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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


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