EIR May 23

Nourishing our life together in Christian Unity.

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May 2023
Dear partners,

It has been nearly 25 years since the ELCA entered into full communion with The Episcopal Church (TEC). Our churches' actions marked the end of decades of dialogue and launched a new beginning of "reception," or living out our ecumenical commitments together.

Up until now this has centered on common mission and vital ministries, at times aided by the exchangeability of Word and Sacrament ministers. However, this exchangeability did not include deacons. Yet, with the ELCA's decision in 2019 to confirm ordination as the entrance rite for ministers of Word and Service, the long-awaited hope for the exchangeability of deacons became possible as well.

Over the past 18 months an implementation team of the Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee, led by ELCA deacon Mitzi Budde, developed a "Proposal for Exchangeability of the Diaconate" as an interpretation of "Called to Common Mission" (CCM), our full communion agreement.

After a process of consultation with ELCA deacons, and with commendation from the ELCA Conference of Bishops and Church Council Executive Committee, the Church Council took unanimous action on April 20 to "receive" this proposal. In doing so the ELCA affirms that a vital area for deepening our common mission as the ELCA and TEC is — and has always been — through diakonia, or service. While work remains to hammer out the details for the "orderly exchange," affirming this possibility is cause for celebration. It is our hope that parallel processes currently underway within TEC will make this possibility of the exchangeability of deacons a reality between our two churches, as soon as later this year.

At best our full communion agreements are "living" documents that nourish our life together in Christian unity. As we await The Episcopal Church's action on the proposal, at which time we hope it will come into full effect, we are reminded that, "entering full communion and thus removing limitations through mutual recognition of faith, sacraments, and ministries will bring new opportunities and levels of shared evangelism, witness, and service." (CCM, conclusion). May it be so.

Kathryn Lohre
Kathryn M. Lohre
Executive, Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations & Theological Discernment

Elife Banner Inter-Religious Relations
"A Season of Action: Ecumenical Responses to the Climate Crisis"

The latest post on the EIR Perspectives blog, "A Season of Action: Ecumenical Responses to the Climate Crisis," shares a few snapshots from across the ecumenical landscape, naming and responding to the climate crisis.

In the post you'll find a link to the ELCA's latest social message, "Earth's Climate Crisis"; highlights from a recent ecumenical conference on faith and climate justice, hosted by the ELCA in Puerto Rico, that were shared by the Rev. Dr. Carmelo Santos; a report from the Rev. Jerry Dr. Pillay, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, on the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; and last month's joint Earth Day message from the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. You can view Bishop Eaton's Earth Day message by clicking on the video link below.


UMC-ELCA Coordinating Committee gathers again

In February the coordinating committee of the ELCA and the United Methodist Church met in person for the first time since 2019. Taking place in Atlanta, the meeting centered on new realities facing our churches as we emerge from the pandemic. The committee spent time discussing ecumenical formation in seminaries and other institutions of higher education, potential joint resource development opportunities, and the ways in which the ELCA can best support the UMC as it continues its process of fully including LGBTQIA+ members and leadership and faces the resulting challenges. Most of the meetings were held at the UMC Global Ministries offices, but the meeting also included an afternoon of lively conversation with students and faculty at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University. The committee will continue its work digitally in the coming year but plans to gather again in Atlanta in spring 2024.
Members of the UMC-ELCA Coordinating Committee meet with students and faculty at the Candler School of Theology on Feb. 24. Photo: Edward Philips
The Church of Sweden and The Episcopal Church formalize full communion

On March 27, The Episcopal Church and the Church of Sweden (Svenska kyrkan) signed a Memorandum of Understanding at the American Cathedral in Paris, formalizing full communion between the two churches. Archbishop Martin Modéus of the Church of Sweden proclaimed, "This is church history. And what is more important: it is spiritual history. And what is even more important: it is spiritual future." In a letter to mark the occasion, Bishop Eaton wrote, "On behalf of the people of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, I extend our congratulations on this joyous occasion. Today's signing, in the context of the centenary events of the cathedral, is a reminder that God is always present with us — in our history, in the present, and in the future yet unseen. … Together your churches are a sign of God's everlasting love. As you make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit, you proclaim Christ as the balm that will heal the wounds of this weary world."
Photo: The American Cathedral in Paris
Protecting Holy Land Christians

Recent months have seen an alarming rise in hate perpetrated against Christians in the Holy Land. Protecting Holy Land Christians is an ecumenical campaign assembled by the Patriarch of Jerusalem along with the Council of Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem, the convening body for Christian denominations in the Holy Land (among its members is Bishop Sani Ibrahim Azar of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land). To learn more about the situation and receive updates and information, sign up for Action Alerts from ELCA Advocacy and visit the Peace Not Walls webpage at ELCA.org.

LWF Assembly preparations underway with launch of study guide

With the 13th Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation just four months away, preparations have begun with the March 9 launch of the Assembly Study Guide. The guide, which explores the theme of the assembly — "One Body, One Spirit, One Hope" — invites LWF member churches and their congregations to cultivate conversation in the lead-up to the assembly. The guide is currently available in English and Spanish, with French and German editions coming soon.

In addition to the publications in development, four regional pre-assemblies are being held from March to June. Two have already taken place: the Europe Pre-Assembly in March and the Latin America and the Caribbean and North America Pre-Assembly in April. The final two will be held in Africa and Asia, in May and June respectively.

