Brockopp 
  • Chapter 4 "Our God and Their God: A Relational Theology of Religious Plurality," J. Paul Rajashekar 
  • Conclusion, Darrell Jodock

Further work will be unfolding over the fall and winter months as part of our strategy for inviting ELCA-wide engagement on this topic. In early October, the Conference of Bishops will receive a progress report, along with the request to consider possible opportunities at 2016 synod assemblies for lifting up this resource and inviting conversation on our church’s inter-religious relations and commitments. Our office will create a workshop template based on the book’s content. Do we have your blessing to suggest that LEIRN reps might serve as workshop leaders and resource people in their synods? Perhaps we could add this as an agenda item over the next few months?

The next day was the business meeting of the ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Muslim Relations, which included most of the same people. The group discussed the future of ELCA inter-religious relations; recommendations for 2016 CWA guests; and current events and issues such as ISIL and religious persecution.

Black Methodist Coalition

Kathryn L. attended the NCC Executive Committee meeting in Washington, DC, August 30 – September 1. She stayed on to be part of the “Liberty and Justice for All” events organized by the Black Methodist Coalition – the AME, AME Zion, CME, and the Union American Methodist Episcopal Churches. This series of events, designed to launch a movement, was originally called for by the bishops of the AME Church, who met in Council for the first time after the Charleston shootings over the July 4 weekend. There was a worship service held at John Wesley AME Zion Church on the evening of Sept. 1, followed by a press conference at the National Press Club the next morning. Kathryn L. was honored to be invited to give a statement on behalf of the ELCA and the ecumenical partners, as a call to action for the faith community to be leaders in racial reconciliation and racial justice. The others who gave statements included the senior bishops of the AME, AME Zion, and CME Churches, and Jim Winkler, NCC General Secretary/President. A briefing at the White House followed that afternoon. Subsequently, many ELCA congregations participated in the Sept. 6 Sunday of “Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism,” called for by the Black Methodist Coalition.

ELCA-UMC Coordinating Committee

The ELCA-UMC Coordinating Committee met at The Lutheran Center September 3-4. The committee learned from our respective advocacy colleagues in DC about ELCA-UMC cooperation around climate change; discussed continued coordination in evangelical outreach and mission starts; and began work on shared questions of leadership formation and theological education. There was a commitment to focus on the specific question of ecumenical formation at the next meeting. (We hope that our respective networks will be invited to be part of this thinking and work, so stay tuned!)

Emerging Religious Leaders Seminar

The Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign sponsored its second Emerging Religious Leaders Seminar in conjunction with the annual Islamic Society of North America Convention in Rosemont, Illinois. We were able to host this Abrahamic inter-religious formation program for half a day at The Lutheran Center on Thursday, September 3. Kathryn L. co-taught a case study from The Pluralism Project ( and also led discussion on the challenges and opportunities for inter-religious relations for religious leaders in today’s rapidly changing multi-religious context.

Islamic Society of North America Convention

Kathryn L. and Kathryn J. attended the ISNA Convention held in Rosemont, Illinois September 3 – 7, along with Bishop Miller of the Metro Chicago Synod, who brought greetings on behalf of the ELCA during the opening plenary. On Sunday evening, the three of us were joined by Rev. Brian Wise representing LEIRN and Prof. Mark Swanson from LSTC, who chairs the ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Muslim Relations as guests at the ISNA Interfaith Unity Banquet.

Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee

The Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee met September 9-11 at The Lutheran Center. The committee learned about the transitions under way in the Office of the Presiding Bishop of TEC; discussed continued coordination in evangelical outreach; explored shared challenges in seminary education; and identified options for pursuing the next phase of strategic planning. There is the hope to lift up an excellent example of shared ministry in a joint news story on the occasion of the upcoming 15th anniversary of CCM.

