ELCA Bishop Convenes Consultation of Ecumenical Advisors

 — Feb. 13, 200213 févr. 2002

ROSEMONT, Ill. (ELCA) — The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop and chief ecumenical officer of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), gathered staff of the ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs and 15 advisors here Feb. 8-9 to discuss the church’s ecumenical priorities for the next 10 years.

Hanson began a six-year term as the ELCA’s third presiding bishop on Nov. 1. One of his first responsibilities is to name a new director for the ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs. The Rev. Daniel F. Martensen retired as director on Oct. 31.

The consultation of ecumenical advisors tackled a dozen questions. Two brief presentations were made on each question, followed by small- group and plenary discussions. The questions included “What needs to happen within the ELCA to keep our ecumenical flame strong?”

“It seemed like a good time to pull together those people who have accepted responsibility for advising this church in its ecumenical work and to have an in-depth conversation regarding priorities for the next stage of our ecumenical life,” said Hanson.

The advisors included Lutheran bishops, past and present members of the department’s advisory committee, the U.S.A. committee of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), and ELCA staff directly involved in the church’s work with other faith groups.

The ELCA is one of 133 member churches of the LWF, based in Geneva, Switzerland. The ELCA is also a member of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and the World Council of Churches.

“I was looking for advice that would help this church shape its priorities,” Hanson said. “The tasks are multiple and not mutually exclusive, so we’re always making choices among important tasks to be done.”

“Ecumenical formation” and “communication” were two priorities the group named, said Hanson. “This church needs to tend to its work of ecumenical formation, which is not only the formation of leaders of this church,” he said, “but also the education of this whole church on what it means to be a church committed to living fully into the unity we are given in Christ by God.”

In 1991, the ELCA adopted a policy statement on ecumenism, saying the church “is an active participant in the ecumenical movement because of its desire for Christian unity. It seeks full communion as its goal.” The document defined full communion not as merger but as mutual recognition of sacraments and ministries with other churches.

Between 1997 and 2001, the ELCA entered into relationships of full communion with the Episcopal Church, Moravian Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Reformed Church in America and United Church of Christ. It approved the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between the LWF and Catholic Church.

“I heard a deep commitment to growing into our full communion relationships,” Hanson said. “I heard strong direction that we need to think differently about how we do our work as the ELCA, because we have these new full communion partners,” he said.

“I was challenged, as was the whole churchwide organization, to think differently about conceptualizing and doing our work,” said Hanson. The advisors reminded ELCA staff to include their counterparts in partner churches in the planning of new programs and in the specifics of existing projects.

The consultation should not be seen as a retreat from the ELCA’s ecumenical commitments, said Hanson. This is an appropriate time in the ELCA’s history to pause and review the church’s ecumenical priorities, and to explore ways for the ELCA to grow in its current commitments, he said.

“I heard a deep commitment to our bilateral dialogues that are under way,” said Hanson. The ELCA is involved in talks with the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Mennonite Church in America and United Methodist Church, as well as with the Standing Conference of Canonical Orthodox Bishops in the Americas and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“We had lively discussion of how our increasing awareness of our living in an interreligious, interfaith world needs to be reflected in our work as the ELCA and in our relationships,” Hanson said. The ELCA participates in Christian-Jewish and Christian-Muslim conversations.

Hanson said the Rev. Jon S. Enslin, interim director, ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs, and he will gather the recommendations into a document they will share with the ELCA Conference of Bishops in March and with the ELCA Church Council in April.

The conference includes the 65 synod bishops of the church, as well as the presiding bishop and secretary of the ELCA. The council is the ELCA’s board of directors and serves as the legislative authority of the church between its biennial churchwide assemblies.

The consultation of ecumenical advisors ended with a conversation about “the attributes we’re looking for in the next director” of the Department for Ecumenical Affairs, said Hanson. With input from the conference and council, he said the search for a director who can “implement these strategic directions” will be conducted this summer.

Hanson said Enslin has agreed to serve as interim director until a new director is in office.

Posted: Feb. 13, 2002 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=4791
Categories: ELCA News
Transmis : 13 févr. 2002 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=4791
Catégorie : ELCA News

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