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September Update

From Kathryn Lohre and Kathryn Johnson

Welcome to Kathryn Johnson

We were pleased to welcome Kathryn Johnson on September 1 as director for ecumenical and inter-religious relations. It is truly a joy to welcome a colleague who brings the breadth and depth of ecumenical expertise and relations to our work, along with a deep faith and passion for Christian unity.

ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Muslim Relations/Inter-Religious Book Project

On August 27, the authors of the inter-religious case studies book project met at The Lutheran Center to workshop the penultimate draft of the manuscript. On behalf of LEIRN, Rev. Chris Olkiewicz participated in a review process leading up to this meeting – thank you. The working title is, “Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves: A Lutheran Calling in a Multi-Religious World.” Lutheran University Press will receive the final text in early October, and we are still on track to publish in spring 2016. Here is the outline:

  • Foreword, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton 
  • Preface, Esther Menn and Peg Schultz-Akerson 
  • Introduction, Darrell Jodock 
  • Chapter 1 "New realities, New Thinking Since 1990," Mark Swanson 
  • Chapter 3 "Exploring The Uncomfortable Questions: The Experience of Inter-Religious Work," Jonathan Brockopp 
  • Chapter 4 "Our God and Their God: A Relational Theology of Religious Plurality," J. Paul Rajashekar 
  • Conclusion, Darrell Jodock

Further work will be unfolding over the fall and winter months as part of our strategy for inviting ELCA-wide engagement on this topic. In early October, the Conference of Bishops will receive a progress report, along with the request to consider possible opportunities at 2016 synod assemblies for lifting up this resource and inviting conversation on our church’s inter-religious relations and commitments. Our office will create a workshop template based on the book’s content. Do we have your blessing to suggest that LEIRN reps might serve as workshop leaders and resource people in their synods? Perhaps we could add this as an agenda item over the next few months?

The next day was the business meeting of the ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Muslim Relations, which included most of the same people. The group discussed the future of ELCA inter-religious relations; recommendations for 2016 CWA guests; and current events and issues such as ISIL and religious persecution.

Black Methodist Coalition

Kathryn L. attended the NCC Executive Committee meeting in Washington, DC, August 30 – September 1. She stayed on to be part of the “Liberty and Justice for All” events organized by the Black Methodist Coalition – the AME, AME Zion, CME, and the Union American Methodist Episcopal Churches. This series of events, designed to launch a movement, was originally called for by the bishops of the AME Church, who met in Council for the first time after the Charleston shootings over the July 4 weekend. There was a worship service held at John Wesley AME Zion Church on the evening of Sept. 1, followed by a press conference at the National Press Club the next morning. Kathryn L. was honored to be invited to give a statement on behalf of the ELCA and the ecumenical partners, as a call to action for the faith community to be leaders in racial reconciliation and racial justice. The others who gave statements included the senior bishops of the AME, AME Zion, and CME Churches, and Jim Winkler, NCC General Secretary/President. A briefing at the White House followed that afternoon. Subsequently, many ELCA congregations participated in the Sept. 6 Sunday of “Confession, Repentance, and Commitment to End Racism,” called for by the Black Methodist Coalition.

ELCA-UMC Coordinating Committee

The ELCA-UMC Coordinating Committee met at The Lutheran Center September 3-4. The committee learned from our respective advocacy colleagues in DC about ELCA-UMC cooperation around climate change; discussed continued coordination in evangelical outreach and mission starts; and began work on shared questions of leadership formation and theological education. There was a commitment to focus on the specific question of ecumenical formation at the next meeting. (We hope that our respective networks will be invited to be part of this thinking and work, so stay tuned!)

Emerging Religious Leaders Seminar

The Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign sponsored its second Emerging Religious Leaders Seminar in conjunction with the annual Islamic Society of North America Convention in Rosemont, Illinois. We were able to host this Abrahamic inter-religious formation program for half a day at The Lutheran Center on Thursday, September 3. Kathryn L. co-taught a case study from The Pluralism Project ( and also led discussion on the challenges and opportunities for inter-religious relations for religious leaders in today’s rapidly changing multi-religious context.

Islamic Society of North America Convention

Kathryn L. and Kathryn J. attended the ISNA Convention held in Rosemont, Illinois September 3 – 7, along with Bishop Miller of the Metro Chicago Synod, who brought greetings on behalf of the ELCA during the opening plenary. On Sunday evening, the three of us were joined by Rev. Brian Wise representing LEIRN and Prof. Mark Swanson from LSTC, who chairs the ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Muslim Relations as guests at the ISNA Interfaith Unity Banquet.

Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee

The Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee met September 9-11 at The Lutheran Center. The committee learned about the transitions under way in the Office of the Presiding Bishop of TEC; discussed continued coordination in evangelical outreach; explored shared challenges in seminary education; and identified options for pursuing the next phase of strategic planning. There is the hope to lift up an excellent example of shared ministry in a joint news story on the occasion of the upcoming 15th anniversary of CCM.

Declaration on the Way 

The long-awaited text of this Declaration is finally itself On the Way! On our side, next month it will be discussed at the Conference of Bishops Liaison Committee on Ecumenical & Inter-Religious Relations, and then brought to the full CoB. The following week, also here in our Lutheran Center, the Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Affairs for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops will also receive the text. We have sent a preliminary printing to Rome and Geneva for the annual joint staff meeting of the LWF and PCPCU. And copies for all our LEIRN members are in the works. The text identifies agreements on church, ministry and Eucharist from the achievement of our theological dialogues, and then indicates where there are remaining differences. We are indeed still “on the way” on these crucial issues – but our agreements, considered cumulatively and interactively, clearly demonstrate that we are not at the starting gate. It is a good time to consider what it would mean if the dialogues’ agreements were indeed to live in the life of our church communities.

Board Highlights

  • A pre-planning team of representatives from participating communions is being formed to do some advanced work for NWCU 2017. Invitations are being made to heads of communion, seminary and university presidents, and other church leaders in preparation for the Minneapolis workshop, which will focus heavily on commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.
  • The national planning committee for NWCU 2016 meets in Louisville October 5-7. Kathryn Johnson and Chris Olkiewicz will participate on behalf of LEIRN and the ELCA.
  • On October 5, board member Kenny Bowen will represent Bishop Erwin at a meeting of leaders from the Maronite and other churches to exchange ideas and discuss ways to support Christian brothers and sisters in the Middle East. The meeting is being held at Our Lady Mt. Lebanon-St. Peter Cathedral in Los Angeles. Kenny will update the board at its October meeting.
  • A late-October date is currently being arranged for our next meeting.


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