Tuesday, October 27, 2015

October Update

Lutheran-Mennonite Staff Meeting

On September 24 Andre Gingerich Stoner, director of interchurch relations for the Mennonite Church USA, came to Chicago to meet with both Kathryns. He had initiated the conversation, wanting to make sure that we would continue to live into the relationship deepened both in the US and internationally by Lutheran actions of repentance concerning persecutions of Anabaptists—and he came full of ideas.

He has been in touch with Indiana-Kentucky synod Bishop Bill Gafkjen about a presence during Indiana-Kentucky’s synod assembly in June; this discussion is ongoing. We also discussed a number of possibilities to live into our ongoing reconciliation (including educational and interpretive efforts); supporting the international tri-lateral dialogue on baptism; and engaging issues of peacemaking. Some of these efforts would require significant planning or seeking outside funding; others are more within our immediate grasp.

The Declaration on the Way…

… continues on its way!

LEIRN board members should have received bound copies, along with an Executive Summary and the action taken by our Conference of Bishops. Their affirmation on October 5 was unanimous, as was the endorsement of the Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops the next week. The Declaration was discussed also at a Joint Staff Meeting of the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council on Promoting Christian Unity in late September; while the implications at international levels are still being worked out, it was clear from their response that the U.S. churches were encouraged to do all they could to promote the Declaration’s dissemination and reception.

This may help you make friends with the printed text:

  1. The Preface (pp. 9-10) gives a structural overview of the document; take a quick look. 
  2. The Introduction (pp. 10-15) provides entry into inspiration and aspiration of the Declaration.
  3. The Statement of Agreements (pp. 16-21) is the heart of the document. These Statements are affirmations on Church, ministry and Eucharist that Lutherans and Catholics have already made together; on the subjects of these Agreements there are not church-dividing issues between us. The Declaration proposes that these Statements be received into the life of our churches.
  4. Then look enough at Section III (the supporting evidence for the Statements on pp. 22-71) and Section IV (some remaining differences on pp. 72-113) to get a feel for what is there.
  5. Finally, read the Conclusion (pp. 114-7)
A number of the bishops were talking about what might be done locally with this text, and you may also have ideas.

North American Four Bishops’ Meeting


In late September, Kathryn L accompanied Bishop Eaton to the annual meeting of the four North American Lutheran, Anglican, and Episcopal National/Presiding Bishops’ meeting, also known as the “four-way.” The meeting took place in Washington DC in the context of Pope Francis’ visit to the US, and his addresses to Congress and the UN. Apart from the business of the meeting, the four way joined in a celebratory dinner in honor of Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori, and participated in an interfaith series of events hosted by the Washington National Cathedral: “Coming Together in Faith on climate.”

During the business meeting, there was significant discussion about lay presidency, in light of the ELCIC’s recent action, and sharing about the paper JALC commissioned paper, “Background and Reflections on the Policy Regarding Authorized Lay Ministries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.” Online tools for mapping shared ministries were lifted up, including the TEC asset map and the Waterloo Directory. There was sharing about common challenges regarding theological education; and conversation about global trends facing the ACC, as well as the LWF, and their interconnectedness.

As for decisions, there was consensus to begin to take the next steps toward pursuing full communion amongst the Lutheran, Anglican, and Episcopal churches in North America. There was also agreement to develop a common statement on the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities and this is underway. Advent devotions will be developed for 2017, lifting up the LWF theme and subthemes.

NWCU National Planning Meeting


Chris and Kathryn J attended the planning meeting in Louisville, Kentucky, site of next April’s meeting. We chose a theme, “Waking from a Dream of Separateness,” from Thomas Merton’s account of his 1958 experience in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander. This seemed a suggestive theme for a number of reasons: Thomas Merton’s “Fourth and Walnut experience” was only blocks from the hotel where we will meet; and Merton was raised up again as one of the four Americans mentioned by Pope Francis when he spoke to Congress during his September visit: "Merton was above all a man of prayer, a thinker who challenged the certitudes of his time and opened new horizons for souls and for the Church. He was also a man of dialogue, a promoter of peace between peoples and religions.”

