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January update

COMING SOON: Registration info for the National Workshop on Christian Unity!

From Kathryn Johnson and Kathryn Lohre

NCC Jewish-Christian Dialogue

In mid-November 2016, the National Council of Churches/National Council of Synagogues Jewish-Christian dialogue on pastoral issues convened in Charleston, South Carolina. Mary Finklea attended in person and Kathryn Lohre joined via Skype for the second half of the meeting. Topics of conversation included the impact of the presidential election of both communities, white privilege, and (interestingly) Israel/Palestine. This was the first time this issue was allowed on the agenda since the breakdown in dialogue in 2012. The focus was primarily on Jewish concerns regarding a joint statement from the NCC and WCC General Secretaries following a forum in September.

LSTC Orthodox Event

Image may contain: 8 people, people standingOverlapping with the Jewish-Christian dialogue was a significant event at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago with the Orthodox. On November 15, LSTC ceremoniously returned a rare 9th century Greek manuscript of the complete New Testament to the Greek Orthodox Church. In addition to President Nieman and seminary faculty and staff, Presiding Bishop Eaton, Rev. Don McCoid, Bishop Wayne Miller (Metro Chicago), and Kathryn Lohre were present. His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (GOA), Bishop Demetrios of the Chicago Diocese, and members of the staff of the GOA were also present. Conversations over the course of this event and afterward have led to the possibility of renewed dialogue between the ELCA and the GOA, perhaps on the topic of care of creation. This is a topic that is championed by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and is an issue of common concern and possible collaboration in the coming years.

Shoulder to Shoulder Press Conference

Image may contain: 4 people, people smiling, people standing and suitOn November 18, Shoulder to Shoulder held a press conference to lift up the faith community’s shared concern over the spike in anti-Muslim and other religiously-motivated hate crimes in the after math of the election and to express solidarity with Muslims in the face of rising levels of anti-Muslim bigotry throughout and after the campaign, and allegations of a possible Muslim registry. The ELCA was represented by Bishop Graham (Metro DC), Rev. Amy Reumann (DC Policy Office), Kathryn Lohre, and Bishop Gafkjen (Indiana-Kentucky Synod, Chair, Conference of Bishops). Bishop Gafkjen gave a statement on behalf of Bishop Eaton and the ELCA. The press conference garnered significant media attention locally and nationally, including coverage from the NYTimes, PBS, and NBC. Here is a link to the full video:

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After the press conference, Kathryn Lohre had a meeting with partners from ISNA regarding a new set of church-mosque pilot project we are building in three synods: Southeast Penn., Southwestern Washington, and Southeast Michigan.

First Call Conference, Region 1

In November Kathryn Johnson joined Secretary Chris Boerger to speak with first-call pastors from Region 1 about the work our offices.  With the waters of Puget Sound visible from the windows, they agreed that first-call situations are a good time to engage pastors in what lies beyond their communities.

Conference on Reform in the Catholic Church, Germany

Also in November Kathryn Johnson attended a conference arranged by the Lutheran Church in Germany on reform in the Catholic Church – successor to a Catholic conference on understanding Luther.  Kathryn talked about changes in Catholic use of the Bible, especially in English-speaking communities.

Inter-Religious Task Force

The Task Force, appointed by Bishop Eaton, had its first meeting in late November, 2016. Chaired by Bishop Patricia Lull (St. Paul Area Synod), the Task Force is working on an initial draft of an inter-

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religious policy statement that will complement the 1991 Ecumenism vision statement. The meeting included presentations that encompassed the breadth of the ELCA’s history of inter-religious relations. Additionally, the Task Force had conversation about priorities for what should be included with the Presiding Bishop, developed a timeline for bringing the policy statement to the 2019 Churchwide Assembly, and established a drafting team. In mid-January, the drafting team returned to Chicago to work on a thick outline. A full draft is expected by late summer 2017, and a consultative process across the church and with ecumenical and inter-religious partners, as well as with LEIRN, will then unfold.

Shoulder to Shoulder Executive Committee Retreat

Image may contain: 7 people, people standing, shoes, suit and indoorOn December 9 Kathryn attended a retreat of the Shoulder to Shoulder Executive Committee, which she was asked to join in mid-2016. The meeting focused on strategic planning for 2017. There was consensus that grassroots engagement, as well as building national leadership for responding to the ongoing rise in anti-Muslim bigotry would be a two-pronged priority. The Steering Committee will meet in late January to discuss the strategy and to define tasks for moving it forward.

