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Mid-Summer Update

Greetings, friends and members of LEIRN! Below you'll find an update from Kathryn and Don given at the most recent board meeting. Follow the links throughout to some very helpful resources. Remember to follow us by email (enter your email address in the box at right) if you would like to be notified whenever new content is posted.

From Kathryn Lohre and Don McCoid

ELCA Colleges

Kathryn had the honor and privilege of preaching at the Baccalaureate service at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois on May 24. This invitation grew out of our partnership with ELCA colleges on inter-religious formation and engagement. In June 2016 the Vocation of a Lutheran College conference will be focused on inter-religious engagement. Planning is underway this week through the conference planning team, which has been expanded to include Kathryn, Mark Wilhelm, Mark Hanson, and colleagues from the Interfaith Youth Core. A second task force of individuals who participated in the March Consultation at The Lutheran Center will carry forward several other initiatives that will help connect ELCA colleges as a network engaged in inter-religious formation and engagement.

50th Anniversary of Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue in the US

A celebration of 50 years of Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue in the US launched the sixth meeting of Round XII on “Faithful Teaching.” A service of thanksgiving and prayer was held in the chapel at the USCCB offices in DC. Bishop Eaton preached and Bishop Graham presided. A particularly moving part of the service was the reading of names of dialogue participants over the years. Monsignor John A. Radano then gave an address titled, “The Significance of the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue in the United States after Fifty Years” (click here to read) and Kathryn offered a response (click here to read). We were joined by many long-time friends and colleagues for these events and the reception that followed, hosted at the USCCB offices in DC.

A few weeks later, Pope Francis’ highly anticipated encyclical, Laudato Si’ (on the care for creation), was released. The ELCA joined ecumenical partners in expressing their appreciation for this encyclical, and shared commitment to this critical social issue of our time.

ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations

The 2015 meeting of the ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations was held in conjunction with, “Seeking Peace in the Holy Land: A Community Conversation Involving Christians and Jews,” June 10-11 at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio. The conference was organized and hosted by Skip Cornett, who is a member of the Panel. No financial support or planning was offered by ELCA. Speakers included Steve Gutow (JCPA), Warren Clark (CMEP), Lara Friedman (Americans for Peace Now), Hussein Ibish (Arab Gulf States Institute), US Ambassador Daniel Kurtzer, AJ Levine (Vanderbilt), and Darrel Jodock (St. Olaf). The Panel meeting focused on discussion of Frank Sherman’s two-volume, Bridges: Documents of the Jewish-Christian Dialogue; continued work on the inter-religious case studies book project; staff report – including discussion of future plans for structuring inter-religious work; and recommendations regarding inter-religious guests and workshops for the CWA 2016 and Grace Gathering. The Panel also had the opportunity to meet with Peace Not Walls staff, as their network was also meeting at Trinity, and Kathryn was invited to introduce herself and to share with the Network, as a bridge-building opportunity.

[Note: Bridges: Documents of the Jewish-Christian Dialogue by Frank Sherman, available from Paulist Press, is a highly recommended resource for LEIRN members. Click here to learn more and to order a copy.]

Lutheran World Federation Council Meeting

The 2015 Council meeting of the LWF took place in Geneva, June 17-23. A significant matter before the Council was engagement with a new study document, “The Self-Understanding of the Lutheran Communion.” It is hoped that this will be a resource for the churches’ preparations for the LWF 2017 Assembly. Other issues before the Council included: sustainability, Assembly planning, and operational planning. Several public statements were made by the Council on climate justice, humanitarian response to conflict, the situation in Tanah Papua (Indonesia), the sin of racism (in light of Charleston which occurred while the Council was meeting), the Middle East, migrants, and Sustainable Development Goals. During the Council meeting, leadership from ELCA and Mekane Jesus signed an MOU regarding continued cooperation in diakonia.

Kathryn and Don participated in the Committee for Theology and Ecumenical Relations. The Study Guide for FCC developed by the SW Penn Synod of the ELCA and the Pittsburgh Diocese was lifted up as a resource. Of important note is the challenging financial situation facing the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg. Please consider supporting the Institute, and referring individuals in your networks to its programs.

Mother Emanuel AME Church Shootings

The tragic shootings at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston took place during the LWF Council meeting. Bishop Eaton issued a statement from Geneva, and also called for a “day of repentance and mourning”:

Standing with the ELCA, the LWF also issued a public statement on the sin of racism:

After returning the US, Bishop Eaton attended the funeral service for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, during which President Obama gave the eulogy. Also present on behalf of ELCA were Bishop Herman Yoos, Al Starr, and Judith Butler. Rev. Pinckney and Rev. Simmons, who were among the nine killed, were graduates of Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. Dylan Roof and his family are members of an ELCA congregation. Bishop Eaton was invited to be part of the procession. This was a powerful gesture of continued partnership extended by the senior bishops of the AME Church.

The AME Council of Bishops met just before the fourth of July weekend, issuing the attached statements. As part of this, they called ecumenical and interfaith partners to dedicate September 6 as a “Day of Confession, Repentance, Prayer, and Commitment to End Racism.” Bishop Eaton wrote a letter of gratitude to AME Senior Bishop Bryant, and made the commitment of ELCA participation. Resources will be forthcoming. Please help to spread the word.

