Thursday, June 26, 2014

June 2014 Update

Welcome back to the LEIRN blog! We have not had any updates since before the LEIRN annual meeting in Albuquerque at the National Workshop on Christian Unity, and the board did not meet in May. We needed a break after all the time we spent together in Albuquerque!

Look for minutes from our June meeting to be posted here soon, along with a few reflections on our time at the NWCU. If you were there and have some thoughts about the whole experience or a particular seminar that you attended, please email them to me for posting ( We would love to share your thoughts with the network. In the meantime, here is a summary of what Kathryn and Don have been up to in recent weeks. As you can see, they have been very busy!

Chris Olkiewicz
LEIRN President

From Kathryn Lohre and Don McCoid

NCC Christian Unity Gathering – May 18-20

After an 18 month transition period, the National Council of Churches USA held its first major gathering, launching the new structure. The “Christian Unity Gathering” was held in Washington DC, May 18-20, focusing on the Council’s priority of “mass incarceration.” There was a public plenary featuring Marian Wright Edelman, Jim Wallis, Ida Carruthers, and Harold Dean Trulear, who offered remarks and engaged in discussion with participants on the role of the churches in tackling mass incarceration from several angles, including education and other opportunities for children, prison ministry, re-entry, and policy reform. In addition to the plenary sessions, meetings of the Governing Board, Committees, and Convening Tables (Faith & Order, Inter-Religious, Education & Formation, and Justice & Advocacy) were held concurrently. A celebratory worship service included a procession of ecumenical and inter-religious guests; Jim Winkler gave his inaugural address as General Secretary/President.

We had excellent participation as an ELCA delegation, including by Presiding Bishop Eaton. The event was a strong start to the re-envisioned and restructured Council. The Board received the encouraging news that after years of deficits, there will be a budget surplus this year! Thanks be to God!

Meetings with Jewish Partners – May 21-22

On May 21, Bishop Eaton had a relationship building meeting with Rabbi Steve Gutow, head of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. On May 22, we received colleagues from the American Jewish Committee, including Noam Marans (Director, Interreligious and Intergroup Relations), Emily Soloff (Chicago-based regional staff), and David Inlander (chair, Inter-religious Committee). In addition to relationship building, the conversation with our AJC partners focused on possible areas of collaboration for the future.

Conference on Interfaith Understanding, Augustana, Rock Island, June 1-3

Augustana College, Rock Island hosted a conference for ELCA Colleges on the topic of interfaith understanding. Sixteen of the 27 colleges were present through delegations. Eight college presidents also participated, along with Bishop Eaton, Mark Wilhelm (ELCA Director, Schools) and Kathryn. Eboo Patel, founder and president of the Interfaith Youth Core gave the keynote address, lifting up several ELCA Colleges and Universities that are already deeply engaging interfaith understanding through student initiatives, policies, and partnerships.

Bishop Eaton encouraged ELCA College/University presidents to see this area of critical work as an opportunity for deepening partnership between the church and the schools, and for making a contribution on the 500th observance of the Reformation that would honor the schools’ Lutheran heritage, and prepare students for vocational life in a multi-religious world. She offered two concrete ideas for their consideration: the formation of a center for Lutheran vocation in a multi-religious world, and a liberal arts curriculum that would seek to educate students about the Lutheran tradition, and provide religious literacy as a skill set for vocational life in today’s context.

Lutheran World Federation Council

The LWF Council met in Medan, Indonesia from June 10-17. Some of the highlights include:

  • The LWF is holding together. There was a marked sense of peace among members and a focus on ministry
  • It was important to be Indonesia. It is among the largest churches in the LWF (5.8 million), but is in a predominately in a Muslim country.
  • The 500th Anniversary of the Reformation will have a dedicated website in 2015. The liturgy will be completed and posted
  • The theme of the next LWF Assembly will be “Liberated by God’s Grace."

Statement on Indonesia Meeting

The Council was exposed to the situation of the Lutheran minority churches in a largely Muslim country. The Council statement on Indonesia gives thanks for the vibrant and faithful witness of sisters and brothers in Indonesia. It states that “the LWF Council joins and supports the Indonesian churches in their efforts to uphold freedom of religion, their interreligious solidarity in working against injustice and in responding to human need, and in their continuing engagement in dialogue with different religious groups to promote understanding and just and peaceful communities.”

