Thursday, November 17, 2016

November Update

From Kathryn Lohre and Kathryn Johnson

DOTW Follow-Up/500th Synod Events

Kathryn J has been participating in several events concerning ecumenical aspects of the 500th Reformation anniversary.

On Sunday, she preached for a service at St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines, Iowa, which was based on the Common Prayer used at Lund but adapted to the local context in music, prayer, and participation. Both ELCA Bishop Michael Burk (Southeast Iowa Synod) and Catholic Bishop Richard Pates (Diocese of Des Moines) were present, and our own “Pastor Chris” had a key role in presiding and planning.

In September Kathryn spoke to the Theological Conference of the Rocky Mountain Synod, and in October was in Michigan for leadership retreat of the regional LARC group, whose worship also included a modification of the Lund liturgy.

In the works are plans for a study guide for The Declaration on the Way for local use and a brief liturgical resource to help pastors prepare, practically and theologically, for welcoming with a blessing those worshippers – including Roman Catholics following the guidelines of their church – who do not receive the elements.

Pluralism Project 25th Anniversary

In late September, the Pluralism Project at Harvard University celebrated its 25th anniversary. Founded in 1991 by Prof. Diana L. Eck, the Pluralism Project is the premier research organization on the changing religious landscape in the United States. Kathryn Lohre, who served on the staff of the Pluralism Project between 2000 and 2011, the last five years as assistant director, participated in the public conference and spoke on a panel about religious pluralism and the promise of peacebuilding. Her remarks focused on Lutheran-Muslim relations in an era of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry. She was also present for a series of advisory council meetings before and after the event. You will find many excellent educational and dialogue resources at

Four-Way Meeting

In late September, the heads of churches and staff of the Anglican Church of Canada, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, The Episcopal Church, and the ELCA had their annual meeting at the Lutheran Center. Updates from the churches were shared – including the significant events of the ACC General Synod and the ELCA Churchwide Assembly. Bishop Curry was welcome to the table for the first time. The group finalized the 2016 Advent Devotions, focused on the LWF 2017 theme,” Liberated by God’s Grace,” and subthemes. These were made available online on October 31 and are available at:

Bishop Eaton’s Webcast

Bishop Eaton’s webcast on October 27 was devoted to ecumenical witness and the Reformation anniversary. Joining the Bishop for the discussion were Martin Marty; Sr. Susan Wood, a Catholic member of the DotW task force who was with us for the Churchwide Assembly; and Khadijah Islam, a college student and voting member of the CWA who had spoken memorably at the hearings. There were also short video clips from the CWA and from three of the ecumenical guests present for the vote on the Declaration, who spoke about its ecumenical significance. For the first time for one of these webcasts, Facebook was used as the platform, and live questions from 3 congregations were received as well as those from social media. Click here to watch the recorded webcast.

Joint Ecumenical Commemoration of the Reformation in Sweden, October 31

The staff of the Lutheran Center were invited to participate in a viewing party of the live-stream. Colleagues from across the units and offices of the church gathered together to experience and reflect upon the remarkable events which took place.

The day’s events included first a Common Prayer in Lund Cathedral, led by Pope Francis and LWF President Munib Younan and General Secretary Martin Junge; the procession was led by a Salvadorean cross created for the occasion and involved women and men from every continent and many generations. Bishop Eaton and LWF treasurer Christina Jackson-Skelton represented the ELCA, and Dr. Dirk Lange from Luther Seminary had ably shaped the liturgy. Also present because of former LWF roles were Presiding Bishop Emeritus Mark Hanson and Kathryn J. Later an event in Malmö sports arena included commitment to common work for the suffering and included music and testimonies around a large illuminated floor cross; Rocky and Beverly Piro were among the ELCA participants in this event.

Videos are available at; you might especially enjoy the press conference, which includes discussions of DotW and Eucharistic hospitality:

Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves Update

The final report for the Peeler Grant was submitted in October. This grant, from the NC Synod, supported the publication of the case studies book, Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves, and has provided ongoing support for distribution efforts. With the remaining funds of the grant, we were able to purchase a number of additional copies. We will be able to provide a complimentary copy to each LEIRN member at the 2017 National Workshop on Christian Unity. As you know, Bishop Eaton invited the church into conversation about our inter-religious calling and commitments in her remarks at the Churchwide Assembly. This book was lifted up as a key resource. Now is the time to contact your synod assembly planning teams to offer your support for possible workshops. You will find the workshop templates here: Staff are also available to support the utilization of this resource.