The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church

The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church was held June 25-July 3 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Kathryn was present for the ecumenical events over the first weekend, and the historic election of the next presiding bishop, Michael Curry, currently bishop of North Carolina Diocese. Ecumenical and inter-religious guests had the opportunity to observe and be introduced to the House of Deputies and House of Bishops, and joined Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori for a private dinner, during which time Kathryn was able to honor her with a brief speech and presentation of a cross. Significant actions of the TEC GC included: unanimous approval of full communion with the Church of Sweden; action in support for and solidarity with the ancient Christian communities of the Middle East; commendation of Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si’; canonical and liturgical changes to provide marriage equality; action to approve a revised budget with emphasis on evangelism and racial reconciliation; and action to divest from fossil fuels. Divestment from Israel was discussed, but opposed. For a detailed summary of actions see:

General Synod 30 of the United Church of Christ

The 30th General Synod of the United Church of Christ took place June 26-30 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Rev. John Dorhauer, conference minister of the Southwest Conference, was elected to be the next General Minister and President, succeeding Geoffrey Black who will retire at the end of this month. Don was present for the election, and for the activities for ecumenical guests. The most significant action of the Synod was the action to divest from and boycott companies that profit from the occupation of Palestinian territories. For details see:

Reformed Church in America General Synod

The Reformed Church in America General Synod met in Palos Heights, Illinois June 11-16. Bishop Wayne Miller represented the ELCA as an ecumenical guest. The General Synod approved a special council to be convened in early 2016 to develop a constitutional way forward for RCA with regard to human sexuality. A summary of other actions can be found here:

Jewish Council on Public Affairs Council Meeting

Bishop Eaton addressed the Council of the JCPA, meeting in Chicago on June 28. The theme was, “Faith to Faith: Partners Repairing the World. She lifted up areas of collaboration through partnership and coalition work, including racial and ethnic discrimination and religious freedom, poverty, climate changes, human rights, and peace with justice in Israel-Palestine. This invitation was made by Steve Gutow, who will retire as JCPA President at the end of this year.

Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada Convention

The 15th Biennial National Convention of the ELCIC took place in Edmonton July 9-12. Bishop Eaton preached at the opening worship. National Bishop Susan Johnson was re-elected to serve a third term. She has been a very strong partner, and we received this news with joy. A significant part of the Convention was the telling of the story of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), which sought to provide reconciliation to Indian residential school survivors of trauma. The ELCIC, together with ecumenical partners, had engaged with the TRC in its work. Actions of the Convention included endorsing the document, “Welcoming the Stranger: Affirmations for Faith Leaders,” a pledge to welcome strangers, refugees, and internally displaced persons; and endorsing a climate justice resolution, which affirms the position of the LWF on the subject.

International Joint Lutheran-Catholic Commission Meeting

Bishop Hanson and Kathryn Johnson joined Bishop Madden and Susan Wood in a presentation of the Declaration on the Way to the International Joint Lutheran-Catholic Commission meeting in Budapest, on July 16. (Susan is a member of the Joint Commission.) The full declaration, completed the week before, was presented to the commissioners, along with a proposed action to the LWF and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity together to “create a process to receive and implement the agreements of the Declaration on the Way…” As a first step, strong appreciation for the agreements and the documentation of sources was expressed.

Inter-Religious Case Studies Book Project

The inter-religious case studies book project, a joint project of the ELCA Consultative Panels on Lutheran-Jewish and Lutheran-Muslim relations, has made significant progress in recent months. Lutheran University Press has been secured to publish the collection in spring 2016. The manuscript has been sent out to select Lutheran leaders for review. Chris Olkiewicz has agreed to participate on behalf of LEIRN – thank you! Using this input, the authors will meet in Chicago in late August to finalize the manuscript. It will then be shared with select ecumenical and inter-religious partners, Church Council members, and the Conference of Bishops’ Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Liaison Committee. The final manuscript will be submitted to LUP in early October. Over the next months, we would like to work with you in partnership with your bishops to develop a plan for teaching workshops on what it means to be Lutheran in a multi-religious context, using the book as a resource. Would it be possible to mobilize the Network for this work at assemblies?

This book project is one part of a broader strategy to invite an ELCA-conversation around our inter-religious calling and commitments. In the coming months, Bishop Eaton will appoint a drafting team to begin work on an inter-religious vision statement, to serve as a compliment to Ecumenism: The Vision of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (1991). This process will likely take unfold from 2016-2019.

Other Board Notes

  • Planning is underway for the 2016 National Workshop on Christian Unity. Board President Chris Olkiewicz represents LEIRN on the National Planning Committee (NPC) and Kathryn Johnson as ELCA staff. The NPC meets next in Louisville in October. Stay tuned as details emerge, but save the dates for the 2016 NWCU: April 18-21, 2016 -- Louisville, KY.
  • LEIRN member Rocky Piro is national chair for the 2017 NWCU, which will be held in Minneapolis, May 1-4. This Workshop will be a significant opportunity to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.


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