Monday, November 30, 2015

November Update

Here's the latest from 

Kathryn Lohre - Assistant to the Presiding Bishop, Executive for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations


Kathryn Johnson - Director for ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations

LWF Conference

Kathryn Lohre participated in an LWF Conference held October 28-November 1 in Windhoek, Namibia titled, “Global Perspectives on the Reformation: Interactions Between Theology, Politics, and Economics.” The conference, held over Reformation day, provided a forum for the member communions to participate together in deep reflection, analysis, and critical thinking about how we understand ourselves and our relationships with others in light of the approaching 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and beyond. The methodology included plenary sessions where fine papers were presented and discussed, daily discussion groups, and thematic workshops. The input from the conference will inform the ongoing processes of existing LWF Consultations, including the one to which Kathryn L. has been appointed on “Lutheran Engagement in the Public Space” – which will present its final work to the LWF Council in June 2016. It will also inform planning for the 2017 Assembly, which will also be held in Windhoek. Kathryn had the opportunity to preach in one of the Lutheran congregations in Katatura, the district where many Blacks were relocated during the Apartheid, which was a special privilege and honor – especially to experience the strong women’s leadership of the pastor and elders, and to hear the music of the four choirs that performed!

More from LWF . . .

Installation of Presiding Bishop Curry

On All Saints Day, The Episcopal Church installed Bishop Michael Curry as the 27th Presiding Bishop and Primate at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. Bishop Donald Kreiss from the Southeast Michigan Synod, co-chair of the Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee, represented the ELCA; Kathryn Johnson also attended. With National Bishop Susan Johnson from the ELCiC, this made a noticeable row of Lutheran guests. The service powerfully blended the formal setting and liturgy with Black Church traditions, Native American music, and other elements. The interfaith dimensions were strong and integral. Bishop Curry’s remarkable sermon called on Episcopalians to move forward simultaneously in evangelism and racial reconciliation; it’s worth a look: . . .

2017 Planning Process

ELCA activities for this anniversary year continue under the guidance of an Executive Planning Team, which met on Reformation Day weekend; Kathryn J was a guest. There is a strong emphasis on facilitating a “menu” for local and regional observances and beginning “pivot projects” which will continue beyond 2017; there are also several important events at the national level. One will be the Grace Gathering, simultaneous with the CWA in August, which will include several workshops with ecumenical or interreligious foci, all directed to 2017. Augsburg Fortress will have available there a resource book, with CD, for planning 2017; this will include a number of ecumenical texts fully or in excerpt (From Conflict to Communion, Declaration on the Way, the common liturgy prepared by the LWF & PCPCU for October 31, 2016, e.g.). Cooperation with LEIRN is explicitly desired to help “renew relationships with other Christians and religious communities.” More at . . .

Church Council

The November ELCA Church Council meeting saw a number of actions which will have ecumenical implications, notably for theological education. It was also a good opportunity for good conversation with full communion partners. Plenary time was given to hearing ecumenical greetings from our guests: Rev. Dr. Betsy Miller from the Moravian Church in North America, Northern Province; Bishop Sharon Rader from the United Methodist Church; and Rev. Lisa Vander Wal from the Reformed Church in America. They were joined at the “ecumenical dinner” by the Council liaisons: Hans Becklin (to the Moravian Church), Marjorie Ellis (to the UCC), Pr. William Flippin (to the UMC), Pr. Vicki Garber (to the PCUSA), Paul Archer (to the RCA), and Pr. Stephen Herr (to TEC).

NCC Governing Board 

The NCC Executive Committee and Governing Board met in Philadelphia November 16-17. The Executive Committee was hosted by the Presbyterian Historical Society, which houses the archives of the NCC (including a page of the Gutenbeurg Bible!) The Board was hosted by the Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends. Of significance, the Assyrian Church of the East was accepted into membership, and public statements on Keeping Our Elections Free from Hateful Rhetoric and Recent Middle East Violence were adopted. The installation of new officers took place in the evening. The Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) was installed as the new chair, succeeding the Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley. This meeting marked the conclusion of Kathryn L.’s six year service as an officer of the NCC. She will continue to serve as the Chair of the Intergenerational Think Tank.

NCC Jewish-Christian Dialogue

The national Jewish-Christian dialogue on pastoral issues (co-sponsored by the NCC and the National Council of Synagogues) met November 18-19 in Philadelphia hosted by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, in partnership with the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia. This was the second annual meeting since the table was reconvened following the October 2012 letter to Congress sent by 14 Christian denominations and the NCC concerning unconditional military aid to Israel. The focus of this year’s meeting was on the global increases in anti-Semitism and anti-Christian persecution. There were presentations, text studies, small groups, and a panel that focused on the responses of local communities to the challenges, and opportunities for collaboration. One of the primary connecting points is our respective communities’ responses to the challenge of Islamophobia. Kathryn L. and Darrell Jodock represented the ELCA. John Hougen (who is part-time staff for the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia and a retired ELCA pastor) led an optional interfaith tour of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Inter-Religious Workshops (Preparations and Update) 

The publication timeline is moving forward as planned for Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves: A Lutheran Calling in a Multi-Religious World. Since we last met, Kathryn L. has completed final review of the manuscript. The publication was also brought to the attention of the full Church Council, though some members have been aware for longer, and even some participated in the manuscript review process. The page proofs will be given final review by mid-December, and publication will take place as planned, with the book becoming available in March or early April 2016. In December, Kathryn L. will work with the authors to develop the workshop template and other resources for synod assembly workshops. These will be available before Christmas, and will be shared directly with LEIRN and posted on our website, and also the website. (LEIRN will also receive a PDF copy of the final page proofs so that you can read the book as you prepare.) At that time we will also schedule a webinar or other opportunity(ies) for LEIRN to participate in training on how to use them, etc. A letter has been drafted from Kathryn L. and Chris O. addressed to LEIRN (see below) which will provide information about the book and the invitation to consider workshops or other educational opportunities in 2016 and beyond.