Christian Churches Together

CCT’s annual convocation in 2017 will be held in Anaheim, California, January 31 – February 3. The theme will be “500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation: Signs of Hope & What Divides Us Today.” Racial justice and Lutheran-Catholic relations will be two foci. The Declaration on the Way will be discussed in plenary. Bishop Eaton will be present, along with Bishop Suzanne Dillahunt who serves on the Steering Committee, and staff. LEIRN representatives are welcome to participate. For more information see:

Formula of Agreement

Ecumenical Officers and worship staff of the Formula of Agreement churches have begun planning for a worship service in celebration of the 20th anniversary, to be held in Cleveland, Ohio on the afternoon of March 26. Heads of communion, ecumenical officers, local judicatory leaders, and local clergy and lay leaders will participate. This will be held in conjunction with a heads of communion meeting the next day, which will explore the next chapter of our life together as full communion partners.

Churches Uniting in Christ

In October, the Coordinating Council of Churches Uniting in Christ met in Dallas, Texas at Perkins School of Theology. The Council issued a statement of support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The majority of the meeting was spent planning for a national worship service of recognition of ministries that will be held on the evening of June 4 in Dallas. Heads of communion, ecumenical officers, local judicatory leaders, and local clergy and lay leaders will participate. This service is one of the significant mandates of the CUIC plenary held in January 2016. A public forum on race relations will be held on June 3, along with a pulpit exchange between local clergy and national CUIC leadership on the morning of June 4. If you are interested in more information contact Kathryn L.

Board Highlights

  • Several board members are currently researching options for a guide to Reformation-related travel that would help travelers to reflect on their experiences in the context of the modern ecumenical movement.
  • An update of the LEIRN handbook and governing documents is underway and will include the addition of sample job descriptions showing various possibilities for configuring the work of a LEIRN representative.
  • A new process for maintaining the LEIRN roster is being considered. If you have updated contact information to share, please send it to LEIRN Secretary, Tim Philabaum at
  • Save the dates for the National Workshop on Christian Unity, May 1-4, in Minneapolis. Registration information will be available at soon.
  • The next meeting of the board will be December 15.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sermon at Common Prayer

Below is the sermon preached by Dr. Kathryn Johnson, Director for ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations, at a common prayer service in Des Moines, Iowa on November 6, 2016 to inaugurate the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

This is truly a remarkable day!
It’s a time for thanksgiving, repentance, commitment and hope. We gather here amid so much that is familiar: well-loved hymns, a well-known text, prayers for one another and for the world, the greeting of peace. We know how to be with one another on such occasions, for over the course of our lifetimes most of us have had many opportunities for such common prayer for Christian unity. But today is distinctive; today is surprising. Today offers to us a strong sense of hope and new beginning, and it calls on us not to miss taking the next steps toward the doors cracking open before us.

We see the distinctiveness at once when we ask why we are here today: not during Week of Prayer for Christian Unity or on Pentecost or another of the festivals of the Church, but on this unconvincingly Novemberish day in 2016. We are here today because soon it will be 2017, the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Lutheran movement, when Martin Luther famously posted 95 provocative theses for discussion in Wittenberg, Germany – and since that posting was on All Saints’ Eve, October 31, the commemoration year began last Monday and will run until next October. And what a beginning that was! Continue reading . . .

Monday, October 10, 2016

Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Witness on the Eve of the Reformation Anniversary

Join Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton on Thursday, Oct. 27, from 7-8 p.m. CDT for a live webcast that will explore ecumenical and interreligious witness on the eve of the Reformation anniversary.

What was the Reformation, and what does it mean for Lutherans and ecumenical partners?
What is “Declaration on the Way,” and why is it significant for Lutheran-Catholic relations?
What might ecumenical and interreligious relationships look like in the future, and what does this mean for our faith community?

Check back here for additional information concerning webcast participants and resources. We invite you to participate and join the conversation by using #ELCAwebcast on social media.

You are also encouraged to view the webcast with your congregation, group or committee. This may help conversation as you plan for and discuss your observation of the Reformation in 2017. Find additional information on how ELCA synods and congregations are observing the Reformation here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Additional tickets available for Malmo


Additional tickets for the Malmö arena events on October 31, 2016 have been made available for LWF member churches. The Common Prayer service at the cathedral in Lund will be live-streamed into the arena, and then Lutheran leaders and Pope Francis will proceed to the arena itself for the second part of the day in the arena. 

