Saturday, February 10, 2018

Annual Meeting Preliminary Agenda

The proposed agenda for the LEIRN annual meeting is below. Anyone is welcome to attend. When we come to any items requiring a vote--board elections, for example--only appointed representatives may vote. Please note:

Board Elections

The network may elect up to three new board members this year. We strive to have all regions of the ELCA represented and currently lack board members from Regions 2 and 3. Board members serve a three-year term and are eligible for reelection to a second term. Because of our shortened time for LEIRN business this year, please consider your interest in serving on the board now, and let President Chris Olkiewicz (revcdo@gmail.com) know before April 16, if possible. Members from all regions, not just 2 and 3, are eligible.

Annual Report

We ask all LEIRN members to complete a brief online report before coming to NWCU. You may access the report at this link -- https://goo.gl/forms/dMsyCZnwwDPawTwL2 . If you are not able to come to NWCU, you are encouraged still to submit a report by the April 9 deadline. The report collects information that our Churchwide staff find valuable, and your participation is greatly appreciated.

Treasurer

The treasurer position for the network is vacant at this time. Any currently appointed representative is eligible to serve as treasurer. If you're interested, please contact Chris Olkiewicz or any member of the board. The treasurer is appointed by the board and serves as a board member.


Lutheran Ecumenical and Interreligious Representatives Network
Annual Meeting—Silver Spring, MD
Monday, April 16, 2018


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 - 2:30 ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations Update

Kathryn Lohre, Executive for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations
Kathryn Johnson, Director of Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations

2:30 - 2:45 Break

2:45 - 3:30 Theological Education and Formation

A discussion of how seminarians and theological students become equipped for ecumenical and inter-religious engagement in their ministries.

The Rev. Dr. Kit Kleinhans, Dean, Trinity Lutheran Seminary at Capital University

3:30 - 4:15 ELCA Draft Inter-Religious Policy Statement

Please read the statement in preparation for this discussion of the statement and ways of engaging in the public comment process. Click to download A Declaration of Our Inter-Religious Commitment or go to elca.org/ecumenical.

4:15 - 4:30 Board Elections

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Register today for NWCU 2018

Register now for the 2018 National Workshop on Christian Unity. The Workshop is the largest gathering of its kind. Presentations and working sessions on more than a dozen current topics and issues - including moving into communion, advocacy, ministry to refugees, confronting racism, civil dialogue. Speakers include several national church body leaders: J. Herbert Nelson (Presbyterian Church USA), Bishop Ken Carter (United Methodist Church), Bishops Denis Madden and Mitchell Rozanski (Roman Catholic Church), Jim Winkler (U.S. National Council of Churches), Alyson Barnett Cowan (Canadian Council of Churches). Lisa Sharon Harper (Evangelical Covenant Church) is the 2018 Theologian-in-Residence. Take the opportunity to engage with others committed to lifting up unity in carrying out Christ's mission.

Excursions available to sites in Washington, DC, including the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. Immediately following the Workshop, plan to stay for Ecumenical Advocacy Days. For information, and to register, go to www.nwcu.org.


Monday, February 5, 2018

Staff Report to the LEIRN Board

January 2018


2017 – THANK YOU LEIRN!


…and just like that, 2017 is now in the past. We can see clearly in hindsight how the joint commemoration service and stadium events in Sweden on October 31, 2016 set the stage for a remarkable year of public acts of ecumenical relations, reconciliation, and cooperation globally, and in our local settings. Thank you, LEIRN, for your significant role in all things 2017. You have been instrumental in planning, prodding, supporting, promoting, participating in, and leading various initiatives, events, and long-term efforts. You helped this anniversary to be markedly different, and in doing so you greatly enhanced our church’s ecumenical self-understanding and witness for the future as we seek to walk together with our sisters and brothers in Christ and neighbors on the way to unity, justice, and peace. In Conflict to Communion, we are reminded that, “In view of 2017, the point is not to tell a different history, but to tell that history differently.” We give thanks to God for your individual and collective efforts to be part of that telling. And on we go…

