ELCA Presiding Bishop Says Ecumenism Is Lutheran

 — Oct. 8, 19988 oct. 1998

CHICAGO (ELCA) — “The ecumenical question is often posed as a vote for or against ‘Lutheran identity.’ We cite our confessional tradition as the reason for our continued separation from other Christian bodies,” said the Rev. H. George Anderson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). “I believe that it is precisely our Lutheran identity that drives us to reach out.”

After celebrating a new relationship of “full communion” with three churches of the Reformed tradition Oct. 4, Anderson walked four blocks north from the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel to the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC). There he addressed more than 150 people on “The Lutheran Communion and Ecumenical Relationships.”

Anderson introduced several international guests in the audience who had come for the gala worship service at Rockefeller Chapel and an LSTC- hosted celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF). The guests included LWF General Secretary Ishmael Noko and the World Council of Churches‘ General Secretary Konrad Raiser of the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church of Germany.

The ELCA’s presiding bishop stressed the important role U.S. Lutherans play among Lutherans around the world in the Lutheran World Federation. “Too often we see the LWF as an end in itself,” he added, encouraging Lutherans around the world to “expend, extend and to share” through greater involvement in the World Council of Churches.

“What gifts do we bring to the ecumenical movement as a Lutheran communion?” Anderson asked. He answered that their confessions and history give Lutherans “a fundamental aptitude for ecumenism.”

“We know that we are always sinners,” said Anderson. “We understand that repentance is a part of international and ecumenical relations. … In that repentance we discover that God forgives.” That perspective is the foundation for Lutherans to talk openly with other Christians and with people of other faiths, he said.

In the 1920s and 1930s there was a renewed interest in Martin Luther, the 16th century German theologian who engendered the Lutheran tradition, said Anderson. That gave Lutherans the attention of Protestant and Roman Catholic scholars during the early years of the ecumenical movement. “We are in their textbooks,” he said.

The Augsburg Confession of the Lutheran church defines “church” as “the assembly of all believers among whom the gospel is preached in its purity and the Holy Sacraments are administered according to the gospel,” said the presiding bishop. “Lutherans do not have a monopoly on Jesus Christ,” he inferred, and they do not commit themselves to a single church structure.

Lutherans are free to talk with Christians in all church bodies, said Anderson. “While we can’t begin to be in full communion with all those folks, we can recognize the work of God in all of them,” he said.

Anderson concluded that Lutherans should “see the Spirit moving out before us” and not squander their opportunities to advance the ecumenical movement. “I am haunted by those words of Jesus: ‘I ask that they may all be one … so that the world may believe.'”

Posted: Oct. 8, 1998 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=4682
Categories: ELCA News
Transmis : 8 oct. 1998 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=4682
Catégorie : ELCA News

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