Initial tickets for the arena events sold out almost at once. But additional tickets are available at this site:

Please tell anyone you know who might want to attend – especially anyone who might have tried for a ticket and found them sold out at the first Ticketmaster site.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations Updates

August 2016

In II Corinthians, Chapter 5, we read: “All this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (NRSV). As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the ministry of reconciliation was at the heart of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly’s ecumenical and inter-religious witness. We want to lift up three significant dimensions of this witness:
  • Racial justice and reconciliation
  • Reconciliation among religions
  • Reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics and among all Christians
With regard to racial justice and reconciliation: in addition to our church’s important internal work, this Assembly gave witness to our decade-long discourse with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and our churches’ joint statement of mission, adopted in 2010. We welcomed the senior bishop, four episcopal district bishops, several general officers, and their colleagues and families as our special guests. We received the Word in worship on Thursday from Bishop George Battle, Senior Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and some of our ELCA bishops hosted our guests in order to build and nurture relationships as we look forward to strengthening our partnership in the coming years.

Next, with regard to reconciliation among religions, the Assembly received powerful greetings from
Jewish and Muslim partners – Rabbi David Sandmel of the Anti-Defamation League and Dr. Sayyid Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America – who described the importance of partnership across religions lines, on common ground and through difficult differences. Bishop Eaton also invited the ELCA into conversation over the next three years about our inter-religious callings and commitments and announced a new task force on inter-religious relations which will work to draft an inter-religious policy statement that is intended to come before the 2019 Churchwide Assembly for action. She lifted up the new publication of ELCA inter-religious case studies, Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves, as a resource for this work available from Lutheran University Press.

Finally, with regard to reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics – we turn to the historic action on the Declaration on the Way available from Augsburg Fortress. The Declaration on the Way is a

new and unique kind of ecumenical text that seeks to seal in those areas of agreement reached after 500 years of division and 50 years of dialogue. The action of the Assembly on the Declaration on the Way can be understood as one which declared that with regard to several matters concerning church, ministry, and Eucharist, there are no longer church dividing issues between us. Yes, differences remain in these and other areas – but it is important to take stock in order to acknowledge, and perhaps even celebrate, just how far we have come “on the way.”

What we witnessed afresh at the Assembly was the depth of yearning in this church to be moving forward toward reconciliation and greater unity in this crucial relationship. All our ecumenical guests, who were witnesses, and especially our Catholic participants, were surprised by the intensity of this desire for growth in communion evident in our church -- in the plenary sessions but also in two standing-room-only hearings and hallway conversations and throughout the Assembly. We can say that many of us Lutherans too were wonderfully surprised when the votes were posted: 931 votes for, 9 against. As memorable as the vote was the joy of the moment.

So what comes next? Part of that answer rests with all of us. The Assembly vote was in some ways a mandate to us to honor the desire to be “on the way together.” The Assembly also commended to the church the Declaration, with related texts, as “resources for the common life of the church as we approach 2017 and beyond.” In the press conference that followed, when Bishop Eaton was asked what might make this moment different from the other announcements of ecumenical statements that quickly faded from memory, she appealed first not to the distinctive form of the Statement or its new method, but rather to the people who had participated in the moment of that vote who would go home with that memory and that desire to continue to move forward. The experience of the hearings, where people spoke from the depth and range of their experiences, also encourages us that next steps can be taken at local levels. We are learning of many synodical engagements in preparation for the 2017 year around the country. We look forward to the journey, and invite your sharing (to about how the next steps are unfolding in your context.

In Christ,
Ms. Kathryn M. Lohre
Assistant to the Presiding Bishop
Executive, Ecumenical & Inter-Religious Relations

Dr. Kathryn L. Johnson
Director, Ecumenical & Inter-Religious Relations
Declaration on the Way Task Force

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Launching the 500th Reformation anniversary in 2017, a joint Lutheran-Catholic commemoration will take place in Lund and Malmö, Sweden, on Oct. 31, 2016. The Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) are hosting the event, highlighting solid ecumenical developments and the joint gifts received through dialogue.
Pope Francis, The Lutheran World Federation President Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan and its general secretary, the Rev. Dr. Martin Junge, will lead the Common Prayer service in Lund and the event in Malmö in cooperation with leaders from the Church of Sweden and the Catholic Diocese of Stockholm.
This historic event will bring together Lutherans and Catholics from around the world to commemorate the Reformation and look to the future.

Ways you can participate

As members of the ELCA, we are committed to fostering unity among God’s children for the sake of the world. Your gifts are needed to help continue this mission and help support the joint ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation. Your gift will help open doors to new possibilities, strengthen relationships, promote peace, reconciliation and joint diaconal work around the world.
Attend the event in the Malmö Arena. Register for updates on when tickets will become available and get the latest information at
The service in the Lund Cathedral will be live-streamed. Live-streaming the event in the Malmö Arena is being explored. Follow the live-stream jointly with an adult group or your congregation and consider inviting Catholic parishes to join in viewing. 
Find resources:

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