Statement on Indonesia Statement on Climate Justice

During the Council meeting participants took part in a “fast for the climate action” to support the global interfaith campaign #fastfortheclimate.  The statement on climate justice reiterates LWF’s commitment to climate justice as evidenced by previous Assembly and Council statements; and it calls on member churches to take action on organizational, congregational and personal level to become more eco-friendly. The statement also calls LWF member churches to engage in the #fastfortheclimate campaign.

Climate Statement on Violence in Sub-Saharan Africa

LWF member churches in sub-Saharan Africa have, in the past months, offered more statements in which they have spoken out against the recent violence in some countries in the region, including the abduction of school girls and women in Nigeria. Council members at the 2014 meeting expressed their shared pain with the LWF member churches in the region. In a statement on violence in sub-Saharan Africa, the Council strongly condemned all violence and called upon all parties and the international community to take immediate action to release those held captive; to desist from using violence and to prevent barbaric actions such as abduction from taking place in the future.

Statement on Ukraine

The LWF has a member church in Ukraine, which also has congregations on the Crimean peninsula that is affected by the recent instability in the region. The statement on the Ukraine called for prayers for the people in the Ukraine and in particular for the LWF member church in its ongoing witness and service.

Statement on the Universal Code of Conduct on Holy Sites

The LWF Council 2014 endorsed the Universal Code of Conduct on Holy Sites, which is a document developed in consultation with religious leaders and experts from many of the world’s major faiths. The Council also encouraged member churches to support initiatives in their context and called upon the United Nations to adopt a UN resolution in the spirit of the Code.

Statement on Welcoming the Stranger

Following the Council adoption of the “Welcoming the Stranger,” code of conduct for faith leaders in 2013, the document has been widely distributed globally and regionally. The statement on welcoming the stranger encourages “our congregations and all people of faith to build their relationships with the “strangers” among them, and to be more open, to have more faith, and to trust God´s own support.

Synod Assemblies

Don was the ELCA representative to the Northwest Ohio Synod Assembly, the Southern Ohio Assembly, and the Sierra Pacific Assembly. While each were unique, he says that he was impressed by the health and ministry that unfolds in each place. The local and synodical ministries are evidence of the mission life that are shared in each region.

PCUSA General Assembly, June 17-19

Kathryn attended the PCUSA’s 221st General Assembly in Detroit, Michigan, as an ecumenical guest. She joined other ecumenical and inter-religious partners in a dinner hosted by Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons, and a breakfast the following morning that had a program on the topic of “violence against women.” Panelists included two women: one from the Sikh Coalition, and another from the WD Mohammed movement.

An ecumenical worship service for the whole assembly followed the breakfast. The preacher was the Rev. Mark McDonald, WCC North American President, and Indigenous Bishop of the Anglican Church in Canada.

The two most controversial issues facing the GA were civil marriage, and divestment from Israel. The plenary on Thursday morning provided an opportunity for commissioners to engage in small group discussion and discernment on these two issues. The votes on the Committee’s recommendations (to allow clergy to perform same sex marriages where they are legal, and to define marriage as between two people, and to divest from Motorola, Caterpillar, and HP respectively) will occur on Friday. Importantly, the Belhar Confession, which has its roots in the struggle against apartheid, was approved for inclusion in the Book of Confessions. In order for this to be fully enacted, 2/3 of the presbyteries will need to approve this over the next year, and then the next GA will have to approve this, as well.

Further information can be found at

Interfaith Opportunities at 2015 Youth Gathering

In 2012 the ELCA Consultative Panels for Lutheran-Jewish and Lutheran-Muslim Relations met jointly. During that meeting, they requested an opportunity to speak with Heidi Hagstrom, director of the ELCA Youth Gathering about opportunities for inter-religious engagement in 2015 given the context of Detroit. In recent months we have been part of conversations about the possibility of a small pilot program for youth gathering participants to engage in an exchange with youth of other religious traditions in Detroit. The consultative panels have also been encouraged to participate in some way in providing an opportunity for engagement for all youth gathering participants through the Interactive Learning Center. A small joint working group of panelists is being formed in order to brainstorm ideas that will be refined in consultation with Youth Gathering staff by the end of summer. If any of you have ideas you would like to share, please let Kathryn know.


We have made significant changes to our ELCA website so that resources are easier to access via live links in the text. We hope that this is an improvement for your work. We will be working later this year to revise the way our downloadable resources are organized, so that it is more user-friendly for those who are not familiar with our resources. A link to our pages has been added to the footer of our homepage.

