Sunday, August 28, 2016

Future directions input sought

Dear Members of the Lutheran Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Representatives Network,

As you are likely aware, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has been looking toward our future in a process named “Called Forward Together in Christ.” Many of you have no doubt offered feedback about future directions through conversations at your synod assembly or in another setting or by participating in the online survey. The LEIRN board engaged the process in June and offered input on behalf of the network.

A future directions paper that summarizes the input gathered from across the church is now available at Two statements in the section entitled “Key Messages From Across This Church” reflect the importance of ecumenical and inter-religious engagement to our self-understanding:

“Ecumenism is at the core of the ELCA’s confessions and beliefs. We are committed to our full communion partners and to dialogue with ecumenical partners locally and globally.”

“We engage in dialogue and collaboration with other faiths for the sake of justice, reconciliation and peace in the world” (p. 9).

Yet when proposed priorities for the ELCA to 2021 are articulated (p. 17), ecumenical and inter-religious work are not specifically reflected. This may be cause for some concern. If ecumenism and inter-religious work are, indeed, central to our D.N.A. as a church, as the findings above suggest, then it would seem important to state them explicitly as priorities for our forward direction.

Feedback on the proposed priorities is welcome and being received until September 9 at or via email: I encourage you to offer your feedback and specifically to call for the ELCA to deepen and expand its ecumenical and inter-religious commitments as stated priorities for the future direction of this church.

The resounding affirmation of Declaration on the Way at the 2016 Churchwide Assembly is but one manifestation of the vibrant ecumenical and inter-religious witness of the ELCA. As one committed to that work and witness, please take a moment to assure that your voice is heard at this important moment in the life of our church.

In Christ,

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

Monday, August 15, 2016

On the way!

The recent ELCA Churchwide Assembly affirmation of Declaration on the Way from a Catholic perspective: U.S. Lutherans Ratify Catholic Interfaith Document

Thursday, August 4, 2016

July update

Staff update from Kathryn Lohre and Kathryn Johnson

Synod Assemblies

In June Kathryn J represented the Churchwide Office at the Southern Ohio Synod assembly. At the Indiana-Kentucky synod assembly, she joined Andre Gingerich Stoner from the Mennonite Church USA to talk about ongoing Lutheran-Anabaptist reconciliation. They were joined by the president of the Mennonite World Conference, who pastors a congregation in Indiana, and a Mennonite choir which sang during the closing worship. After the Assembly Bishop Gafkjen led a group of synod leaders and Mennonites to Menno-Hof, an interpretative center for Anabaptist history, to inaugurate the site of a new exhibit on reconciliations.

Vocation of a Lutheran College Conference

Kathryn L. and Bishop Eaton attended the 2016 Vocation of a Lutheran College Conference, “Preparing Global Leaders for a Religiously Diverse World.” Bishop Eaton offered the keynote, underscoring the church’s commitment to inter-religious relations and formation, and support of the colleges in this endeavor. It was remarkable that 23 of the 26 ELCA colleges had delegations present, including presidents, faculty, staff, and students. Kathryn L. led a workshop with Carol Schersten LaHurd lifting up the book Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves: A Lutheran Calling in a Multi-Religious World. Eboo Patel and several Interfaith Youth Core also provided strong leadership, as the conference was co-sponsored by the ELCA and the Interfaith Youth Core through a Lilly grant. The Lilly grant is intended to build up denominational networks of colleges and universities. The other college networks include Catholics, Methodist, and Presbyterians.

LWF Council meeting in Wittenberg, Germany

Kathryn J attended the LWF Council meeting. The choice of Wittenberg for the final Council meeting before the 2017 Assembly in Namibia showed its wisdom: the heritage of Martin Luther could be honored while welcoming even more the future. A preliminary “pilgrimage’ highlighted the experience of refugees; when the German President, a Lutheran pastor, brought greetings to the opening worship, this theme was again before the Council. The three sub-themes of the Reformation commemoration were addressed by ecumenical guests: the general secretaries of the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the WCC and took on “Human Beings Not for Sale” and “Creation Not for Sale,” while, perhaps most remarkably, “Salvation Not For Sale” was addressed by Cardinal Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. 