Reformation Day 500




On October 31, 2017, Bishop Eaton co-hosted with ELCA Vice President Bill Horne, Chair of the Conference of Bishops Bill Gafkjen, and Metro DC Synod Bishop Dick Graham a daylong program of public witness. “Looking Back and Called Forward: A Commemoration of the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation” was hosted by Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The first segment of the program focused on ministries of reconciliation: 500 years of division and 50+ years of dialogue, including powerful sharing by guests and ELCA leaders in the areas of Lutheran-Catholic, Lutheran-Jewish, & Lutheran-Muslim relations, and racial justice and reconciliation. The second segment of the program lifted-up various ministries across the church. The day concluded with worship building on the liturgy used in Namibia by the LWF and a celebratory reception. The complete program, as well as videos and other information can be found here: https://elca500.org/resources/october-31-commemoration/ These materials can be adapted for use in a variety of settings as we continue to cultivate the spirit of reconciliation.

Notably, the ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations developed a Litany of Confession for the occasion of the 500th anniversary, based on the “1994 Declaration to the Jewish Community.” This public act of confession and commitment took place in the presence of our Jewish partners in the context of the day’s events. The litany can be found on pp. 6-7 of the program booklet linked below; it can be adapted for use across the church. https://www.elca500.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Final-Program-Booklet_web.pdf

Jewish-Christian Dialogue


The national Jewish-Christian dialogue on pastoral issues co-convened by the National Council of Churches and the National Council of Synagogues was hosted by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in DC on November 1, 2017. Darrell Jodock and Kathryn Lohre represent the ELCA at this table. Our hosts from the RAC (Rabbi Jonah Pesner, who had spoken at the ELCA event the day before, and Rabbi David Saperstein) strongly encouraged the table to find ways to build upon Jewish-Christian partnerships, especially in light of our urgent shared concerns about the human impact of several policy initiatives coming out of the current administration, as well as the rise in anti-Semitism in recent months. Afternoon presentations and discussion picked up the threads of reform, including a fine presentation given by Darrell on what we have learned after 500 years of Lutheran reformation. Israel/Palestine was discussed, but only within the parameters of a report from the NCC General Secretary regarding a high-level delegation trip to Israel/Palestine that took place in September 2017.




Lutheran-Catholic Relations


On November 5, 2017 a service of common prayer was held at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart at the University of Notre Dame. Bishop Eaton delivered the homily for this extraordinary occasion, and was joined in leadership by Bishop Denis Madden, auxiliary bishop emeritus, Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, and co-chair of the US Lutheran-Catholic dialogue. They co-presided with Douglas Sparks, bishop, Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana and Charles Wiley III, coordinator of the Office of Theology and Worship for the Presbyterian Church (USA). Bishop Bill Gafkjen of the ELCA Indiana-Kentucky Synod and other episcopal leaders and pastors participated in the procession. Following the service there was a lively reception and dinner. It was a joyful way to conclude the presiding bishop’s official duties around the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The University’s news article also includes a link to the video of the service: https://news.nd.edu/news/ecumenical-prayer-service-affirms-christian-unity-in-challenging-times/ 




Other highlights include:

Our office continues to receive records--liturgies, news stories, etc.--from ecumenical 500th anniversary events (happy to receive more!), and the ELCA Research and Evaluation office is working on instruments for more representative reports.

As a “visual expression of the journey toward shared Eucharist,” the Lund cross, familiar from the October 31, 2016, liturgy in Sweden and reproduced on many posters and bulletin covers since, was installed in the chapel of the Ecumenical Center in Geneva this month. See https://www.lutheranworld.org/news/lund-cross-placed-chapel-ecumenical-center.