The LWF Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the Lutheran World Federation, meeting once every six to seven years. An introduction video to the 2023 Assembly Study Guide can be found below.

Plans underway to commemorate the 1,700th anniversary of the Council of Nicaea

The year 2025 will mark the 1,700th anniversary of the world's first ecumenical council, the Council of Nicaea of 325. This commemoration will be an important moment for Christians around the world as we reflect upon the history and future of our ecumenical journey together. It offers us an opportunity to reflect on the faith we share and the identity of the church in its mission. The World Council of Churches has launched a webpage with information and resources, and the Lutheran World Federation has begun conversations in preparation for the anniversary. The ELCA invites its congregations to use the WCC's resources in commemorating the anniversary.

Elife Banner Inter-Religious Relations
Jewish-Christian Dialogue

In April the national Jewish-Christian dialogue co-convened by the National Council of Churches and National Council of Synagogues met in New York City to explore themes of reparations, remembrance and healing. To contextualize this work the dialogue met at multiple sites: the Jewish Theological Seminary, the National September 11th Memorial, St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center, and Trinity Church Wall Street. Several presentations led to generative dialogue: including one on the model of Germany's post-war reparations to the Jews, and one on the iconography depicting both the remembrance of 9/11, and the church's healing presence amid the death and destruction on 9/11.

Confronting Anti-religious Bigotry

On April 20, as part of its annual John Paul II Lecture, the Milstein Center for Interreligious Dialogue at the Jewish Theological Seminary held a webinar titled "How to Confront Anti-Religious Bigotry." The conversation, which centered on the growing swell of anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, anti-Christian bigotry, was moderated by Rabbi Burt Visotzky (director of the Milstein Center) and featured the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign's founder, Dr. Mohamed Elsanousi, and Executive Committee co-chairs Rabbi Esther Lederman and Kathryn Lohre of the ELCA.


Augsburg University hosts inaugural Interfaith Symposium

On March 2, Augsburg University hosted its first Interfaith Spring Symposium. This event will be an annual invitation to build community, foster collaboration and create a more caring world through mutual learning about religious/spiritual/worldview diversity, participating in enriching dialogue, and networking with interfaith leaders. This year's topic was "Interfaith Leadership and Healing in Times of Crisis." Najeeba Syeed, El-Hibri Chair and executive director of the Interfaith Institute at Augsburg, gave the keynote lecture, which can be viewed by clicking on the video link at the bottom of the Interfaith Spring Symposium page and entering the streaming password: IFsymposium23

Upcoming Events

"Using the Social Change Map to Counter Anti-Muslim Discrimination"

Each of us can contribute to our social change ecosystems by clarifying our shared values and mapping our roles. On June 15, Shoulder to Shoulder will host "Using the Social Change Map to Counter Anti-Muslim Discrimination," a workshop facilitated by Deepa Iyer, senior director of Strategic Initiatives at Building Movement Project, for those at every stage of their individual and organizational journeys toward justice, equity and solidarity. The workshop will introduce an ecosystems framework that includes ten roles that many of us play in service of our social change values. Participants will learn how to apply this framework to the work of countering anti-Muslim discrimination.

Powering Pluralism Summit

The Aspen Institute's Religion and Society Program will hold a summit in Washington, D.C., June 22-23 to address rising polarization, hate speech and inequity in the United States. The institute will bring together leaders who are creating a more inclusive America, where differences are celebrated and everyone can thrive.
ELCA Rostered Ministers Gathering to feature ecumenical and inter-religious workshops

This year's ELCA Rostered Ministers Gathering will meet July 17-20 in Phoenix, Ariz., under the theme "Rekindle the Gift Within You" (2 Timothy 1:6). Participants at this year's gathering will have the opportunity to learn about and engage with the ecumenical and inter-religious work of the ELCA and its partners. To learn more and register, visit ELCA.org/RMG. Registration closes July 1.
2023 Parliament of the World's Religions gathering in Chicago

The Parliament of the World's Religions returns to Chicago, the birthplace of the modern interfaith movement, to celebrate its 130-year history. Bishop Eaton will speak at this year's event, taking place Aug. 14-18. If you or a group you're associated with is planning to attend, please reach out to Kristen Opalinski at Kristen.Opalinski@elca.org so that we might coordinate a time for Lutherans in attendance to gather. Learn more and register today.
Christian Churches Together Forum 2023 to be held in Savannah

The annual forum for Christian Churches Together will take place Oct. 3-6 in Savannah, Ga., under the theme "Waters That Unite & Waters That Divide." Orthodox, Catholic, Mainline Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal and Historic Black church leaders from 34 communions and organizations will pilgrimage together on the Historic Baptismal Trail and learn about the significance of water in the various communities that inhabited the area, including the Gullah Geechee and indigenous peoples. To learn more, visit the CCT Annual Forum landing page or contact Kristen.Opalinski@elca.org. The registration site is set to launch at the beginning of July.

Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg to offer online course in October

The Institute for Ecumenical Research will conduct an online study course for Lutheran pastors, deacons and advanced students from Oct. 23 through 27. The course is meant to contribute to a specific aspect of the self-understanding of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF): "To be Lutheran is to be ecumenical." The course costs 100 euros; applications will be accepted through Aug. 15.

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