Declaration on the Way 

The long-awaited text of this Declaration is finally itself On the Way! On our side, next month it will be discussed at the Conference of Bishops Liaison Committee on Ecumenical & Inter-Religious Relations, and then brought to the full CoB. The following week, also here in our Lutheran Center, the Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops will also receive the text. We have sent a preliminary printing to Rome and Geneva for the annual joint staff meeting of the LWF and PCPCU. And copies for all our LEIRN members are in the works. The text identifies agreements on church, ministry and Eucharist from the achievement of our theological dialogues, and then indicates where there are remaining differences. We are indeed still “on the way” on these crucial issues – but our agreements, considered cumulatively and interactively, clearly demonstrate that we are not at the starting gate. It is a good time to consider what it would mean if the dialogues’ agreements were indeed to live in the life of our church communities.

Board Highlights

  • A pre-planning team of representatives from participating communions is being formed to do some advanced work for NWCU 2017. Invitations are being made to heads of communion, seminary and university presidents, and other church leaders in preparation for the Minneapolis workshop, which will focus heavily on commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
  • The national planning committee for NWCU 2016 meets in Louisville October 5-7. Kathryn Johnson and Chris Olkiewicz will participate on behalf of LEIRN and the ELCA.
  • On October 5, board member Kenny Bowen will represent Bishop Erwin at a meeting of leaders from the Maronite and other churches to exchange ideas and discuss ways to support Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East. The meeting is being held at Our Lady Mt. Lebanon-St. Peter Cathedral in Los Angeles. Kenny will update the board at its October meeting.
  • A late-October date is currently being arranged for our next meeting.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

August Update

From Don McCoid and Kathryn Lohre

Lutheran-Moravian Coordinating Committee

The Lutheran-Moravian Coordinating Committee met July 27-29 at the Laurel Ridge Moravian Camp and Retreat Center in Laurel Springs, North Carolina, under the gracious hospitality of the Southern Province. The Committee’s key accomplishments were: 

  • Launching a Facebook page and blog,
  • Identifying several stories of shared ministries to lift up (on the blog and elsewhere) as examples and encouragement to our churches. 
  • Engaging in a strategic planning process based on the intersection of the committee’s constituencies and responsibilities. 
  • Developing an initial model for formation and missional engagement between Lutheran and Moravian rostered and lay leaders in places where our churches are strongly present, starting with a convening in 2016 in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania that will be held in conjunction with the Committee’s annual meeting. 
  • Lifting up the 15th anniversary of our full communion partnership and looking toward the future to discern where the next 15 years might lead us together as we follow the Shepherd. 

Ecumenical and Inter-Religious partners and resources have been added to

Declaration on the Way

Because if the importance of the DOTW, we will try to keep you updated about reception progress. The International Commission reviewed the declaration and offered some points; however, they did not believe they were the body that could receive it. 

The LWF and Vatican (Pontifical Council) staffs will meet at the end of September. This will be on the agenda. The PCPCU has been most receptive to the DOTW. In October, the DOTW will be shared with the Conference of Bishops and in November with the Church Council. When the document receives some further edits, the LEIRN board and network will receive a copy. Don will continue to provide staffing to this project as a gift of continued service beyond his retirement on August 31, 2015; Kathryn Johnson will continue her work on this project as an author. 

Farewell and Godspeed

Don, we love you and will miss you! Thank you for your remarkable leadership and service in ELCA’s Ecumenical & Inter-Religious Relations. Your passion for Christian unity and your commitment to inter-religious understanding and cooperation are contagious. Blessings to you and your family as you transition into retirement.

Board Highlights

  • President Chris Olkiewicz will represent LEIRN at the National Planning Committee meeting in October in Louisville, KY, site of the 2016 NWCU (April 18-21).
  • Past-President Rocky Piro, in his role as National Chair of the 2017 NWCU, updated us on pre-planning work already underway for that Workshop. The Hilton Hotel in downtown Minneapolis has been secured as the venue. Local leaders are very energized. Invitations to local and national dignitaries will be going out soon. Commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation will be a big emphasis of the 2017 Workshop.
  • The board will continue to discuss network vacancies at the next meeting to be held on September 18 at 9:30 a.m. Central.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Mid-Summer Update

Greetings, friends and members of LEIRN! Below you'll find an update from Kathryn and Don given at the most recent board meeting. Follow the links throughout to some very helpful resources. Remember to follow us by email (enter your email address in the box at right) if you would like to be notified whenever new content is posted.