A drafting committee from the current round of U.S. Lutheran-Catholic dialogue, on Faithful Teaching, is working intensively on the report. The co-chairs of the dialogue, Rev. Lowell Almen and Bishop Denis Madden, joined by Kathryn J, met on January 30 with Fr. Al Baca from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

In the meantime, conversation begins on what might come next: internationally, The Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity have committed to finding pastorally significant ways to take up questions of church, Eucharist, and ministry, and the venerable U.S. dialogue will want its parallel work to be in sync with these efforts.

National Council of Churches – Christian Unity Gathering


The NCC’s 2017 Christian Unity Gathering took place in Silver Spring, Maryland November 8-11, 2017. The ELCA delegation is smaller this quadrennium, but very strong and active in the four convening tables (faith & order, inter-religious, education, advocacy) and in governance. Bishop Darin Moore (another October 31 speaker) was installed as the first African Methodist Episcopal Zion chair of the NCC Governing Board; a rousing celebratory worship service and reception were held in his honor. The Governing Board took a major action in launching a truth and racial justice initiative, “Act Now! Unite to End Racism.” The launch will be a rally on the National Mall on April 4, honoring the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination. An ecumenical service on the 3rd and a lobby day on the 5th will also be part of the events. Bishop Eaton is confirmed as a speaker at the rally. The NCC is still working on releasing information, but to date ELCA bishops have been alerted and invited to participate and lead delegations from their synods, or to partner ecumenically and through councils of churches and other organizations. ELCA-specific information will be released shortly via press release and social media. Stay tuned and please consider how you might galvanize others. http://www.rally2endracism.org/



Lutheran-Episcopal Relations


Relations between the ELCA and The Episcopal Church have also been active. The Lutheran- Episcopal Coordinating Committee (LECC) met in Chicago on November 28-30, identifying a number of issues of polity, theology and practice on which they want to continue to work. Uniquely, this Full Communion partnership also has a vibrant “staff counterparts group,” focused especially on issues of advocacy and congregational support. Its semi-annual meeting is February 3 at the offices of TEC in New York. Kathryn Johnson will participate.


Conference of National Black Churches


For the third year, the ELCA participated as a sponsoring partner in 
the Conference of National Black Churches National Consultation, held December 12-14 in Memphis on the theme, “Overcoming the Burden of Bias.” Bishop Eaton brought greetings during the ecumenical worship service, and Bishop Eaton, Kathryn Lohre, and Albert Starr represented the ELCA and participated in the proceedings. Our presence at this gathering has been an important way for us to get at both the internal and external/ecumenical dimensions of our work to address racial injustice and white supremacy. It has also been important as a space for building and nurturing relations with our bilateral dialogue an discourse partners. 


Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land




In January 2018, Bishop Eaton led a delegation to participate in the consecration of Bishop Ibrahim Azar as the new bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land. Elected one year ago, Bishop Azar succeeded Bishop Munib Younan, who completed this year his service as president of the Lutheran World Federation. (Bishop Younan will be in the US hosted by Augsburg University for the spring semester 2018, and invitations for him to speak across the church can be shared with Mark Wilhelm.) Bishop Azar shared that he will focus primarily on tending to the pastoral needs of the church, while also caring for the global church partnerships. The ELCA delegation participated in events honoring Bishop Younan, the consecration of Bishop Azar, and made church to church visits with the six congregations and the baptismal site at Bethany Beyond the Jordan. Included were five synod bishops, including Bishop Don Kreiss of Southeast Michigan Synod (companion synod), as well as Rev. Khader El Yateem, the president of the Association of Lutherans and Arab and Middle Eastern Heritage, and staff. 




PARTICIPATE! INVITE! ENGAGE! OPPORTUNITIES:


4 Way Lenten Devotions

Lenten devotions prepared by the four Lutheran and Anglican/Episcopal Heads of Communion are forthcoming any day now. Please stay tuned and share them as widely as you can.




