Monday, December 19, 2016

A Project in Local Ecumenism - The Virginia Model - After 25 Years

By the Rev. Tom Prinz, LEIRN Board Member

In the late 1980’s the accumulation of ecumenical dialogue documents and the well-publicized intention of denominations to seek concrete forms implementing a growing convergence among traditions, long considered hopelessly divided, prompted a Virginia Commonwealth wide Committee of Lutherans, Episcopalians and Roman Catholics to expand their mandate to promote an annual conference on issues of mutual concern, to consider a “covenant” as an instrument of encouragement among and within congregations and parishes. The group realized that for such a document to carry any impact the various judicatories themselves would have to be seen as committed to similar actions at the level of the local church.

The 1990 public signing and release of the then LARC Covenant (Lutheran-Anglican-Roman Catholic) was preceded by a lengthy and comprehensive drafting process.

Judicatory heads were consulted individually and when assent had been achieved a meeting of the bishops was held in the context of the annual judicatory leaders conference held under the auspices of the Virginia Council of Churches. A committee of three drafters was approved, one from each of the traditions, to bring a text back to the bishops in their next annual gathering.

This began a busy process that would involve several drafts. The committee settled on a design of a Preamble, a Declaration and a Call into Covenant made up of a series of 20 actions.

The Preamble section was followed by a carefully worded Declaration by the proposed signatories to do all that could be done within the confines of what ecumenical documents at the time encouraged. It was significant and necessary to the success of the agreement not to challenge or advance beyond what was then accepted understandings. This basic decision has been confirmed over and again during the life of the Covenant. 

Most importantly the document was written to supply a series of discrete actions in bullet form that the dioceses and synods committed themselves to do. It included several actions which would be carried out by the coordinating committee of LARC, and especially a series of actions that were encourage within and between parishes/congregations and other ministries of the church such as institutional chaplaincies.

In the summer of 1990 the bishops made a final set of changes to the document and it was signed and released in the midst of celebratory worship at the annual LARC conference in the fall. The document received national and even international attention at the time. It has been the model for several covenant agreements across the U.S.

It is important to note that the process of preparing the text is one of its major benefits. It brought judicatory leaders together in a way that built trusted relationships which continue to benefit the ecumenical life of the Commonwealth. Over the last quarter century all judicatory leaders of the Covenant communities without exception have affixed their names to the document. 

The LARC conference committee now became the coordination committee under the aegis of the Covenant. The coordinating committee held a series of meetings within and between the partner churches to explain the contents of the document. Published copies of the documents were encouraged to be displayed by the judicatories and the congregation/parishes. It is heartening to find after 25 years the document on display at all the judicatory offices and within many local gathered communities. The Commonwealth coordinating committee fostered regional LARC’s. These groups have seen a checkered history in the five regions of the state, nevertheless, three are active today and two have been in continuous existence since first initiated.

A major augmentation of the Covenant came when the local Conference of the United Methodist Church publicly entered into the agreement in 2006. This precipitated a helpful evaluation of the whole document and was accomplished with only a very few editorial changes.

The past twenty five years have seen an enormous amount of additional ecumenical work; the formation of “Full Communion” relationships and not a few challenges to ecumenical relationships. The document has stood the test of this time. The original encouragement continues to challenge the local churches to live into the initial commitments that are more profound than many first recognized.

The annual meeting of LARC (now LARCUM) was transformed from a conference with a general ecumenical focus, often on specific documents, to a conference which highlighted one of the action items in the Covenant. Nearly every aspect of the document has thus been highlighted sometimes more than once over the years. The coordinating committee has devoted annual meetings to the issue of racism, inter-faith marriages, the history of the traditions in the Commonwealth of Virginia and a three year look at Vatican II and its continuing implications. Each annual conference has striven to find the best voices in the country to help unpack the topics. This has been immeasurably assisted by the rich theological resources in the Middle Atlantic Region of the U.S. Three times the venue for the conference, which rotates its location among the regions of Virginia, has been held on college campuses in order to encourage a new generation of ecumenists.

The Conference itself has evolved from a traditional lecture series to a more interactive relationship with the presenter and time for the assembly to meet in regions, to both get to know each other and initiate conversations that might lead to local activity. The annual conference continues to see attendance of between 100-200 participants for an overnight event, no less.

One of the strengths of this whole process has been the longstanding and matured relationship of the planning committee and the trust that the church leadership maintains for the committee in its custodianship of the document. Every conference has a planned meeting of the bishops and the state committee at a dinner prior to the Conference and a planning lunch meeting in the midst of the conference.