From Kathryn Lohre and Don McCoid

ELCA Colleges

Kathryn had the honor and privilege of preaching at the Baccalaureate service at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois on May 24. This invitation grew out of our partnership with ELCA colleges on inter-religious formation and engagement. In June 2016 the Vocation of a Lutheran College conference will be focused on inter-religious engagement. Planning is underway this week through the conference planning team, which has been expanded to include Kathryn, Mark Wilhelm, Mark Hanson, and colleagues from the Interfaith Youth Core. A second task force of individuals who participated in the March Consultation at The Lutheran Center will carry forward several other initiatives that will help connect ELCA colleges as a network engaged in inter-religious formation and engagement.

50th Anniversary of Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue in the US

A celebration of 50 years of Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue in the US launched the sixth meeting of Round XII on “Faithful Teaching.” A service of thanksgiving and prayer was held in the chapel at the USCCB offices in DC. Bishop Eaton preached and Bishop Graham presided. A particularly moving part of the service was the reading of names of dialogue participants over the years. Monsignor John A. Radano then gave an address titled, “The Significance of the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue in the United States after Fifty Years” (click here to read) and Kathryn offered a response (click here to read). We were joined by many long-time friends and colleagues for these events and the reception that followed, hosted at the USCCB offices in DC.

A few weeks later, Pope Francis’ highly anticipated encyclical, Laudato Si’ (on the care for creation), was released. The ELCA joined ecumenical partners in expressing their appreciation for this encyclical, and shared commitment to this critical social issue of our time.

ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations

The 2015 meeting of the ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations was held in conjunction with, “Seeking Peace in the Holy Land: A Community Conversation Involving Christians and Jews,” June 10-11 at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. The conference was organized and hosted by Skip Cornett, who is a member of the Panel. No financial support or planning was offered by ELCA. Speakers included Steve Gutow (JCPA), Warren Clark (CMEP), Lara Friedman (Americans for Peace Now), Hussein Ibish (Arab Gulf States Institute), US Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, AJ Levine (Vanderbilt), and Darrel Jodock (St. Olaf). The Panel meeting focused on discussion of Frank Sherman’s two-volume, Bridges: Documents of the Jewish-Christian Dialogue; continued work on the inter-religious case studies book project; staff report – including discussion of future plans for structuring inter-religious work; and recommendations regarding inter-religious guests and workshops for the CWA 2016 and Grace Gathering. The Panel also had the opportunity to meet with Peace Not Walls staff, as their network was also meeting at Trinity, and Kathryn was invited to introduce herself and to share with the Network, as a bridge-building opportunity.

[Note: Bridges: Documents of the Jewish-Christian Dialogue by Frank Sherman, available from Paulist Press, is a highly recommended resource for LEIRN members. Click here to learn more and to order a copy.]

Lutheran World Federation Council Meeting

The 2015 Council meeting of the LWF took place in Geneva, June 17-23. A significant matter before the Council was engagement with a new study document, “The Self-Understanding of the Lutheran Communion.” It is hoped that this will be a resource for the churches’ preparations for the LWF 2017 Assembly. Other issues before the Council included: sustainability, Assembly planning, and operational planning. Several public statements were made by the Council on climate justice, humanitarian response to conflict, the situation in Tanah Papua (Indonesia), the sin of racism (in light of Charleston which occurred while the Council was meeting), the Middle East, migrants, and Sustainable Development Goals. During the Council meeting, leadership from ELCA and Mekane Jesus signed an MOU regarding continued cooperation in diakonia.