The report edited by Kathryn L, as part of a two-year consultation on Lutheran Engagement in the Public Square titled, “Global Perspectives on the Reformation: Interactions Between Theology, Politics, and Economics,” was received by the Council with enthusiasm; so also was received, “Bearing Fruit: Implications of the 2010 Reconciliation between Lutherans and Mennonites/Anabaptists, on which Kathryn J had worked, and the culmination of a hermeneutics project, “In the Beginning Was the Word: the Bible in the Life of the Lutheran Communion.” 

Strong support for women’s ordination as “our shared goal” was expressed, in response to the action by the Evangelical Lutheran church of Latvia to amend its constitution to provide for ordaining only men. 

The General Secretary’s report addressed continuing challenges and strengths to the Lutheran communion; he proposed 2021 as a target date for an international “Declaration on the Way” on church, ministry, and Eucharist, whose urgency would be drawn especially by the yearning of Lutherans and Catholics to be together at the table where Christ is known. 

African Methodist Episcopal Church General Conference

Kathryn L. attended the AME General Conference in Philadelphia in July, joined by Bishop Claire Burkat and the Pr. Lamont Wells, president of the African Descent Lutheran Association. Kathryn was invited to read scripture during the ecumenical worship service. The schedule for the day shifted multiple times as Hillary Rodham Clinton’s plans to address the General Conference became clear. A significant theme was racial justice and reconciliation.

African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church General Conference

Bishop Eaton brought greetings to the AME Zion General Conference in Greensboro in late July. She shared our church’s commitment to partnership, and especially with regard to racial justice and reconciliation. We look forward to receiving Bishop Battle, Jr., senior bishop of the AME Zion Church to the Churchwide Assembly where he will preach and bring greetings. He will be accompanied by at least three other bishops and other church leaders, staff, and family. There is a memorial coming before the Assembly on deepening relationships with the Historic Black Churches.

Ecumenical Officers Retreat

The late July meeting of ecumenical officers, hosted in the Bread for the World offices in Washington, D.C., was saddened by news of the departures of two of our treasured colleagues, Fr. John Crossin from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Andre Gingerich Stoner from the Mennonite Church USA. Kathryn L was able to participate by phone on a crucial discussion of inter-religious work in our denominations, even as she prepared for James’ baptism on July 24. Shaped by recent news events, anti-racist efforts – and the continuing racism in our churches as well as in our larger culture – were prominent topics.

Islamic Society of North America

Bishop Eaton and Kathryn L. received guests from the Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances of the Islamic Society of North America in mid-July. The purpose of the meeting was to strengthen our partnership. The ISNA colleagues brought an initial proposal for building local Lutheran-Muslim relations through educational initiatives, fellowship, and activities to enhance the common good in the community. Existing ELCA educational and dialogue resources would be utilized. The ISNA colleagues will share a written proposal in the coming months, and as a first step this will be passed along for consideration by the ELCA Conference of Bishops’ Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations Liaison Committee, then it will come to LEIRN through the Board. We anticipate that we might proceed initially with a pilot synod or two, and build from there. We look forward to welcoming Dr. Sayyid Syeed to the Churchwide Assembly as an inter-religious guest. This will be his second time with us in this capacity.


The LWF and the Catholic Church will hold a joint ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation on October 31, 2016 in Lund and Malmo, Sweden. It will begin with a liturgy in the Cathedral in Lund, followed by a public event in the arena that is open to wider participation. Eventually, tickets for the stadium event will be available for purchase online. There are plans underway for streaming the events, though there are questions about whether this will be a live-stream. Nevertheless, this will provide for the option of enriching local events through virtual participation in these global events. A dedicated website has been launched, though the details have not yet been made available: 

You can read more in this article:

Opportunities for fundraising for these events exist. We invite you to contact Kathryn L. or J., or to share their contact information with others in your networks who might be interested. We will be sharing a focused communication with LEIRN about this in late August/early September. 