Ecumenical fortunes have swung up and down like the stock market over the years. It is sometimes in the news, sometimes all but forgotten and dismissed. The Virginia model has endured because of the commitment of its planners, a structure that supports and draws attention to ecumenical substance and potential, but most of all to a well nurtured and constantly attended to web of relationships. In ecclesiastical settings seriously challenged and distracted by many things, just as is the larger world, a persistent and patient attention to something as fundamental to the life of the church as is its unity has not been lost and bears much fruit in many hidden but profoundly important ways.

The Covenant history in Virginia shows that no matter what the future brings in challenges and celebrations to the church, the future for the church in this place will also bear the marks of an ecumenical future.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

November Update

From Kathryn Lohre and Kathryn Johnson

DOTW Follow-Up/500th Synod Events

Kathryn J has been participating in several events concerning ecumenical aspects of the 500th Reformation anniversary.

On Sunday, she preached for a service at St. Ambrose Cathedral in Des Moines, Iowa, which was based on the Common Prayer used at Lund but adapted to the local context in music, prayer, and participation. Both ELCA Bishop Michael Burk (Southeast Iowa Synod) and Catholic Bishop Richard Pates (Diocese of Des Moines) were present, and our own “Pastor Chris” had a key role in presiding and planning.

In September Kathryn spoke to the Theological Conference of the Rocky Mountain Synod, and in October was in Michigan for leadership retreat of the regional LARC group, whose worship also included a modification of the Lund liturgy.

In the works are plans for a study guide for The Declaration on the Way for local use and a brief liturgical resource to help pastors prepare, practically and theologically, for welcoming with a blessing those worshippers – including Roman Catholics following the guidelines of their church – who do not receive the elements.

Pluralism Project 25th Anniversary

In late September, the Pluralism Project at Harvard University celebrated its 25th anniversary. Founded in 1991 by Prof. Diana L. Eck, the Pluralism Project is the premier research organization on the changing religious landscape in the United States. Kathryn Lohre, who served on the staff of the Pluralism Project between 2000 and 2011, the last five years as assistant director, participated in the public conference and spoke on a panel about religious pluralism and the promise of peacebuilding. Her remarks focused on Lutheran-Muslim relations in an era of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry. She was also present for a series of advisory council meetings before and after the event. You will find many excellent educational and dialogue resources at

Four-Way Meeting

In late September, the heads of churches and staff of the Anglican Church of Canada, The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, The Episcopal Church, and the ELCA had their annual meeting at the Lutheran Center. Updates from the churches were shared – including the significant events of the ACC General Synod and the ELCA Churchwide Assembly. Bishop Curry was welcome to the table for the first time. The group finalized the 2016 Advent Devotions, focused on the LWF 2017 theme,” Liberated by God’s Grace,” and subthemes. These were made available online on October 31 and are available at:

Bishop Eaton’s Webcast

Bishop Eaton’s webcast on October 27 was devoted to ecumenical witness and the Reformation anniversary. Joining the Bishop for the discussion were Martin Marty; Sr. Susan Wood, a Catholic member of the DotW task force who was with us for the Churchwide Assembly; and Khadijah Islam, a college student and voting member of the CWA who had spoken memorably at the hearings. There were also short video clips from the CWA and from three of the ecumenical guests present for the vote on the Declaration, who spoke about its ecumenical significance. For the first time for one of these webcasts, Facebook was used as the platform, and live questions from 3 congregations were received as well as those from social media. Click here to watch the recorded webcast.

Joint Ecumenical Commemoration of the Reformation in Sweden, October 31

The staff of the Lutheran Center were invited to participate in a viewing party of the live-stream. Colleagues from across the units and offices of the church gathered together to experience and reflect upon the remarkable events which took place.

The day’s events included first a Common Prayer in Lund Cathedral, led by Pope Francis and LWF President Munib Younan and General Secretary Martin Junge; the procession was led by a Salvadorean cross created for the occasion and involved women and men from every continent and many generations. Bishop Eaton and LWF treasurer Christina Jackson-Skelton represented the ELCA, and Dr. Dirk Lange from Luther Seminary had ably shaped the liturgy. Also present because of former LWF roles were Presiding Bishop Emeritus Mark Hanson and Kathryn J. Later an event in Malmö sports arena included commitment to common work for the suffering and included music and testimonies around a large illuminated floor cross; Rocky and Beverly Piro were among the ELCA participants in this event.