Planning continues for the individual plenaries and seminars, but will certainly include a number of sessions focusing on pastoral practice in interfaith settings, on creation care, and on ecumenical practice. There will be a seminar for the Declaration on the Way which will welcome all comers.

LEIRN sessions will include an opportunity to prepare for leadership on the forthcoming publication Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves: A Lutheran Calling in a Multi-Religious World, which we began to discuss last month. We would appreciate your input on what else might be part of this strategic plan, and how LEIRN might play a role. Thank you!

Parliament of the World’s Religions


The next week, Chris Olkiewicz joined Kathryn L and several other Lutherans in Salt Lake City for the Parliament of the World’s Religions. Our delegation was small, including primarily professors at ELCA colleges and seminaries, but we discovered that there were approximately 50-60 ELCA Lutherans participating overall. Many of our folks offered excellent workshops or participated in panels.

The Parliament is the longest-standing, largest global gathering of its kind. This was the sixth Parliament, the first held in Chicago in 1893. From this point onward, the Parliament will be held every two years, with every other gathering held in the US. Plenaries featured renowned scholars, activists, and religious leaders (such as Karen Armstrong, Jane Goodall, Tariq Ramadan, John Esposito, etc.) focusing on the themes of women’s leadership; emerging leaders; climate change; war, violence, and discrimination; and indigenous peoples. Over 1200 workshops were offered and there was a lively exhibit hall. CADEIEO had a strong presence, including a booth in the exhibit hall! One of the most moving aspects of the Parliament was the free langar meal offered by the Sikh community each day, as part of their service and hospitality. We also enjoyed an evening of sacred music and dance held at the Mormon Tabernacle in Temple Square; our late arrival meant that we were seated where the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sits! Overall it was a very interesting experience, by which we were stretched, challenged, and enriched.

Inter-Religious Book Project/Synod Opportunities


This is the week that the final manuscript for the book project is submitted to Lutheran University Press! The working title is: Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves: A Lutheran Calling in a Multi-Religious World. The book will become available in spring 2016, just in time for NWCU, and synod assembly season.

As we discussed last month, we want to develop a strategic plan for engaging LEIRN in the process of lifting up and encouraging use of this resource next year and beyond. This will be the first step in launching an ELCA-wide conversation about our inter-religious commitments and calling. There is increasing awareness of this project, and of the invitation to consider lifting it up at 2016 synod events, and beyond, as well as enthusiasm from the ecumenical and inter-religious liaison committee of the Conference. But we need more communication about this in order for this to become a reality.

In late November and early December we will turn our attention to developing the powerpoint workshop template and other resources referenced in the flyer. We invite you, and the members of the network, to begin approaching your synod bishops and synod assembly planning teams about the possibility of including a workshop or other educational forum at 2016 assemblies and educational events. I hope to gain permission from the publishers to share with the Board and the Network an electronic version of the manuscript so that you can read it in its entirety as part of your preparations this winter.

Board Highlights


  • The network meeting schedule for NWCU is taking shape. The Workshop overall is trying to accommodate the request from participants for a bit more unscheduled time. This means we may need to deal with somewhat reduced time for network business, and there is not likely to be a joint session with a sister network this year. 
  • UMEIT is developing a session on local ecumenical and interfaith initiatives in the Louisville area to which all NWCU participants will be invited. In a sense, this accomplishes some of the goals of a joint network meeting. 
  • LEIRN time will focus on an update and conversation with ELCA/EIR staff, strategizing around the deployment of the new inter-religious relations book, and elections. Stay tuned for more details as the schedule takes shape. 
  • The means for distributing copies of Declaration on the Way to LEIRN members is currently being discussed. Because of the cost of printed copies, it may need to be as a PDF document. 

Next meeting: November 20, 2015.

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