DRAFT Inter-Religious Policy Statement

The draft inter-religious policy statement has been released for public review and comment. The information below can be shared. Please feel free to connect with your bishops and other leaders in the synod to provide leadership in organizing opportunities for participation before the comment period closes at the end of June. The document is a download and the comments form is online. Any questions can be directed to Kathryn Lohre. Please feel free to use/adapt this email invitation:

Invitation to Respond

You are invited to participate in responding to the Draft ELCA policy statement, “A Declaration of Our Inter-Religious Commitment.” The six-month comment period on the Draft is open from Friday, January 12, 2018 through Saturday, June 30, 2018.

To participate, please download the draft document here, and respond to the online survey here. You are welcome to participate as individuals or groups.

Background

In 1991, the second Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America adopted, “A Declaration of Ecumenical Commitment: A Policy Statement of the ELCA.” This document provided a common theological basis and framework for this church’s ecumenical relations. Acknowledging the important distinction between seeking unity amongst Christians and “the responsibility of the Church to enter into conversations and reach greater understanding with people of other faiths,” the Declaration called for a “separate, official statement to describe [the ELCA’s] commitments and aspirations” in the area of inter-religious relations.

In 2016, twenty-five years later, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton announced to the Churchwide Assembly gathered in New Orleans that she had appointed a task force to develop a draft inter-religious policy statement. The eleven task force members and staff are listed in the document. You can read their bios here.

The Inter-Religious Task Force will receive the feedback and input from this comment period to revise the draft before it goes to the ELCA Church Council for possible recommendation to the 2019 Churchwide Assembly. View a timeline of the complete process for the policy statement here.

The draft has been reviewed by various full communion, ecumenical, and inter-religious partners, as well as by the Conference of Bishops’ Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Liaison Committee and the board of the Lutheran Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Representatives Network (LEIRN).

Hearings will be taking place, including at some synod events and at some listening events sponsored by other ELCA institutions. For more information, please contact EIRinfo@elca.org.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Draft Inter-Religious Policy Statement

A Declaration of Our Inter-Religious Commitment: 
A Draft Policy Statement of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America 

Invitation to Respond 
You are invited to participate in responding to the Draft ELCA policy statement, “A Declaration of Our Inter-Religious Commitment.” The six-month comment period on the Draft is open from Friday, January 12, 2018 through Saturday, June 30, 2018.
To participate, please download the draft document here, and respond to the online survey here. You are welcome to participate as individuals or groups.
Background
In 1991, the second Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America adopted, “A Declaration of Ecumenical Commitment: A Policy Statement of the ELCA.” This document provided a common theological basis and framework for this church’s ecumenical relations. Acknowledging the important distinction between seeking unity amongst Christians and “the responsibility of the Church to enter into conversations and reach greater understanding with people of other faiths,” the Declaration called for a “separate, official statement to describe [the ELCA’s] commitments and aspirations” in the area of inter-religious relations.
In 2016, twenty-five years later, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton announced to the Churchwide Assembly gathered in New Orleans that she had appointed a task force to develop a draft inter-religious policy statement. The eleven task force members and staff are listed in the document. You can read their bios here.
The Inter-Religious Task Force will receive the feedback and input from this comment period to revise the draft before it goes to the ELCA Church Council for possible recommendation to the 2019 Churchwide Assembly. View a timeline of the complete process for the policy statement here.
The draft has been reviewed by various full communion, ecumenical, and inter-religious partners, as well as by the Conference of Bishops’ Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Liaison Committee and the board of the Lutheran Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Representatives Network (LEIRN).

Hearings will be taking place, including at some synod events and at some listening events sponsored by other ELCA institutions. For more information, please contact EIRinfo@elca.org.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Reformation 500 Commemoration Events

We are now posting sermons and bulletins from Reformation 500 commemoration services and events in the Reformation 500+ section above. If you have a sermon manuscript, a bulletin, or other material that you would like to share, email it to me at revcdo@gmail.com. Let us see what you did and inspire us with your witness to Christian unity!