We are in the process of professionally designing and formatting the ELCA-UMC one day formation template, for the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the full communion agreement this year. We will send you the PDF as soon as it is available, and post it to our website.

“Why Follow Luther Past 2017? A Contemporary Lutheran Approach to Inter-Religious Relations” was prepared by the ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations as a contribution toward the 500th observance of the Reformation. Please continue to lift this up through your work. It is available for download at and we also have a limited number of copies that we could share with you, upon request.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

March 2014 Update

From Kathryn Lohre and Don McCoid

Catholic Dialogue

The dialogue met at the end of February. The scholars are blending some important insights in looking at Sources of Authority. We should be able to have substantive insights to share when the round is complete. In addition the 50th Anniversary of the Dialogue will be celebrated next May (2015) in Washington, during the dialogue meeting.

Conference of Bishops

The meeting was held in early March. We met with the liaison committee of the COB. Of interest was some of the sharing that was done by the liaison bishops. There seems to be a decline throughout the U.S. of state councils of churches and regional ecumenical councils. Those who include inter-religious relations are doing better. An update from the Global Ecclesiology Task Force was given. Bishop Eaton was supportive of ecumenical ministry in her report.

Lutheran World Federation

Guests from the LWF staff from Geneva visited our offices on March 11-12. The executives from Ecumenical and Theological ministry and DMD – Department of Mission Development had visited the NALC (no report was shared) prior to meeting with us. They were supportive of the ELCA and the exchange is a good example of our ministry within our Communion of Churches.

United Methodist-ELCA Coordinating Committee

A meeting was held on March 17-18 at our offices. We continued the important sharing on revitalizing congregations. Staff from both churches presented updates. This will be continued in our next meeting later this year. In addition, we will look at advocacy meeting in our churches and will have staff present. A major emphasis will be the 5th Anniversary of the UMC-ELCA full communion agreement. A letter will be shared by the co-chairs of the Coordinating Committee with bishops, including our LEIRN network. There will be encouragement for local observances of the anniversary on the synodical/conference level. Find resources here . . .

U.S. Christian-Jewish Dialogue

The “Summit” of Jewish and Christian leaders was held March 27 at the JCPA in New York City. The focus of the meeting is on tending to relationships, particularly when significant disagreements are held. The meeting is being co-convened by the Rev. Mark Hanson and Rabbi Steve Gutow (JCPA), and co-facilitated by the Rev. Tom Duke (who is ELCA) and Rabbi Melissa Weintraub. Bishop Eaton represented the ELCA. The meeting is not public.

New Resource

“Why Follow Luther Past 2017? A Contemporary Lutheran Approach to Inter-Religious Relations” is underway. This resource was prepared by the ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations as a contribution toward the 500th observance of the Reformation. Please share this widely and encourage folks in your synod to use it for individual and group study. It is available for download under the “Inter-Religious” tab on our resources page . . .

EIR Staff Changes

We have recently undergone a change in roles in our Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations team, with Kathryn being named the new Executive for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations and Don now serving as director. The complementarity of our roles has been maintained, with Don having primary responsibility for our full communion coordinating committees, bi-lateral dialogues and discourses, and with Kathryn having primary responsibility for conciliar life and inter-religious relations, though we both share responsibilities, including support of LEIRN. In Chicago, Kathryn is situated to pick up the responsibilities as Assistant to the Presiding Bishop. Eileen is continuing in her role as Administrative Services Coordinator. It is good to be continuing our work together!

From the Board

We look forward to seeing you at the National Workshop on Christian Unity in Albuquerque. For those not able to attend, look for live updates in the LERN Facebook Group from April 28 - May 1 and a complete recap here in coming weeks.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Coming Soon: The National Workshop on Christian Unity!

We hope that you are planning on joining us for the annual meeting of LERN in the context of the National Workshop on Christian Unity, held this year in lovely Albuquerque, NM from April 28 - May 1.

Here's everything you need to know to get ready for a great experience!

Early-Bird Registration

To take advantage of the early-bird discount, register by March 22 on the NWCU website . . .

Also register for the LERN meeting while on the NWCU site. The link will take you to a secure page on the ELCA website, where you may pay the $45 LERN registration fee.

LERN Schedule

As you make travel arrangements, please note that the first meeting of LERN begins at 2:00 on Monday afternoon.