Videos are available at; you might especially enjoy the press conference, which includes discussions of DotW and Eucharistic hospitality:

Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves Update

The final report for the Peeler Grant was submitted in October. This grant, from the NC Synod, supported the publication of the case studies book, Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves, and has provided ongoing support for distribution efforts. With the remaining funds of the grant, we were able to purchase a number of additional copies. We will be able to provide a complimentary copy to each LEIRN member at the 2017 National Workshop on Christian Unity. As you know, Bishop Eaton invited the church into conversation about our inter-religious calling and commitments in her remarks at the Churchwide Assembly. This book was lifted up as a key resource. Now is the time to contact your synod assembly planning teams to offer your support for possible workshops. You will find the workshop templates here: Staff are also available to support the utilization of this resource.

Christian Churches Together

CCT’s annual convocation in 2017 will be held in Anaheim, California, January 31 – February 3. The theme will be “500th Anniversary of the Protestant Reformation: Signs of Hope & What Divides Us Today.” Racial justice and Lutheran-Catholic relations will be two foci. The Declaration on the Way will be discussed in plenary. Bishop Eaton will be present, along with Bishop Suzanne Dillahunt who serves on the Steering Committee, and staff. LEIRN representatives are welcome to participate. For more information see:

Formula of Agreement

Ecumenical Officers and worship staff of the Formula of Agreement churches have begun planning for a worship service in celebration of the 20th anniversary, to be held in Cleveland, Ohio on the afternoon of March 26. Heads of communion, ecumenical officers, local judicatory leaders, and local clergy and lay leaders will participate. This will be held in conjunction with a heads of communion meeting the next day, which will explore the next chapter of our life together as full communion partners.

Churches Uniting in Christ

In October, the Coordinating Council of Churches Uniting in Christ met in Dallas, Texas at Perkins School of Theology. The Council issued a statement of support for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The majority of the meeting was spent planning for a national worship service of recognition of ministries that will be held on the evening of June 4 in Dallas. Heads of communion, ecumenical officers, local judicatory leaders, and local clergy and lay leaders will participate. This service is one of the significant mandates of the CUIC plenary held in January 2016. A public forum on race relations will be held on June 3, along with a pulpit exchange between local clergy and national CUIC leadership on the morning of June 4. If you are interested in more information contact Kathryn L.

Board Highlights

  • Several board members are currently researching options for a guide to Reformation-related travel that would help travelers to reflect on their experiences in the context of the modern ecumenical movement.
  • An update of the LEIRN handbook and governing documents is underway and will include the addition of sample job descriptions showing various possibilities for configuring the work of a LEIRN representative.
  • A new process for maintaining the LEIRN roster is being considered. If you have updated contact information to share, please send it to LEIRN Secretary, Tim Philabaum at
  • Save the dates for the National Workshop on Christian Unity, May 1-4, in Minneapolis. Registration information will be available at soon.
  • The next meeting of the board will be December 15.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Sermon at Common Prayer

Below is the sermon preached by Dr. Kathryn Johnson, Director for ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations, at a common prayer service in Des Moines, Iowa on November 6, 2016 to inaugurate the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

This is truly a remarkable day!
It’s a time for thanksgiving, repentance, commitment and hope. We gather here amid so much that is familiar: well-loved hymns, a well-known text, prayers for one another and for the world, the greeting of peace. We know how to be with one another on such occasions, for over the course of our lifetimes most of us have had many opportunities for such common prayer for Christian unity. But today is distinctive; today is surprising. Today offers to us a strong sense of hope and new beginning, and it calls on us not to miss taking the next steps toward the doors cracking open before us.

We see the distinctiveness at once when we ask why we are here today: not during Week of Prayer for Christian Unity or on Pentecost or another of the festivals of the Church, but on this unconvincingly Novemberish day in 2016. We are here today because soon it will be 2017, the 500th anniversary of the beginnings of the Lutheran movement, when Martin Luther famously posted 95 provocative theses for discussion in Wittenberg, Germany – and since that posting was on All Saints’ Eve, October 31, the commemoration year began last Monday and will run until next October. And what a beginning that was! Continue reading . . .

Monday, October 10, 2016

Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Witness on the Eve of the Reformation Anniversary

Join Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton on Thursday, Oct. 27, from 7-8 p.m. CDT for a live webcast that will explore ecumenical and interreligious witness on the eve of the Reformation anniversary.

What was the Reformation, and what does it mean for Lutherans and ecumenical partners?
What is “Declaration on the Way,” and why is it significant for Lutheran-Catholic relations?
What might ecumenical and interreligious relationships look like in the future, and what does this mean for our faith community?