With thanks,

Chris Olkiewicz

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Summer 2017 update

Ecumenical & Inter-Religious Relations

Staff Report to LEIRN Board

August 2017


Reformation Day Public Witness Event

On Reformation Day, Tuesday, October 31, Presiding Bishop Eaton will join Conference of Bishops’ Chair Bill Gafkjen, Vice President Bill Horne, and Metro DC Synod Bishop Dick Graham in co-hosting a day-long public witness event concluding with worship at Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill, DC. 

The event, “Looking Back & Called Forward: ELCA 500” will provide an opportunity to consider 500 years of Reformation through the lens of 50+ years of ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue, and look to the future to which Christ is calling us. Bishop Denis Madden will be among the ecumenical and inter-religious guests featured in the program. Lutheran-Jewish and Lutheran-Muslim relations will also be spotlighted, as will partnerships with the Historic Black Churches and within the ELCA toward racial justice and reconciliation.

The event is free and open to the public, and includes lunch. It will also be livestreamed. For more information and to register go to: https://www.elca500.org/events/looking-back-called-forward-elca-500-washington-d-c/ 


Lutheran World Federation Assembly


In May 2017, the 12th LWF Assembly took place in Windhoek, Namibia, under the theme, “Liberated by God’s Grace.” Bishop Eaton led the ELCA delegation which included nine other delegates (amongst them Chris O.) as well as current and former officers, advisors and translators. Youth and women’s pre-assemblies provided an opportunity for relationship-building, deeper exploration of the theme and sub-themes, and generative work to guide the life and legislative work of the larger Assembly.  

On Sunday, May 14 the Assembly gathered in Sam Nujoma Stadium, joined by thousands of Namibians and Africans from across the continent, for a celebratory worship service to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The liturgy, which had been developed by Luther Seminary Prof. Dirk Lange, served as a focal point for the Assembly, weaving together the theme and sub-themes through regional testimonies and the rousing preaching of Namibia bishop emeritus Zephania Kameeta. Other memorable moments included Cardinal Kurt Koch reading the creedal questions, Bishop Susan Johnson presiding and thousands of Lutherans from around the global streaming through for communion, the stunning array of local musical groups in the cultural program that followed, which had many of the LWF heads of communion (including our own) dancing to the beat. 


The Assembly plenaries and workshops focused on the theme and sub-themes, “Salvation – Not For Sale,” “Human Beings – Not For Sale,” and “Creation – Not For Sale.” Each of the speakers and presenters were top-notch. Pastor Monica Villareal, pastor of Salem Lutheran Church in Flint, Michigan and ELCA delegate, spoke on the “Creation” sub-theme, sharing about the water crisis and its racial dimensions, and giving testimony to the ways in which US Lutherans very much need the global communion in these difficult times as a source of support and accountability. 

The Assembly honored the remarkable service of its outgoing president, Bishop Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land, and elected his successor, Nigerian Archbishop Musa Panti Filibus. A new Council was also elected, including for the ELCA: Presiding Bishop Eaton, Rev. Dr. Robin Steinke, Rev. William Flippin, and Ms. Cheryl Phillip. In its first meeting immediately following the Assembly, the new Council elected its regional vice presidents, with Bishop Eaton succeeding Bishop Johnson for the North American region. Pastor Lydia Posselt of Family of God Lutheran Church in Buckingham, PA, was the preacher at the closing worship service, selected from amongst 10 finalists in the LWF’s young adult preaching contest. 

Namibia, a beautiful country with a rich Lutheran history, provided a remarkable context for this forward-looking Assembly, and symbolized the ways in which the global Lutheran movement is growing most strongly in the global south, especially in Africa and Asia. The ELCA and its predecessor bodies have long been involved in the movements for liberation and justice in Namibia. This became particularly evident during a reception that was hosted by Bishop Eaton to honor the numerous Namibian graduates of ELCA colleges. A scholarship program had been established through the leadership of Jim Unglaube, who then served on the churchwide staff, as a proactive approach to forming the next generation of leadership. As the introductions and updates were shared, it was astonishing to hear of the impact these individuals have had on nation-building as they have undertaken vocations in various government ministries, and public sectors including education and health care. It was a reminder of the important place of church in peacebuilding. 