Monday, April 28

Executive Board Meeting
Newcomers Luncheon

Briefing by ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations Staff
8:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
10:00 - 11:45 a.m.
12:00 - 1:15 p.m.

2:00 - 4:45 p.m.

Tuesday, April 29

From Conflict to Communion
Network Business/Elections
3:30 - 5:00 p.m.
5:15 - 6:00 p.m.

Wednesday, April 30

Tri-Network Meeting with EDEIO and UMEIT

Looking Toward Charlotte 2015
2:00 - 4:00 p.m.

4:15 - 4:45 p.m.

Thursday, May 1

Executive Board Meeting

2:00 - 5:00 p.m.

From Conflict to Communion

In preparation for the discussion at Tuesday's plenary, please download and read From Conflict to Communion before the workshop. It is available on the Lutheran World Federation website . . .

It is not cost effective for the network to make paper copies of this document available, so please bring your own copy, either electronic or printed.

Show & Tell

One of the goals of the network is to share ideas and best practices. Give some thought to initiatives that are going well in your area, or frustrations that you have had, and be ready to share so that others may benefit from your good work and experience.

Annual Report

Your board is asking you to complete this year's LERN report online here . . .

Please respond by April 1, so that the results may be compiled and presented in Albuquerque. The information you provide is also helpful in giving the Conference of Bishops a picture of the ecumenical and inter-religious work taking place across the ELCA.

Board Elections

We need to elect one new member of the Executive Board at this year's NWCU. Under the new structure approved last year, the board is no longer regionally constituted. We still strive, however, to have all regions of the ELCA represented on the board when possible. Though Regions 1 and 3 are currently not represented, nominations from all regions are welcome. Read more about the responsibilities of board members . . .

You may make nominations to the LERN Secretary via email ( prior to the workshop or from the floor at the annual meeting.

Need a Roommate?

If you are interested in sharing a room at the Albuquerque Hyatt, contact Eileen Heffner ( in ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations for a list of LERN members who have already registered. Hotel reservations may be made from the NWCU registration page . . .

New to LERN?

If this is your first time attending a LERN meeting and National Workshop, please gather at the registration table at noon on Monday, and the Executive Board will take you to lunch!


If you have any questions not answered here, please contact LERN President Chris Olkiewicz (

See you in Albuquerque!

February 2014 Update

From Kathryn Lohre and Don McCoid

Declaration on the Way

January 29-31 was the first meeting of scholars from the ELCA and appointees from the Catholic Conference of Bishops to work on a Declaration on the Way (to unity). Papers were shared in three areas that will make up the Declaration: Ecclesiology, Ministry, and the Eucharist. Significant progress was made and assignments were made to continue working on a declaration that will form the basis for a document that will seal agreements on these important areas. The Vatican is aware and supportive of this work. It is hoped that both the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation will receive this Declaration as a contribution to the anniversary of the Reformation.


The group met in Washington, D.C. February 20-23. This formal dialogue between the ELCA and the USCCB is addressing authoritative sources in our churches that lead to decisions, especially moral and ethical concerns. This subject was chosen after the Catholic Church requested more conversation and theological consideration about authority and decision making in our churches.

Christian Churches Together

Bishop Eaton attended the meeting of the heads of communion of CCT. Bishop Burkat, Judith Roberts, and Don McCoid attended the annual meeting of CCT in Newark, New Jersey. The main emphasis was mass incarceration. Speakers made presentations about some of the major issues and the racial dimensions that lead to incarceration and unequal judicial sentencing. Interaction among the five families (Catholics, Orthodox, Mainline Protestants, Historic Black, and Evangelical/Pentecostal Churches) provided an opportunity for faith sharing.

Jewish-Christian Relations

Preparations for the leadership “Summit” of Jewish and Christian leaders being held in late March are well underway. This meeting was organized in response to the tensions that surfaced after 15 Christian leaders sent a letter to Congress in October 2012 calling for an end to unconditional US military aid to Israel. The meeting will focus on tending to relationships, particularly when we hold divergent views. At Bishop Eaton’s request, the Rev. Mark Hanson will continue to serve as co-convener with Rabbi Steve Gutow of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) and Bishop Eaton will participate as well.

The ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish has prepared and published a resource entitled, “Why Follow Luther Past 2017? A Contemporary Lutheran Approach to Inter-Religious Relations,” as a contribution toward the 500th observance of the Reformation. The resource acknowledges the challenges of Luther’s anti-Judaic legacy and goes on to offer four of Luther’s key principles that can helpfully be applied to contemporary inter-religious relations. Download the resource here . . .