Check back here for additional information concerning webcast participants and resources. We invite you to participate and join the conversation by using #ELCAwebcast on social media.

You are also encouraged to view the webcast with your congregation, group or committee. This may help conversation as you plan for and discuss your observation of the Reformation in 2017. Find additional information on how ELCA synods and congregations are observing the Reformation here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Additional tickets available for Malmo


Additional tickets for the Malmö arena events on October 31, 2016 have been made available for LWF member churches. The Common Prayer service at the cathedral in Lund will be live-streamed into the arena, and then Lutheran leaders and Pope Francis will proceed to the arena itself for the second part of the day in the arena. 

Initial tickets for the arena events sold out almost at once. But additional tickets are available at this site:

Please tell anyone you know who might want to attend – especially anyone who might have tried for a ticket and found them sold out at the first Ticketmaster site.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations Updates

August 2016

In II Corinthians, Chapter 5, we read: “All this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (NRSV). As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the ministry of reconciliation was at the heart of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly’s ecumenical and inter-religious witness. We want to lift up three significant dimensions of this witness:
  • Racial justice and reconciliation
  • Reconciliation among religions
  • Reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics and among all Christians
With regard to racial justice and reconciliation: in addition to our church’s important internal work, this Assembly gave witness to our decade-long discourse with the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and our churches’ joint statement of mission, adopted in 2010. We welcomed the senior bishop, four episcopal district bishops, several general officers, and their colleagues and families as our special guests. We received the Word in worship on Thursday from Bishop George Battle, Senior Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and some of our ELCA bishops hosted our guests in order to build and nurture relationships as we look forward to strengthening our partnership in the coming years.

Next, with regard to reconciliation among religions, the Assembly received powerful greetings from
Jewish and Muslim partners – Rabbi David Sandmel of the Anti-Defamation League and Dr. Sayyid Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America – who described the importance of partnership across religions lines, on common ground and through difficult differences. Bishop Eaton also invited the ELCA into conversation over the next three years about our inter-religious callings and commitments and announced a new task force on inter-religious relations which will work to draft an inter-religious policy statement that is intended to come before the 2019 Churchwide Assembly for action. She lifted up the new publication of ELCA inter-religious case studies, Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves, as a resource for this work available from Lutheran University Press.

Finally, with regard to reconciliation between Lutherans and Catholics – we turn to the historic action on the Declaration on the Way available from Augsburg Fortress. The Declaration on the Way is a

new and unique kind of ecumenical text that seeks to seal in those areas of agreement reached after 500 years of division and 50 years of dialogue. The action of the Assembly on the Declaration on the Way can be understood as one which declared that with regard to several matters concerning church, ministry, and Eucharist, there are no longer church dividing issues between us. Yes, differences remain in these and other areas – but it is important to take stock in order to acknowledge, and perhaps even celebrate, just how far we have come “on the way.”

What we witnessed afresh at the Assembly was the depth of yearning in this church to be moving forward toward reconciliation and greater unity in this crucial relationship. All our ecumenical guests, who were witnesses, and especially our Catholic participants, were surprised by the intensity of this desire for growth in communion evident in our church -- in the plenary sessions but also in two standing-room-only hearings and hallway conversations and throughout the Assembly. We can say that many of us Lutherans too were wonderfully surprised when the votes were posted: 931 votes for, 9 against. As memorable as the vote was the joy of the moment.

So what comes next? Part of that answer rests with all of us. The Assembly vote was in some ways a mandate to us to honor the desire to be “on the way together.” The Assembly also commended to the church the Declaration, with related texts, as “resources for the common life of the church as we approach 2017 and beyond.” In the press conference that followed, when Bishop Eaton was asked what might make this moment different from the other announcements of ecumenical statements that quickly faded from memory, she appealed first not to the distinctive form of the Statement or its new method, but rather to the people who had participated in the moment of that vote who would go home with that memory and that desire to continue to move forward. The experience of the hearings, where people spoke from the depth and range of their experiences, also encourages us that next steps can be taken at local levels. We are learning of many synodical engagements in preparation for the 2017 year around the country. We look forward to the journey, and invite your sharing (to about how the next steps are unfolding in your context.