Photos, videos, press releases, and the broad array of public statements issued by the Assembly can be found at: www.lwfassembly.org 


Churches Uniting in Christ

On Pentecost Sunday, the eleven denominations of Churches Uniting in Christ gathered at Christian Chapel Temple of Faith in Dallas, Texas for a celebratory worship service of mutual recognition of ministries. Bishop Eaton joined her counterparts in leading worship, which consisted of three litanies (of confession, recognition, and commitment), three sermons! (Rev. J. Herbert Nelson, Stated Clerk of the PCUSA; Rev. Dr. Jennifer Leath of the AME, and Rev. Dr. Keith Watkins of the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ and historian of the Consultation on Church Union), and the Eucharist. Notably, CUIC is unique insofar as it is a multi-lateral ecumenical table at which the Eucharist is celebrated and received. 

The day before, the churches engaged in a series of panel discussions on systemic racism within immigration and criminal justice. Kathryn L moderated the panels, and Bishop Erik Gronberg of the Northern Texas – Northern Louisiana Synod was a speaker, who gave powerful witness to our church’s challenges and commitments with regard to racial justice and reconciliation.



Synod Assemblies

Both Kathryns attended synod assemblies again this year as Churchwide representatives, and lifted up the work of ecumenical and inter-religious relations in the context of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in churchwide reports, workshops, and hallway conversations. Kathryn J. was with the Metro New York and Allegheny Synods, and Kathryn L was with the Metro Chicago Synod, where she was also the keynote speaker. We look forward to these assemblies as opportunities to learn about and connect with what is happening locally, and to lift up the current leadership and possibilities for LEIRN. 


Partner Churches’ National Assemblies

In June, Kathryn L. attended the General Synod of the Reformed Church in America in Holland, Michigan. She was invited to speak to the importance of our full communion partnership in an
evening honoring the churches’ ecumenical relations. (This was an important request, given the church’s continued diversity of opinions about our full communion partners, and the continued strengthening of relations with the Christian Reformed Church.) There was also an opportunity to honor and thank the outgoing General Secretary Tom DeVries, who resigned his post in order to take up the role of President & CEO of the Willow Creek Organization. Interim General Secretary Don Poest will serve until the next General Synod, when an election will occur. Significant action was taken in support of refugees, calling for further ecumenical partnership in this area of ministry. After hours of painful discussion, the General Synod took an action to define marriage as between a woman and a man, affirming that the Heidelberg Catechism in Q&A 108 and 109, “categorically states that God condemns all ‘unchastity,’ which includes same sex sexual activity” (R 17-61). On the last morning, they elected the 2018 General Synod Vice President, James Nakakihara, the first person of color to serve in this role. https://www.rca.org/rca-basics/general-synod 

With Bishop Bill Gohl from the Delaware-Maryland synod, Kathryn J. attended the biennial General Synod of the United Church of Christ in Baltimore in June.  New branding efforts lift up the theme of “A Just World for All.” https://www.rca.org/rca-basics/general-synod 

Kathryn L. attended the ecumenical evening of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) General Assembly, especially to honor the outgoing General Minister and President, the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, who is also the current chair of the board of the National Council of Churches. The General Assembly elected Rev. Teresa Hord Owens to succeed Sharon, the first female of color, and the first woman to succeed a woman in the role. The atmosphere was celebratory and hopeful. https://www.rca.org/rca-basics/general-synod 

Kathryn J. attended the National Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada in July, where she brought greetings from the ELCA and participated in a panel on ecumenical prospects going forward from 2017. Taking its theme from the LWF language of “Liberated by God’s Grace,” the ELCIC is conducting a 500th anniversary challenge; the video, which emphasizes receiving refugees, can be seen at http://elcic.ca//reformationchallenge/default.cfm

