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

and 

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:

episcopalchurch.org . . .

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 elca.org/500 . . .

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 ELCA500.org 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. 




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