In Christ,
Ms. Kathryn M. Lohre
Assistant to the Presiding Bishop
Executive, Ecumenical & Inter-Religious Relations

Dr. Kathryn L. Johnson
Director, Ecumenical & Inter-Religious Relations
Declaration on the Way Task Force

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Launching the 500th Reformation anniversary in 2017, a joint Lutheran-Catholic commemoration will take place in Lund and Malmö, Sweden, on Oct. 31, 2016. The Lutheran World Federation and the Roman Catholic Church (Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity) are hosting the event, highlighting solid ecumenical developments and the joint gifts received through dialogue.
Pope Francis, The Lutheran World Federation President Bishop Dr. Munib A. Younan and its general secretary, the Rev. Dr. Martin Junge, will lead the Common Prayer service in Lund and the event in Malmö in cooperation with leaders from the Church of Sweden and the Catholic Diocese of Stockholm.
This historic event will bring together Lutherans and Catholics from around the world to commemorate the Reformation and look to the future.

Ways you can participate

As members of the ELCA, we are committed to fostering unity among God’s children for the sake of the world. Your gifts are needed to help continue this mission and help support the joint ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation. Your gift will help open doors to new possibilities, strengthen relationships, promote peace, reconciliation and joint diaconal work around the world.
Attend the event in the Malmö Arena. Register for updates on when tickets will become available and get the latest information at
The service in the Lund Cathedral will be live-streamed. Live-streaming the event in the Malmö Arena is being explored. Follow the live-stream jointly with an adult group or your congregation and consider inviting Catholic parishes to join in viewing. 
Find resources:

Declaration on the Way Commentary

Michael Trice has made available to us a copy of his recent article in Ecumenical Trends, "Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry, and Eucharist: A Commentary." Click here to read it.

Dr. Michael Reid Trice is Assistant Professor - Theological Ethics and Constructive Theology and Assistant Dean - Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue at the School of Theology and Ministry at Seattle University, Seattle, Washington.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Future directions input sought

Dear Members of the Lutheran Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Representatives Network,

As you are likely aware, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has been looking toward our future in a process named “Called Forward Together in Christ.” Many of you have no doubt offered feedback about future directions through conversations at your synod assembly or in another setting or by participating in the online survey. The LEIRN board engaged the process in June and offered input on behalf of the network.

A future directions paper that summarizes the input gathered from across the church is now available at Two statements in the section entitled “Key Messages From Across This Church” reflect the importance of ecumenical and inter-religious engagement to our self-understanding:

“Ecumenism is at the core of the ELCA’s confessions and beliefs. We are committed to our full communion partners and to dialogue with ecumenical partners locally and globally.”

“We engage in dialogue and collaboration with other faiths for the sake of justice, reconciliation and peace in the world” (p. 9).

Yet when proposed priorities for the ELCA to 2021 are articulated (p. 17), ecumenical and inter-religious work are not specifically reflected. This may be cause for some concern. If ecumenism and inter-religious work are, indeed, central to our D.N.A. as a church, as the findings above suggest, then it would seem important to state them explicitly as priorities for our forward direction.

Feedback on the proposed priorities is welcome and being received until September 9 at or via email: I encourage you to offer your feedback and specifically to call for the ELCA to deepen and expand its ecumenical and inter-religious commitments as stated priorities for the future direction of this church.

The resounding affirmation of Declaration on the Way at the 2016 Churchwide Assembly is but one manifestation of the vibrant ecumenical and inter-religious witness of the ELCA. As one committed to that work and witness, please take a moment to assure that your voice is heard at this important moment in the life of our church.

In Christ,

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

Monday, August 15, 2016

On the way!

The recent ELCA Churchwide Assembly affirmation of Declaration on the Way from a Catholic perspective: U.S. Lutherans Ratify Catholic Interfaith Document

Thursday, August 4, 2016

July update

Staff update from Kathryn Lohre and Kathryn Johnson

Synod Assemblies

In June Kathryn J represented the Churchwide Office at the Southern Ohio Synod assembly. At the Indiana-Kentucky synod assembly, she joined Andre Gingerich Stoner from the Mennonite Church USA to talk about ongoing Lutheran-Anabaptist reconciliation. They were joined by the president of the Mennonite World Conference, who pastors a congregation in Indiana, and a Mennonite choir which sang during the closing worship. After the Assembly Bishop Gafkjen led a group of synod leaders and Mennonites to Menno-Hof, an interpretative center for Anabaptist history, to inaugurate the site of a new exhibit on reconciliations.