The North American Lutheran Church held its annual week of lectures and Convocation in Nashville in August, with the theme of “Holding Fast: Being (Re)Formed.” The ELCA was represented by the Rev. Marcus Kunz, who has assumed this role for several of their meetings. https://www.thenalc.org/convocation/ 


Islamic Society of North America Convention

As part of our commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the ELCA had a
significant presence at the annual ISNA Convention, held again this year in Rosemont, Illinois. Bishop Eaton and Kathryn L. attended together with Bishop Rick Jaech (Southwestern Washington Synod) and Bishop Claire Burkat (Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod) and her colleague from the Council of Religious Leaders of Greater Philadelphia, Imam Anwar. Following Jum’mah prayers, Bishop Eaton joined other government and religious leaders in offering greetings during the opening plenary, and she was invited to do so again later than evening during the larger mainstage event. The following day, the ELCA delegation attended the Community Service Recognition Luncheon, at which activist Linda Sarsour (co-organizer of the Women’s March) gave the keynote address, and Dr. Sayyid Syeed was honored for his longstanding leadership of ISNA as he approaches his retirement at year-end. 

By design, Sunday evening’s interfaith unity banquet spotlighted Lutheran-Muslim relations, and was attended by nearly 70 ELCA Lutherans, including pastors, scholars (especially from LSTC and the Center for Christian-Muslim Engagement), and interfaith activists, including LEIRN rep Rev. Brian
Wise. The ELCA bishops, joined by Bishop Wayne Miller of Metro Chicago, shared their inspiring and hopeful stories of Lutheran-Muslim relations between congregations and mosques, city-based inter-religious councils, seminaries, non-profit organizations (see: www.neighborsinfaith.org), and individuals. Bishop Eaton was honored to receive ISNA’s interfaith unity award. In her remarks, she reaffirmed our commitments to these relations through education, dialogue, and engagement, now more than ever, and named the significant challenges and opportunities we face in the current climate of rising Islamophobia. Coincidentally, the story of ELCA Intern Pastor Mandy France (who was the student at NWCU) and Dr. Ayaz Virji’s story of Lutheran-Muslim relations in rural Minnesota was front page Washington Post news that day, and so we were able to share that in the spirit of our broader commitments. They will tell their story as part of the Reformation Day event in DC. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/in-a-midwestern-town-that-went-for-trump-a-muslim-doctor-tries-to-understand-his-neighbors/2017/07/01/0ada50c4-5c48-11e7-9fc6-c7ef4bc58d13_story.html?utm_term=.c3d437971981 It was a remarkable weekend to honor our shared commitments, to celebrate what we have accomplished together, and to look forward to the future ahead of us. 


African Descent Lutheran Association

For the first time, the biennial assembly of the African Descent Lutheran Association was held jointly with the Union of Black Episcopalians in Cherry Hill, NJ and Philadelphia. This gathering also honored 30 years of ADLA presence within the ELCA and its predecessor bodies. The theme was, “Like a Mighty Stream, Let Justice Roll: Absalom, Jehu, and Beyond,” honoring the forbears in the faith, especially those pioneers of African Descent within each tradition, current leadership, and the call to ongoing formation and support of future leaders. Closing worship was held at the historic African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia, as TEC Presiding Bishop Michael Curry preached, and Bishop Eaton presided. The presence and leadership of several ELCA Bishops sent a strong message about the importance of ADLA within the ELCA and our ecumenical partnerships in building the Beloved Community. 


Rostered Ministers Gathering 

Both Kathryns attended the first Rostered Ministers Gathering in Atlanta in August, a diverse, enthusiastic, and well-attended event. We supported the ecumenical and inter-religious formation of rostered ministers by hosting an exhibit table and an affinity group under the LEIRN name, and by leading workshops. Kathryn J.’s focused on Lutheran-Catholic relations in this anniversary year, and Kathryn L.’s focused on Lutheran-Jewish and Lutheran Muslim Relations, and what it means to be Lutheran in a multi-religious world. We are grateful for opportunities to lift up both our ecumenical and our inter-religious relations as part of how the ELCA is commemorating the 500th anniversary and participating in the ongoing reformation. 