Conference of National Black Churches

Image may contain: 6 people, people standingFor a second year, the ELCA was a co-sponsor of the cross-racial dialogue convened by the Conference of National Black Churches in Charleston, South Carolina, December 13-15. The CNBC is the annual conference of the Historic Black Churches in the US. Bishop Eaton was present, as was Judith Roberts (ELCA director, Racial Justice Ministries), Rev. Lamont Wells (president, African Descent Lutheran Association), Cathy Crimi (vice president, European Descent Lutheran Association), and Kathryn Lohre. Bishop Herman Yoos (South Carolina Synod) was present for a moving worship service at Mother Emanuel AME. Bishop Eaton gave a moving presentation on the complicity of the ELCA in racial injustice and commitment of the ELCA to racial justice and reconciliation. The verdict was reached in the Dylann Roof trial on the final day of the Consultation, and conversations with AME partners were and important dimension of our witness.

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Bishops’ Academy

Together with Tim Wengert and Susan McArver, Kathryn Lohre was a presenter to the 2017 Bishops’ Academy meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, January 4-9. The theme was the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Kathryn presented on the rapidly changing ecclesial, ecumenical and inter-religious landscape, and lifted up three sets of relations that are critical to our Reformation witness today: with Catholics, with Muslims, and with the Historic Black Churches. She also offered mini-case-studies on full communion relations, conciliar life, Jewish relations, and Muslim relations for table top conversations.

Image may contain: 7 people, people smiling, people standing and indoorA very significant dimension of the Academy was the Bishops’ pilgrimage to Mother Emanuel. They were accompanied by Bishop John White, president of the AME Council of Bishops. Contact had been made in advance by our office to share the details of our churches’ dialogue in the 1990s. Bishop White engaged in an extended conversation with Bishop Eaton, Bishop Kreiss (chair, CoB Ecumenical & Inter-Religious Liaison Committee), Bishop Gafkjen, Bishop Yoos, and Kathryn about the possibilities for renewing and deepening our bilateral dialogue. Bishop White affirmed the AME’s commitment in his remarks to the congregation assembled for Epiphany Worship at St. Matthew’s Lutheran Church in Charleston, at which AME Presiding Elder Rev. Joe Darby preached. (Mary Finklea was present!) It was an important step, building upon our history and looking toward the future together.

Declaration on the Way/USCCB

Kathryn Johnson is working with Media 1517 to complete a Study Guide for the Declaration on the Way.  Pr. Sue Lang enthusiastically tackled production of a draft, and matters of formatting, etc. lie ahead. The hope is to have the Study Guide available electronically at least by the March 2 joint meeting of the USCCB Committee for Religious and Interreligious Affairs with the ELCA Conference of Bishops’ Liaison Committee on Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations. This meeting will also include Common Prayer, using the order of worship prepared for October 31, 2016 in Lund, with the entire Conference of Bishops.

The USCCB has announced that Rev. Alfred Baca from the Diocese of Orange in California, has been appointed as Executive Director of the Secretariat on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. He succeeds Fr. John Crossin, who retired in December, and will begin his work full-time in Washington in July.

World Council of Churches

In January two representatives of the World Council of Churches visited the Churchwide Office to provide information about the 14th World Mission Conference in Arusha, Tanzania, from March 8-13, 2018. The theme is “Moving in the Spirit: Called to Transforming Discipleship.

The WCC is also compiling responses to the its ecclesiology consensus document, “The Church Towards A Common Vision.”  The ELCA was one of about 50 WCC members submitting a response.


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…and just like that, 2017 is now in the past. We can see clearly in hindsight how the joint commemoration service and stadium events in Sweden on October 31, 2016 set the stage for a remarkable year of public acts of ecumenical relations, reconciliation, and cooperation globally, and in our local settings. Thank you, LEIRN, for your significant role in all things 2017. You have been instrumental in planning, prodding, supporting, promoting, participating in, and leading various initiatives, events, and long-term efforts. You helped this anniversary to be markedly different, and in doing so you greatly enhanced our church’s ecumenical self-understanding and witness for the future as we seek to walk together with our sisters and brothers in Christ and neighbors on the way to unity, justice, and peace. In Conflict to Communion, we are reminded that, “In view of 2017, the point is not to tell a different history, but to tell that history differently.”…

Reformation 500 Commemoration Events

We are now posting sermons and bulletins from Reformation 500 commemoration services and events in the Reformation 500+ section above. If you have a sermon manuscript, a bulletin, or other material that you would like to share, email it to me at Let us see what you did and inspire us with your witness to Christian unity!

With thanks,

Chris Olkiewicz
Dear Members and Friends of LEIRN:

The National Workshop on Christian Unity fast approaches. During our LEIRN meeting on Monday afternoon we will be reflecting on the significance of the year past during which we commemorated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. You are invited to bring something for show and tell! It might be an image, the worship folder from a local liturgy, the brochure or poster from a lecture or symposium — any physical item from a local event to give us a sense of the breadth and richness of activities from this significant year. If you prefer, you may email me a photo or file prior to the Workshop, and I will incorporate it into a slideshow to be projected during our meeting. Send any items to me at We will also ask you to say a brief word about your event.

If you are planning to register for the NWCU, be aware that registration fees and room rates increase after March 23. Act soon to take advantage of these discounts. I hope to see you n…