Vocation of a Lutheran College Conference

Kathryn L. and Bishop Eaton attended the 2016 Vocation of a Lutheran College Conference, “Preparing Global Leaders for a Religiously Diverse World.” Bishop Eaton offered the keynote, underscoring the church’s commitment to inter-religious relations and formation, and support of the colleges in this endeavor. It was remarkable that 23 of the 26 ELCA colleges had delegations present, including presidents, faculty, staff, and students. Kathryn L. led a workshop with Carol Schersten LaHurd lifting up the book Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves: A Lutheran Calling in a Multi-Religious World. Eboo Patel and several Interfaith Youth Core also provided strong leadership, as the conference was co-sponsored by the ELCA and the Interfaith Youth Core through a Lilly grant. The Lilly grant is intended to build up denominational networks of colleges and universities. The other college networks include Catholics, Methodist, and Presbyterians.

LWF Council meeting in Wittenberg, Germany

Kathryn J attended the LWF Council meeting. The choice of Wittenberg for the final Council meeting before the 2017 Assembly in Namibia showed its wisdom: the heritage of Martin Luther could be honored while welcoming even more the future. A preliminary “pilgrimage’ highlighted the experience of refugees; when the German President, a Lutheran pastor, brought greetings to the opening worship, this theme was again before the Council. The three sub-themes of the Reformation commemoration were addressed by ecumenical guests: the general secretaries of the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the WCC and took on “Human Beings Not for Sale” and “Creation Not for Sale,” while, perhaps most remarkably, “Salvation Not For Sale” was addressed by Cardinal Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. 

The report edited by Kathryn L, as part of a two-year consultation on Lutheran Engagement in the Public Square titled, “Global Perspectives on the Reformation: Interactions Between Theology, Politics, and Economics,” was received by the Council with enthusiasm; so also was received, “Bearing Fruit: Implications of the 2010 Reconciliation between Lutherans and Mennonites/Anabaptists, on which Kathryn J had worked, and the culmination of a hermeneutics project, “In the Beginning Was the Word: the Bible in the Life of the Lutheran Communion.” 

Strong support for women’s ordination as “our shared goal” was expressed, in response to the action by the Evangelical Lutheran church of Latvia to amend its constitution to provide for ordaining only men. 

The General Secretary’s report addressed continuing challenges and strengths to the Lutheran communion; he proposed 2021 as a target date for an international “Declaration on the Way” on church, ministry, and Eucharist, whose urgency would be drawn especially by the yearning of Lutherans and Catholics to be together at the table where Christ is known. 

African Methodist Episcopal Church General Conference

Kathryn L. attended the AME General Conference in Philadelphia in July, joined by Bishop Claire Burkat and the Pr. Lamont Wells, president of the African Descent Lutheran Association. Kathryn was invited to read scripture during the ecumenical worship service. The schedule for the day shifted multiple times as Hillary Rodham Clinton’s plans to address the General Conference became clear. A significant theme was racial justice and reconciliation.

African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church General Conference

Bishop Eaton brought greetings to the AME Zion General Conference in Greensboro in late July. She shared our church’s commitment to partnership, and especially with regard to racial justice and reconciliation. We look forward to receiving Bishop Battle, Jr., senior bishop of the AME Zion Church to the Churchwide Assembly where he will preach and bring greetings. He will be accompanied by at least three other bishops and other church leaders, staff, and family. There is a memorial coming before the Assembly on deepening relationships with the Historic Black Churches.

Ecumenical Officers Retreat

The late July meeting of ecumenical officers, hosted in the Bread for the World offices in Washington, D.C., was saddened by news of the departures of two of our treasured colleagues, Fr. John Crossin from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Andre Gingerich Stoner from the Mennonite Church USA. Kathryn L was able to participate by phone on a crucial discussion of inter-religious work in our denominations, even as she prepared for James’ baptism on July 24. Shaped by recent news events, anti-racist efforts – and the continuing racism in our churches as well as in our larger culture – were prominent topics.

Islamic Society of North America

Bishop Eaton and Kathryn L. received guests from the Office of Interfaith and Community Alliances of the Islamic Society of North America in mid-July. The purpose of the meeting was to strengthen our partnership. The ISNA colleagues brought an initial proposal for building local Lutheran-Muslim relations through educational initiatives, fellowship, and activities to enhance the common good in the community. Existing ELCA educational and dialogue resources would be utilized. The ISNA colleagues will share a written proposal in the coming months, and as a first step this will be passed along for consideration by the ELCA Conference of Bishops’ Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations Liaison Committee, then it will come to LEIRN through the Board. We anticipate that we might proceed initially with a pilot synod or two, and build from there. We look forward to welcoming Dr. Sayyid Syeed to the Churchwide Assembly as an inter-religious guest. This will be his second time with us in this capacity.