Inter-Religious Task Force

The drafting team of the Inter-Religious Task Force met in person in June and by teleconference in July as work toward the first draft of the policy statement moved forward in significant ways. A format and framework for the document were developed and refined. The first full draft of the text will be shared with the full task force next week. After a conference call in early September, final
revisions will begin anticipating the next meeting of the Task Force in early November. Currently, the ground work is being laid for various consultations that will need to take place this fall anticipating a public comment period across the whole church over the winter months. The LEIRN Board and select ecumenical and inter-religious partners will likely be invited into the advance consultation, so please stay tuned. 


Lutheran-Catholic Relations 

The current round of Lutheran-Catholic dialogue is approaching its conclusion, and a drafting team is working on its report on Faithful Teaching.  This round is co-chaired by the Rev. Lowell Almen and, since 2016, by Bishop Denis Madden. (Both Bishop Eaton and Kathryn J. helped celebrate the 50th anniversary of his ordination with Mass in the Baltimore cathedral in June.)

Kathryn J. participated at a seminar at the Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem in July around the current state of ecumenical discussion on “communion.”  The seminar was organized by the University of Notre Dame and followed up on questions central to the Declaration on the Way and, more broadly, to the ecclesial dimensions of the quest for Christian unity. Bishop Madden, who was to have shared the Lutheran-Catholic day of presentation, was unable to attend at the last minute. 


Full Communion Updates

The Lutheran-Moravian Coordinating Committee met in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, in May.  This meeting was second in a series of three which focus on local contexts in which Lutherans and Moravian live side by side in considerable numbers, and seeks to further collaboration between the communities toward reception of our full communion agreement.  Next year, they will conclude the series by meeting in Wisconsin, where there is less visible Moravian presence.

We continue to be part of the consultation with the ELCA’s Entrance Rite Discernment Group, which explores implications of the new roster for Ministers of Word and Service (deacons). Our full communion partners especially have obvious interests in these decisions, and will be invited to participate in the feedback process developed by the Group.


Global Christian Forum

Kathryn J has continued to be active this summer with the Global Christian Forum, the international body which seeks to reflect the shape of fast-changing world Christianity. She participated in May in a consultation at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute in Switzerland, which for the first time had around the table leadership from the World Council of Churches, the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, the Pentecostal World Fellowship, and the World Evangelical Alliance. They discussed the unique role which the GCF can play in deepening these relationships.

One example of these efforts was a delicate consultation on “Call to Mission and Perceptions of Proselytism,” hosted at the Church of Pentecost campus near Accra, Ghana, which Kathryn attended in June. She continues to work with the GCF to plan its third Global Gathering in Bogata, Columbia, in spring 2018, which concludes her term with this body.

Other board highlights

  • It's not too late for members to complete an annual report, reflecting on work in their synods in 2016-17. Results will be compiled and discussed at the September 21 board meeting. The annual report is accessible here: https://goo.gl/forms/2IHAx20QIJRHlyfa2
  • The NWCU planning committee -- including Kathryn Johnson, Rocky Piro, and Chris Olkiewicz from ELCA/LEIRN -- met August 28-30 in Silver Spring, MD, the site of the 2018 Workshop. Lisa Sharon Harper is confirmed as theologian in residence. Additional time will be spent in joint network plenaries this year.
  • A brief survey from the Presbyterian Church (USA) will be shared soon with LEIRN members. It seeks to identify possible areas of collaboration at the middle judicatory level and will not take long to complete.
  • Next meeting: September 21.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Save the date for NWCU 2018

National Workshop on Christian Unity 2018
Silver Spring, MD
April 16 - 19



The annual meeting of LEIRN is held at the NWCU along with the Episcopal, Catholic, Methodist, and Evangelical networks.

#NWCU2018

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