Kathryn and Don participated in the Committee for Theology and Ecumenical Relations. The Study Guide for FCC developed by the SW Penn Synod of the ELCA and the Pittsburgh Diocese was lifted up as a resource. Of important note is the challenging financial situation facing the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg. Please consider supporting the Institute, and referring individuals in your networks to its programs.

Mother Emanuel AME Church Shootings

The tragic shootings at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston took place during the LWF Council meeting. Bishop Eaton issued a statement from Geneva, and also called for a “day of repentance and mourning”:

Standing with the ELCA, the LWF also issued a public statement on the sin of racism:

After returning the US, Bishop Eaton attended the funeral service for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, during which President Obama gave the eulogy. Also present on behalf of ELCA were Bishop Herman Yoos, Al Starr, and Judith Butler. Rev. Pinckney and Rev. Simmons, who were among the nine killed, were graduates of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. Dylan Roof and his family are members of an ELCA congregation. Bishop Eaton was invited to be part of the procession. This was a powerful gesture of continued partnership extended by the senior bishops of the AME Church.

The AME Council of Bishops met just before the fourth of July weekend, issuing the attached statements. As part of this, they called ecumenical and interfaith partners to dedicate September 6 as a “Day of Confession, Repentance, Prayer, and Commitment to End Racism.” Bishop Eaton wrote a letter of gratitude to AME Senior Bishop Bryant, and made the commitment of ELCA participation. Resources will be forthcoming. Please help to spread the word.

The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church

The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church was held June 25-July 3 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Kathryn was present for the ecumenical events over the first weekend, and the historic election of the next presiding bishop, Michael Curry, currently bishop of North Carolina Diocese. Ecumenical and inter-religious guests had the opportunity to observe and be introduced to the House of Deputies and House of Bishops, and joined Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori for a private dinner, during which time Kathryn was able to honor her with a brief speech and presentation of a cross. Significant actions of the TEC GC included: unanimous approval of full communion with the Church of Sweden; action in support for and solidarity with the ancient Christian communities of the Middle East; commendation of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’; canonical and liturgical changes to provide marriage equality; action to approve a revised budget with emphasis on evangelism and racial reconciliation; and action to divest from fossil fuels. Divestment from Israel was discussed, but opposed. For a detailed summary of actions see:

General Synod 30 of the United Church of Christ

The 30th General Synod of the United Church of Christ took place June 26-30 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Rev. John Dorhauer, conference minister of the Southwest Conference, was elected to be the next General Minister and President, succeeding Geoffrey Black who will retire at the end of this month. Don was present for the election, and for the activities for ecumenical guests. The most significant action of the Synod was the action to divest from and boycott companies that profit from the occupation of Palestinian territories. For details see:

Reformed Church in America General Synod

The Reformed Church in America General Synod met in Palos Heights, Illinois June 11-16. Bishop Wayne Miller represented the ELCA as an ecumenical guest. The General Synod approved a special council to be convened in early 2016 to develop a constitutional way forward for RCA with regard to human sexuality. A summary of other actions can be found here:

Jewish Council on Public Affairs Council Meeting

Bishop Eaton addressed the Council of the JCPA, meeting in Chicago on June 28. The theme was, “Faith to Faith: Partners Repairing the World. She lifted up areas of collaboration through partnership and coalition work, including racial and ethnic discrimination and religious freedom, poverty, climate changes, human rights, and peace with justice in Israel-Palestine. This invitation was made by Steve Gutow, who will retire as JCPA President at the end of this year.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada Convention

The 15th Biennial National Convention of the ELCIC took place in Edmonton July 9-12. Bishop Eaton preached at the opening worship. National Bishop Susan Johnson was re-elected to serve a third term. She has been a very strong partner, and we received this news with joy. A significant part of the Convention was the telling of the story of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which sought to provide reconciliation to Indian residential school survivors of trauma. The ELCIC, together with ecumenical partners, had engaged with the TRC in its work. Actions of the Convention included endorsing the document, “Welcoming the Stranger: Affirmations for Faith Leaders,” a pledge to welcome strangers, refugees, and internally displaced persons; and endorsing a climate justice resolution, which affirms the position of the LWF on the subject.