Inter-Religious Task Force

Bishop Eaton has appointed a task force to begin work on developing and inter-religious vision/policy statement to complement the ecumenical one adopted by the Churchwide Assembly in 1991. The Task Force will draw upon the significant relations of this church and its predecessor bodies, and also the expertise of ecumenical partners who have adopted similar types of statements in recent years. As part of the input process, Bishop Eaton will launch and ELCA-wide conversation about our inter-religious calling and commitments at the Churchwide Assembly next month. The intention is that Engaging Others book along with our other resources might serve this work. We are grateful for the role LEIRN is playing in all of this. The expectation is that the policy statement will be brought for action to the 2019 Churchwide Assembly. The Task Force will be chaired by Bishop Patricia Lull, who brings significant experience in inter-religious relations from the St. Paul Area Council of Churches/Interfaith Network.

Other discussion items

  • General discussion of upcoming Churchwide Assembly topics related to ecumenical and inter-religious relations
  • Resolved to invite Don McCoid to join us on a future call to discuss his experiences at the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church
  • Next meeting: August 18 at 4 p.m. Eastern

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Celebrating Ecumenism and the Arts in 2017

An invitation from the Mount Tabor Ecumenical Centre for Art and Spirituality

Dear Friends,
The year 2017 marks an incredible anniversary: the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. In the half millennium that has passed since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door at Wittenberg, the Church universal has evolved from a body painfully divided, to one that together seeks true ecumenism through a host of expressions. The Mount Tabor Centre invites you to join in celebration of the unity that continues to grow in the Church through Reformanda 2017: a three-week exploration of ecumenism, art and architecture in France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy in May 2017.
The focus of Reformanda 2017 will be a Symposium on “The Arts and Ecumenism: Theology and the Risk of Artistic Creation,” to be held over three consecutive weekends in Paris, Strasbourg, and Florence, organized by Monsignor Timothy Verdon, Jérôme Cottin and Denis Villepelet. 
Monsignor Verdon is a renowned author, art historian (PhD, Yale University), speaker, and director of the Cathedral Museum in Florence, Italy. Jérôme Cottin is a Professor on the Faculty for Protestant Theology at the University of Strasbourg, and Denis Villepelet is Director of the Higher Institute of Theology of the Arts and the Catholic Institute of Paris. Together these passionate experts have coordinated three fascinating weekends dedicated to the evolving visions of contemporary sacred art in the Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions. The tour will also feature round table discussions during the Symposium, visits to studios of contemporary artists, private tours of museums and sites connected with the Reformation, and concerts by the world-class choir Gloriæ Dei Cantores
We invite you to immerse yourself in the exploration of Reformanda 2017 – in the beautiful surroundings of Europe, and in the timely study and exploration of the arts and ecumenism over these past 500 years. Savor the details of the tour at, where you will find a complete tour brochure, including itinerary and registration form. We welcome you to join us for the full experience, or for a two-week portion of the trip.
If you have any questions and if there are others you feel would be interested in joining us for these events, please feel free to contact me at or by phone at 774-207-7756.

We look forward to celebrating this moment in history together!

Sr. Brigid Minor
for the Mount Tabor Centre

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summer Update

It's been awhile since we posted an update, so let's call this an early-to-mid-summer recap! The board has had one conference call (in May) since the National Workshop on Christian Unity. Below you will find the update from Kathryn Lohre and Kathryn Johnson discussed at that meeting, as well as a listing of board members elected at the NWCU and officers then elected by the board. In June the board plans to participate in the Called Forward Together in Christ conversation currently taking place across the ELCA, so there will not be another update until late-July covering both June and July.

If you are the Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Representative for your synod, could we ask you to take a moment to check your contact information in the membership directory (a link is at the top of this page)? If anything is amiss, scroll down to the bottom of the page and use the "Send a Message to the Editor" feature to provide the correct information.  Having an up-to-date directory is important not only for good communication within LEIRN, but also for enabling ecumenical and inter-religious partners in your regions to contact you. Many thanks!

