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 (email@example.com). 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!
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 CouncilThe 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.
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 pcusa.org/ga221.
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.
ResourcesWe 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 elca.org/ecumenical and we also have a limited number of copies that we could share with you, upon request.