The LWF and the Catholic Church will hold a joint ecumenical commemoration of the Reformation on October 31, 2016 in Lund and Malmo, Sweden. It will begin with a liturgy in the Cathedral in Lund, followed by a public event in the arena that is open to wider participation. Eventually, tickets for the stadium event will be available for purchase online. There are plans underway for streaming the events, though there are questions about whether this will be a live-stream. Nevertheless, this will provide for the option of enriching local events through virtual participation in these global events. A dedicated website has been launched, though the details have not yet been made available: 

You can read more in this article:

Opportunities for fundraising for these events exist. We invite you to contact Kathryn L. or J., or to share their contact information with others in your networks who might be interested. We will be sharing a focused communication with LEIRN about this in late August/early September. 

Inter-Religious Task Force

Bishop Eaton has appointed a task force to begin work on developing and inter-religious vision/policy statement to complement the ecumenical one adopted by the Churchwide Assembly in 1991. The Task Force will draw upon the significant relations of this church and its predecessor bodies, and also the expertise of ecumenical partners who have adopted similar types of statements in recent years. As part of the input process, Bishop Eaton will launch and ELCA-wide conversation about our inter-religious calling and commitments at the Churchwide Assembly next month. The intention is that Engaging Others book along with our other resources might serve this work. We are grateful for the role LEIRN is playing in all of this. The expectation is that the policy statement will be brought for action to the 2019 Churchwide Assembly. The Task Force will be chaired by Bishop Patricia Lull, who brings significant experience in inter-religious relations from the St. Paul Area Council of Churches/Interfaith Network.

Other discussion items

  • General discussion of upcoming Churchwide Assembly topics related to ecumenical and inter-religious relations
  • Resolved to invite Don McCoid to join us on a future call to discuss his experiences at the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church
  • Next meeting: August 18 at 4 p.m. Eastern

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Celebrating Ecumenism and the Arts in 2017

An invitation from the Mount Tabor Ecumenical Centre for Art and Spirituality

Dear Friends,
The year 2017 marks an incredible anniversary: the 500th Anniversary of the Reformation. In the half millennium that has passed since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door at Wittenberg, the Church universal has evolved from a body painfully divided, to one that together seeks true ecumenism through a host of expressions. The Mount Tabor Centre invites you to join in celebration of the unity that continues to grow in the Church through Reformanda 2017: a three-week exploration of ecumenism, art and architecture in France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy in May 2017.
The focus of Reformanda 2017 will be a Symposium on “The Arts and Ecumenism: Theology and the Risk of Artistic Creation,” to be held over three consecutive weekends in Paris, Strasbourg, and Florence, organized by Monsignor Timothy Verdon, Jérôme Cottin and Denis Villepelet. 
Monsignor Verdon is a renowned author, art historian (PhD, Yale University), speaker, and director of the Cathedral Museum in Florence, Italy. Jérôme Cottin is a Professor on the Faculty for Protestant Theology at the University of Strasbourg, and Denis Villepelet is Director of the Higher Institute of Theology of the Arts and the Catholic Institute of Paris. Together these passionate experts have coordinated three fascinating weekends dedicated to the evolving visions of contemporary sacred art in the Protestant and Roman Catholic traditions. The tour will also feature round table discussions during the Symposium, visits to studios of contemporary artists, private tours of museums and sites connected with the Reformation, and concerts by the world-class choir Gloriæ Dei Cantores
We invite you to immerse yourself in the exploration of Reformanda 2017 – in the beautiful surroundings of Europe, and in the timely study and exploration of the arts and ecumenism over these past 500 years. Savor the details of the tour at, where you will find a complete tour brochure, including itinerary and registration form. We welcome you to join us for the full experience, or for a two-week portion of the trip.
If you have any questions and if there are others you feel would be interested in joining us for these events, please feel free to contact me at or by phone at 774-207-7756.

We look forward to celebrating this moment in history together!

Sr. Brigid Minor
for the Mount Tabor Centre

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summer Update

It's been awhile since we posted an update, so let's call this an early-to-mid-summer recap! The board has had one conference call (in May) since the National Workshop on Christian Unity. Below you will find the update from Kathryn Lohre and Kathryn Johnson discussed at that meeting, as well as a listing of board members elected at the NWCU and officers then elected by the board. In June the board plans to participate in the Called Forward Together in Christ conversation currently taking place across the ELCA, so there will not be another update until late-July covering both June and July.