Board meeting highlights

The entire meeting was spent finalizing the schedule for the LERN Annual Meeting, held in conjunction with the National Workshop on Christian Unity in Albuquerque, April 28 - May 1. A pre-Workshop blogpost will follow here soon with a schedule of LERN events and other NWCU information. If you are making travel arrangements now, note that the first LERN meeting begins at 2:00 p.m. on Monday, April 28. See you in Albuquerque!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Update -- January 2014

From Don McCoid and Kathryn Lohre

A brief update was offered by Don this month. Kathryn continues on parental leave.

Declaration on the Way

The first meeting will be held during the last week in January. Papers are being drafted now. Each of the three Lutheran members are paired with one of the three Roman Catholic members on the topics of baptism, ministry, and ecclesiology.

Christian Churches Together

The annual meeting of CCT will be held during the first weekend in February.

Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue

The U.S. dialogue team resumes meeting in February.

Board Meeting Highlights

LERN Annual Report

We discussed new questions to incorporate into the current version of the report that all LERN members are asked to complete annually. The form will be available for members to fill out on-line this year. Look for a link to arrive in your inbox soon.

NWCU Planning

Planning for LERN plenaries at the Albuquerque Workshop continues. In addition to an extensive update from Don and Kathryn and an opportunity for members to engage them in conversation about the ecumenical and inter-religious work of the ELCA, we also plan to focus on From Conflict to Communion: Lutheran-Catholic Common Commemoration of the Reformation in 2017. Strategies for using this resource locally as a first step toward planning commemoration events will be discussed. Details of other plenary activities, including a joint plenary with EDEIO and UMEIT, are still being crafted.

Lutheran Ecumenist Award

Deadline for nominations is February 1. Candidates will be discussed at the February meeting.

Next meeting: February 28, 2014

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Call for Nominations

LERN Ecumenist Award

Members of LERN are invited to submit nominations for this year's LERN Ecumenist Award. The award is given to someone who has made significant contributions toward advancing the ecumenical vision of the ELCA (which may be found here . . .). Written nominations describing the person's qualifications should be submitted to LERN President Chris Olkiewicz ( by February 1, 2014. The award will be presented at the National Workshop on Christian Unity in Albuquerque in April 2014.

Update -- December 2013

From Don McCoid and Kathryn Lohre

NCCC Presidency

Kathryn completed her term as President of the NCCC. At the meeting in November, there was strong affirmation and appreciation for her outstanding leadership during a time of great change and need. Kathryn is now on parental leave. The twins continue to make progress!

Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee

The early December meeting concentrated on goals for the future, receiving updates on the continuing ministry sharing, and responding to the Episcopal Convention’s request for a response on deacons and lay presidency. As we assessed what is happening, it is truly remarkable how many things we are doing together in staff, training, planting the church, and sharing best practices … and shared ministries.

Presiding Bishops and Ecumenical Staff Meeting

Ecumenical leaders of the Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America met in Winnipeg on December 9-10. There were a lot of updates and some specific commitments for the year ahead, including sharing ecclesiology reports and a making a coordinated response to the WCC statement, advocacy  and international work, and planning agenda items for next year. This was Bishop Eaton’s opportunity to meet Archbishop Fred from the ACC. Both the bishops and the ecumenical staff enjoyed a productive meeting.

Board Meeting Highlights

From Conflict to Communion

Discussion of this document continued, this month focusing on Chapter 1. The board continues to encourage all LERN members to read From Conflict to Communion, especially the five imperatives (found in the last chapter) and to bring the document to the attention of his or her bishop as a possible vehicle for engagement with Roman Catholic colleagues. Our friends at CADEIO are making the report a priority and plan to explore it at the next NWCU. The board will discuss Chapter 2 at the January meeting.

LERN/NWCU Registration

Registration and payment of fees for the LERN annual meeting can be handled electronically this year. Just follow the link on the NWCU registration site. Remember to register by March 22 to get the early bird discount.

National Workshop on Christian Unity brochures are completed and will be sent out in January to synod offices, LERN members, and ELCA seminaries. Please plan now to get brochures into the hands of colleagues and seminarians and encourage them to join you in Albuquerque for this year's Workshop and meeting of LERN.

Next meeting: January 17, 2014

Send a message to the editor


Email *

Message *