From Kathryn Lohre and Kathryn Johnson (aka "Team Kathryn")

As the Churchwide Assembly draws nearer, the bustle in Chicago is picking up. Our office continues to maintain some of the quiet reflecting Kathryn L’s leave – but work continues to continue.

National Workshop on Christian Unity, Louisville, KY, April 18-21
This annual opportunity for LEIRN to gather in its own sessions and to engage with others will be discussed under headings in the agenda, and indeed was experienced by most of you. Sessions on the Declaration on the Way were well-attended, and 145 complementary books from Augsburg Fortress disappeared. Chris O and Kathryn J continue on the Planning Committee for next year’s meeting in Minneapolis, chaired by Rocky Piro.

Coordinating Committee Meetings
Kathryn J attended the Lutheran Moravian Coordinating Committee meeting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, May 2-3. Meeting in a heart of Moravian heritage – with a day at Moravian College – the committee met with about 25 local clergy to hear about the range of ongoing collaborations. A strong personal relationship between Bishop Sam Zeiser of the Northeastern Pennsylvania synod, a member of the committee, and his Moravian counterpart David Bennett had clearly been crucially important in encouraging these partnerships. Plans were made for a similar format for next year’s meeting, in Salem, North Carolina, and there was discussion of how to commend this distinctive relationship in areas where there are some Moravians but not the historic centers or present strength of these two areas.

The following week, May 9-11, Kathryn J attended the Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee in Marriottsville, Maryland. This committee spent a day visiting three very distinct Lutheran-Episcopal partnerships in the Baltimore area: two older churches, with diverse but declining memberships, who now share a single space and are coming together in worship and mission (The Churches of the Nativity and Holy Comforter, “An Episcopal-Lutheran community in Baltimore”); a “post-denominational community church” in a changing neighborhood of downtown Baltimore that seeks to be an “open, creative refuge, respectful of all beliefs” but “unashamedly followers of Christ (Church on the Square); and a community that “gathers both on-line and face-to-face in Baltimore” (The Slate Project: Christianity with a Clean Slate).

The committee adopted a resolution promising continued work toward “mutual acknowledgement of (full) communion relationships among the churches of the Porvoo Agreement, Called to Common Mission, and the Waterloo Declaration.” This mutual acknowledgement has been encouraged by international dialogue and by the Canadian counterpart of LECC in Canada.

May 16-18 Kathryn J attended a Lutheran/Episcopal Clergy Conference for Virginia judicatories. Gordon Lathrop and Neil Alexander were keynote speakers, with a focus on liturgy; the conference also engaged in mapping of partnerships and opportunities in their local areas.

Looking Ahead
Kathryn L will inaugurate a post-leave rhythm of life by speaking at the Vocation of a Lutheran College conference at Augsburg College in Minneapolis the first week of June, with a focus on inter-religious education. Attention to the resource, Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves, continues to grow, and the Churchwide Assembly will be invited to look toward an ELCA statement on inter-religious relations.

Both Kathryns have been working on reports which will come to the LWF Council meeting at Wittenberg in June. Kathryn L has edited the report from the conference she attended in Namibia in October-November, “Global Perspectives on the Reformation: Interactions Between Theology, Politics, and Economics.” Kathryn J has provided editing help for the task force report following up on the LWF’s “Mennonite Action” in 2010.

Speaking of the Churchwide Assembly… Opportunities to participate in the Grace Gathering, and to encourage others to do so, still exist. With a focus on 2017, multiple ecumenical and inter-religious seminars will be included.

