ELCA, LCMS Leaders Discuss Church Dialogues, Key Issues

 — Oct. 19, 200419 oct. 2004

CHICAGO (ELCA) — Top leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) discussed a wide variety of topics in a meeting here Oct. 14, including the possibility that both could be part of a new round of theological dialogues with the Roman Catholic Church.

The subject was discussed in the Committee on Lutheran Cooperation (CLC), hosted here by the ELCA. Participants included the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, and the Rev. Gerald B. Kieschnick, LCMS president, St. Louis.

The Rev. Randall R. Lee, director, ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs, and assistant to the presiding bishop, reported on the ELCA’s church-to-church dialogues, including the recently concluded 10th round of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic dialogue in the United States. The two churches released a statement this year, “The Church as Koinonia of Salvation: Its Structures and Ministries.” A proposed topic for the next round of talks is “Hope for Eternal Life,” Lee said.

“Regardless of the topic, we are interested in being full participants in the discussion [in the next round],” said the Rev. Samuel H. Nafzger, executive director, LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations.

Lee asked how that was possible given the fact that the Lutheran World Federation — of which the ELCA is a member and the LCMS is not — and The Vatican signed the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ) in 1999, a significant theological document. The JDDJ, signed in Augsburg, Germany, resolved one key point of contention that led to the Protestant Reformation, separating Lutherans and Catholics for nearly 500 years.

The LCMS was part of early dialogues on justification with the Roman Catholics, Nafzger said, and it has participated in other theological dialogues such as one with the Episcopal Church.

“We believe some progress was made,” Nafzger said of the JDDJ. “We did not feel all of [the] issues were resolved. He added that the LCMS had no desire to “place an obstacle on what’s been done.”

Kieschnick asked Hanson if he could envision a day in which Lutherans are in “full communion” with the Roman Catholics.

“We don’t minimize the issues that remain, but the resolve to keep addressing them is still there,” Hanson said. The ELCA is guided by its ecumenical statement that expresses the church’s hope that all Christians may be united again, he said. Hanson also said that unless Lutherans and Roman Catholics engage in “spiritual ecumenism,” the “hard work” accomplished in agreements such as the JDDJ will not have much of a chance of succeeding. Cardinal Walter Kasper, The Vatican’s senior ecumenical officer, who recently visited the ELCA here coined the phrase, “spiritual ecumenism.”

The ELCA has been involved in some talks with leaders of the Commission for Interreligious Affairs of Reform Judaism in the United States. In response to a question from Kieschnick about the purpose of the dialogues, Lee said there is an increase “in distrust between Christians and Jewish people because of the question of how to deal with the Middle East.” A goal of such talks is to “build trust” with Reform Judaism leaders.

The CLC discussed several other topics:

+ Kieschnick reviewed significant issues within the LCMS, including the church’s emphasis on mission; theological matters such as “who should receive Holy Communion” in LCMS congregations; concern about the roles of women in the church; funding for national church ministries; “coordination and collaboration” of ministries by church institutions, partner churches and other groups; and the formation of pastors and lay ministers. “We still have a shortage of clergy,” Kieschnick said. Two-thirds of LCMS pastors are over age 45, said the Rev. C. William Hoesman, chair of the LCMS Council of Presidents and president of the LCMS Michigan District, Ann Arbor. “There’s a critical shortage [of clergy] coming for us, ” he said.

+ In the ELCA, Hanson said “evangelical” is becoming much more a part of the church’s mission, not just part of its name. Other concerns he cited were the church’s desire to become a multicultural church when some 97 percent of its members are White; leadership formation; the nature of the ELCA in its three “expressions,” as congregations, synods and the churchwide organization; membership now slightly under 5 million and slowly declining; declines in financial giving to synods and the churchwide organization while giving to congregations has increased; determining which ministries should be performed by congregations, synods and the churchwide organization; and restructuring and governance.

+ Kieschnick reported the LCMS completed its recent fiscal year in the black by about $2 million, though he said he “still has a significant concern about future funding.” The Rev. Charles S. Miller, ELCA executive for administration and executive assistant to the presiding bishop, said ELCA income through the first seven months of the 2004 fiscal year was up $950,000 over the same period one year ago. Some ELCA synods are experiencing tight finances, he said.

+ Kieschnick reviewed the results of the 62nd LCMS Convention held in July in St. Louis. With the theme, “One Mission Ablaze to the Ends of the Earth,” the synod set a goal of reaching 100 million people worldwide with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, he said. The synod also hopes to initiate 2,000 new congregations by 2017, the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, he said.

+ The Rev. Lowell G. Almen reviewed key agenda items for the Ninth ELCA Churchwide Assembly, Aug. 8-14, 2005 in Orlando, Fla. Key topics he cited included the church’s plan for restructuring and governance; proposals for new worship materials; a proposal for interim Eucharistic sharing with the United Methodist Church; recommendations from a task force for the ELCA Studies on Sexuality; consideration of an Arab and Middle Eastern ministry strategy; and consideration of an African Descent ministry strategy.

Theological Discussion Precedes CLC Meeting

The second in a series of theological conversations between representatives of the ELCA and LCMS preceded the CLC meeting here Oct. 13.

The conversations sought greater mutual understanding, focusing on areas of continued cooperation and differences between the two churches, according to a statement issued after the meeting. Two papers were presented related to the report of the LCMS president and vice presidents to the LCMS convention in July on evaluation of the current cooperative pastoral working arrangements with the ELCA.

Kieschnick presented a paper on the development of the report and the action of the convention. Almen described the importance from the ELCA’s perspective of maintaining cooperative pastoral working arrangements, especially in regard to chaplaincy.

Areas of cooperative working arrangements include support for military chaplains, social ministry chaplaincy and social ministry organizations, and some schools and campus ministries. Joint work is carried out through Lutheran World Relief, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, Lutheran Services in America and Lutheran Disaster Response.

Almen and the Rev. Raymond L. Hartwig, LCMS secretary, characterized the Oct. 13 discussion as “insightful and constructive,” the statement said.

In addition to Kieschnick, Hartwig, Hoesman and Nafzger, LCMS participants in theological conversations or the CLC were the Rev. William R. Diekelman, first vice president; the Rev. Ralph Blomenberg, Immanuel Lutheran Church, Seymour, Ind.; and the Rev. Walter A. Maier, Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.

In addition to Hanson, Almen, Lee and Miller, ELCA participants in one or both meetings were the Rev. E. Roy Riley, bishop of the ELCA New Jersey Synod, Hamilton Square; and the Rev. Timothy J. Wengert, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.

The next meeting of the ELCA-LCMS theological conversation group is March 29, 2005, in St. Louis; the CLC will meet March 30, 2005, in St. Louis.

Posted: Oct. 19, 2004 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=4818
Categories: ELCA News
Transmis : 19 oct. 2004 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=4818
Catégorie : ELCA News

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