If you are the Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Representative for your synod, could we ask you to take a moment to check your contact information in the membership directory (a link is at the top of this page)? If anything is amiss, scroll down to the bottom of the page and use the "Send a Message to the Editor" feature to provide the correct information.  Having an up-to-date directory is important not only for good communication within LEIRN, but also for enabling ecumenical and inter-religious partners in your regions to contact you. Many thanks!

From Kathryn Lohre and Kathryn Johnson (aka "Team Kathryn")

As the Churchwide Assembly draws nearer, the bustle in Chicago is picking up. Our office continues to maintain some of the quiet reflecting Kathryn L’s leave – but work continues to continue.

National Workshop on Christian Unity, Louisville, KY, April 18-21
This annual opportunity for LEIRN to gather in its own sessions and to engage with others will be discussed under headings in the agenda, and indeed was experienced by most of you. Sessions on the Declaration on the Way were well-attended, and 145 complementary books from Augsburg Fortress disappeared. Chris O and Kathryn J continue on the Planning Committee for next year’s meeting in Minneapolis, chaired by Rocky Piro.

Coordinating Committee Meetings
Kathryn J attended the Lutheran Moravian Coordinating Committee meeting in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, May 2-3. Meeting in a heart of Moravian heritage – with a day at Moravian College – the committee met with about 25 local clergy to hear about the range of ongoing collaborations. A strong personal relationship between Bishop Sam Zeiser of the Northeastern Pennsylvania synod, a member of the committee, and his Moravian counterpart David Bennett had clearly been crucially important in encouraging these partnerships. Plans were made for a similar format for next year’s meeting, in Salem, North Carolina, and there was discussion of how to commend this distinctive relationship in areas where there are some Moravians but not the historic centers or present strength of these two areas.

The following week, May 9-11, Kathryn J attended the Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee in Marriottsville, Maryland. This committee spent a day visiting three very distinct Lutheran-Episcopal partnerships in the Baltimore area: two older churches, with diverse but declining memberships, who now share a single space and are coming together in worship and mission (The Churches of the Nativity and Holy Comforter, “An Episcopal-Lutheran community in Baltimore”); a “post-denominational community church” in a changing neighborhood of downtown Baltimore that seeks to be an “open, creative refuge, respectful of all beliefs” but “unashamedly followers of Christ (Church on the Square); and a community that “gathers both on-line and face-to-face in Baltimore” (The Slate Project: Christianity with a Clean Slate).

The committee adopted a resolution promising continued work toward “mutual acknowledgement of (full) communion relationships among the churches of the Porvoo Agreement, Called to Common Mission, and the Waterloo Declaration.” This mutual acknowledgement has been encouraged by international dialogue and by the Canadian counterpart of LECC in Canada.

May 16-18 Kathryn J attended a Lutheran/Episcopal Clergy Conference for Virginia judicatories. Gordon Lathrop and Neil Alexander were keynote speakers, with a focus on liturgy; the conference also engaged in mapping of partnerships and opportunities in their local areas.

Looking Ahead
Kathryn L will inaugurate a post-leave rhythm of life by speaking at the Vocation of a Lutheran College conference at Augsburg College in Minneapolis the first week of June, with a focus on inter-religious education. Attention to the resource, Engaging Others, Knowing Ourselves, continues to grow, and the Churchwide Assembly will be invited to look toward an ELCA statement on inter-religious relations.

Both Kathryns have been working on reports which will come to the LWF Council meeting at Wittenberg in June. Kathryn L has edited the report from the conference she attended in Namibia in October-November, “Global Perspectives on the Reformation: Interactions Between Theology, Politics, and Economics.” Kathryn J has provided editing help for the task force report following up on the LWF’s “Mennonite Action” in 2010.

Speaking of the Churchwide Assembly… Opportunities to participate in the Grace Gathering, and to encourage others to do so, still exist. With a focus on 2017, multiple ecumenical and inter-religious seminars will be included.

Other items from the board

Board Terms as of Louisville NWCU (2016)

board member
current term expires
Eligible for reelection?
Amanda Liggett
Mari Larson
Kristi Weber (Treas.)
Nathan Allen
Brian Wise
Chris Olkiewicz (Pres.)
Tim Philabaum (Sec.)
Wayne Zschech
Tom Prinz
Mary Finklea
John Unger
Kim Rapczak
Rocky Piro (Past Pres.)
ex officio
David Roschke
  • NWCU: Save the dates of May 1-4, 2017 in Minneapolis.
  • Possible 2018 locations are Houston and Los Angeles or Bay Area with current weight leaning more on Houston.
  • Next meeting: June 30 (devoted to Called Forward in Christ conversation)

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