Other items from the board

Board Terms as of Louisville NWCU (2016)

board member
current term expires
Eligible for reelection?
Amanda Liggett
Mari Larson
Kristi Weber (Treas.)
Nathan Allen
Brian Wise
Chris Olkiewicz (Pres.)
Tim Philabaum (Sec.)
Wayne Zschech
Tom Prinz
Mary Finklea
John Unger
Kim Rapczak
Rocky Piro (Past Pres.)
ex officio
David Roschke
  • NWCU: Save the dates of May 1-4, 2017 in Minneapolis.
  • Possible 2018 locations are Houston and Los Angeles or Bay Area with current weight leaning more on Houston.
  • Next meeting: June 30 (devoted to Called Forward in Christ conversation)

Friday, May 20, 2016

“Hazy Hopes Taking Clear Incarnations”

The Lutheran Episcopal Coordinating Committee met in Marriottsville, Maryland, May 9-11, 2016. This Committee is charged with encouraging and assisting efforts in The Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) as they live into their relationship of full communion provided for in “Called to Common Mission.” This meeting included visits to three joint Lutheran Episcopal ministries in addition to discussions of ongoing implementation of CCM.

“The hazy hopes for CCM that we had at the beginning have taken clear incarnations. We saw this today.” This evaluation was expressed after the Committee visited three very different local ministries established during the last three years with the support of the Delaware-Maryland Synod of the ELCA and the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland:

  • The Churches of the Nativity and the Holy Comforter, “An Episcopal Lutheran Community in Baltimore,” The Rev. Stewart Lucas, Episcopal Rector, and the Rev. David Eisenhuth, Lutheran Pastor
  • The Church on the Square, Canton, Maryland, “a post-denominational community church,” The Rev. James Hamilton, Pastoral Missioner, and John Deason, Development Missioner;
  • First English Lutheran Church (sponsor), the “Slate Project,” Baltimore MD (and on the web,, Co-founders the Rev. Jason Chesnut, the Rev. Jennifer DiFrancesco, the Rev. Sara Shisler Goff.
The Committee discussed recent encouragements from a number of sources for the churches of the three (full) communion agreements to find ways to move into closer relation. This discussion was prompted in part by a letter from JALC, the Committee’s partner in Canada. The Committee encouraged the Chair to respond warmly to the invitation of JALC to work together on this project and to communicate to them this resolution:

The Lutheran Episcopal Coordinating Committee receives with gladness the October 5, 2015, letter from the Joint Anglican Lutheran Commission;

And requests that ecumenical staff of our churches continue work toward mutual acknowledgement of (full) communion relationships among the churches of the Porvoo Agreement, Called to Common Mission, and the Waterloo Declaration.

A report will be given at the next LECC meeting.

In addition, the Committee discussed a range of topics around its mandate. As Bishop Kreiss reminded the members, “we are given the care and nurture of an agreement that is of critical importance for the work of the gospel going forward in our churches. This is the path to which the Holy Spirit has called us. Our job is to help both of our traditions think creatively about what is possible and what is faithful, as we work to insure that the level of trust and intimacy between our church bodies continues to deepen. Fifteen years into CCM, we can see that this is no longer an experiment but the future of both of our churches.”

The Committee discussed ways to celebrate the 15th anniversary of CCM, challenges and opportunities for joint ministries and how to support them, creating standard guidelines and FAQs for the use of churches considering joint ministries and making the resources more accessible.

The Committee will meet next in Chicago, February 8-10 2017. Dates will be explored with JALC for a joint meeting, with times proposed during the week of November 27 - December 1, 2017.

Members of the Committee:

ELCA: Bishop Donald Kreiss (Lutheran co-chair), Rev. Lowell Almen, Dr. Mitze Budde, Bishop Claire Burkat, Rev. Natalie Hall
TEC: The Rev. Kay Beach, the Rev. Jon Perez
Staff: Dr. Kathryn Johnson (ELCA), Rev. Dr. Charles Robertson, the Rev. Margaret Rose (TEC)

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Consignment copies of Engaging Others: Knowing Ourselves

If you are planning to introduce Engaging Others: Knowing Ourselves at your synod assembly or another event, here's good news from the publisher, Lutheran University Press! You may contact Karen Walhof at or 888-696-1828 and order books on consignment for your event. LUP will ship them, and you can sell them at the $10 rate, returning any unsold copies to LUP. There is no need to pay upfront.

We hope you're out there helping others engage this compelling new resource and join the conversation about our inter-religious calling and commitments.

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