International Joint Lutheran-Catholic Commission Meeting

Bishop Hanson and Kathryn Johnson joined Bishop Madden and Susan Wood in a presentation of the Declaration on the Way to the International Joint Lutheran-Catholic Commission meeting in Budapest, on July 16. (Susan is a member of the Joint Commission.) The full declaration, completed the week before, was presented to the commissioners, along with a proposed action to the LWF and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity together to “create a process to receive and implement the agreements of the Declaration on the Way…” As a first step, strong appreciation for the agreements and the documentation of sources was expressed.

Inter-Religious Case Studies Book Project

The inter-religious case studies book project, a joint project of the ELCA Consultative Panels on Lutheran-Jewish and Lutheran-Muslim relations, has made significant progress in recent months. Lutheran University Press has been secured to publish the collection in spring 2016. The manuscript has been sent out to select Lutheran leaders for review. Chris Olkiewicz has agreed to participate on behalf of LEIRN – thank you! Using this input, the authors will meet in Chicago in late August to finalize the manuscript. It will then be shared with select ecumenical and inter-religious partners, Church Council members, and the Conference of Bishops’ Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Liaison Committee. The final manuscript will be submitted to LUP in early October. Over the next months, we would like to work with you in partnership with your bishops to develop a plan for teaching workshops on what it means to be Lutheran in a multi-religious context, using the book as a resource. Would it be possible to mobilize the Network for this work at assemblies?

This book project is one part of a broader strategy to invite an ELCA-conversation around our inter-religious calling and commitments. In the coming months, Bishop Eaton will appoint a drafting team to begin work on an inter-religious vision statement, to serve as a compliment to Ecumenism: The Vision of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (1991). This process will likely take unfold from 2016-2019.

Other Board Notes

  • Planning is underway for the 2016 National Workshop on Christian Unity. Board President Chris Olkiewicz represents LEIRN on the National Planning Committee (NPC) and Kathryn Johnson as ELCA staff. The NPC meets next in Louisville in October. Stay tuned as details emerge, but save the dates for the 2016 NWCU: April 18-21, 2016 -- Louisville, KY.
  • LEIRN member Rocky Piro is national chair for the 2017 NWCU, which will be held in Minneapolis, May 1-4. This Workshop will be a significant opportunity to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

From Conflict to Communion Study Guide Makes LWF News

The Lutheran World Federation recently featured the study guide for From Conflict to Communion in a news story on their website. Read more . . .

On April 29, more than 100 Lutherans and Catholics gathered at St. Paul Seminary in Pittsburgh to use the new study guide as a framework for discussing how to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017. Read more . . .

Thanks to Pittsburgh for leading the way!

Lutheran – Catholic
April 29, 2015
Bishop Donald McCoid – Moderator


9:30 a.m.   ……………………………………Registration/Gathering

10:00 a.m. …………………………Welcome –   Fr. Kris Stubna 
                                Bishop Kurt Kusserow

10:15 a.m. ………………Opening Prayer – Fr. Kris Stubna

10:30 a.m. ………………Presentations – Fr. John Crossin
                                Rev. Timothy Wengert
12:15 p.m. ………………Break

12:30 p.m. ………………Lunch

1:15 p.m. ……………Panel – Share how we will consider the Study Guide
            Session 1 -  Introduction – Chris C
                                   Session 2 -  Fr. Crossin  and Don McCoid (chapter 6)
                                   Session 3 -  chapter 1 – Chris C
                                   Session 4 -  Chapter 2 -  Judy
                                   Session 5 – Chapter 3 -   Kim
                                   Session 6 – Chapter 4 -  Tim Wengert
                                   Session 7 – Chapter 5 -   Don Green
Do two presentations and then 15 minutes for discussion
          6 minute to highlight the session      (48 minutes)
                       14 minute for  4 table discussions (56 minutes)         
      (Total time = 1 hr. 44 minutes))

3:00 p.m. …………………Prayer & Dismissal

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