Declaration on the Way (again)

  1. Formal “launching” of the Declaration was on October 30. If you missed the story, you can read it here . . . Bishop Eaton & Bishop Madden, the Catholic co-chair of the task force, were warm partners in a media opportunity the following week. This resulted in a number of stories, now too many to list (check out the LEIRN Facebook page).
  2. The Church Council unanimously accepted the Statement of Agreements from the DotW and recommended that the CWA “receive the 32 Statements of Agreement, acknowledging that ‘receiving these agreements recognizes that there are no longer church dividing issues with respect to these Statements.’” The importance of LEIRN reps in helping to commend and interpret this Declaration was again underscored.
  3. We will want to talk about the intersection of this process with LWF/PCPCU plans – and how both were lifted up in the visit of Pope Francis to the Lutheran church in Rome. 
  4. We are in conversation with a Lutheran publisher about publication, in partnership with a Catholic press TBA. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

A letter to the network

Dear Lutheran Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Representatives Network,

Greetings to you in this season of Advent. In the spirit of preparation, we are writing to bring to your attention a forthcoming inter-religious resource, and to enlist your help in launching an ELCA-wide conversation on inter-religious relations in 2016 and beyond.

We live and work in an increasingly multi-ethnic and inter-religious context. In our daily encounter with diversity, what are the theological and practical challenges we face? What from our Lutheran tradition is instructive for understanding our inter-religious calling and living out our commitments? In short, what does it mean to be Lutheran in a multi-religious world?

In late 2012, the ELCA Consultative Panels on Lutheran-Jewish and Lutheran-Muslim Relations undertook an inter-religious case studies project to explore these questions. A call for submissions went out inviting real-life cases of inter-religious engagement in ELCA ministry contexts. Over 50 case studies were received and woven together with historical analysis, practical tips, and theological reflection, culminating in a book project that will be published by Lutheran University Press in early spring 2016: Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves: A Lutheran Calling in a Multi-Religious World.

This book will be a contribution toward the 500th observance of the Reformation, and a resource for ELCA-wide study, dialogue, and reflection. This will serve as a foundation for a process to be led by Presiding Bishop Eaton in the coming years to develop an ELCA vision statement on inter-religious relations, as a compliment to “Ecumenism: The Vision of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America” (1991). At their recent meetings, the ELCA Conference of Bishops and Church Council have been made aware of this project and the longer-term trajectory toward a statement.

At this time, we invite you to provide leadership in your synods and regions in launching this ELCA-wide conversation on inter-religious relations. Over the next few weeks, Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations staff, in partnership with the book’s authors, will be preparing a workshop template based on key questions and ideas in the book. This template will be adaptable for use at synod assemblies, convocations, theological conferences, rostered and lay leader gatherings, and other educational settings in 2016 and beyond. The workshop template and other resources will be sent directly to you, and also to the Conference of Bishops, by year-end. They will also be posted at,, and on the LEIRN blog.

In the meantime, we encourage you on behalf of the Office of the Presiding Bishop and the LEIRN Board to contact your synodical bishops and staff, your Synod Assembly Planning Teams, ELCA college and seminary leaders, and others in your synods and regions to make yourself available to lead workshops in 2016 and beyond, or to support this work in other ways.

At the same time, you might also volunteer to support similar work around the Declaration on the Way. We are pleased to report that in October the ELCA Conference of Bishops unanimously affirmed the 32 Statements of Agreement, followed shortly thereafter by a unanimous affirmation of the USCCB Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. Earlier this month, the ELCA Church Council accepted the 32 Statements of Agreement, and forwarded them to the Churchwide Assembly:

  • for reception of the 32 Statements of Agreement, acknowledging that “receiving these agreements recognizes that there are no longer church dividing issues with respect to these Statements…” (Declaration on the Way); and 

  • for commending to the ELCA the Declaration on the Way; From Conflict to Communion; and the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification as resources for the common life of the church as we approach 2017 and beyond. 

You will receive more information and resources about this in the coming months. You can download the full text at

We give thanks to God for you, and for this network that can be activated to build bridges of Christian unity and inter-religious understanding. Your work in your own contexts, and together across this church, is instrumental for living out our common calling in these complex yet encouraging times. Peace be with you as we prepare for the birth of the One who unites and sustains us as sisters and brothers in Christ, and as children of God with all of our neighbors.

In hope,

Kathryn M. Lohre
Assistant to the Presiding Bishop and Executive, Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations

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

Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves: A Lutheran Calling in a Multi-Religious World

Foreword - Elizabeth Eaton
Preface - Esther Menn and Peg Schultz-Akerson 
Introduction - Darrell Jodock
Chapter 1 - Mark Swanson
New Realities, New Thinking Since 1990
Chapter 2 - Carol Schersten LaHurd
Guidelines for Interacting in the Real World
Chapter 3 - Jonathan Brockopp
Exploring the Uncomfortable Questions: The Experience of Inter-Religious Work
Chapter 4 - J. Paul Rajashekar
Our God and Their God: A Relational Theology of Religious Plurality 
Conclusion - Darrell Jodock

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