Lutheran Ecumenical Representatives Honor Seminarian For Essay

 — Apr. 9, 20059 avril 2005

CHICAGO (ELCA) — Benjamin J. Dueholm received a $500 grant toward his tuition at the University of Chicago Divinity School for his essay, “Separated by a Common Faith: Dialogue and Proclamation in Light of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification.” The Lutheran Ecumenical Representatives Network (LERN) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) gave Dueholm the award April 6 in New Orleans at the National Workshop on Christian Unity, where he presented his essay.

“Centuries of mutual ignorance and even hostility generated lowbrow and persistent images of the brethren separated by a common faith,” Dueholm wrote of Lutheran-Catholic relations. The Joint Declaration “provides a model for ecumenism. It also speaks to some of my own concerns as a believer and a future pastor.”

In February the LERN executive board selected Dueholm’s essay from 18 entries in a contest hosted by the ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs, the first of what will be an annual seminary essay contest for ELCA seminarians, said Michael R. Trice, associate director, ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs.

The entries came from all eight ELCA seminaries and from ELCA candidates for ministry attending three other seminaries or divinity schools, Trice said.

Seminarians addressed the question: What impact does the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification have on ecumenism, on you as a Lutheran, and on you as a future leader of this church? The Joint Declaration, signed by representatives of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Vatican in 1999, declared that certain 16th century condemnations between Lutherans and Catholics no longer apply.

The ELCA is one of 138 member churches of the LWF, which represents 66 million Christians in 77 countries.

The 10,657 congregations of the ELCA are organized into 65 synods, each headed by a bishop. Each bishop names one representative to LERN, which is coordinated through the ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs.

“The Department for Ecumenical Affairs is delighted to offer seminarians an opportunity to write about ecumenical topics. All of the essays were written from very gifted and reflective seminarians in our church, who clearly care a great deal about ecumenism in the ELCA,” Trice said.

“All of the essayists took seriously their Lutheran heritage of Word and Sacrament. They were ardent in their dedication to the future of the church, and they were clear about the need for ecumenical life and relation in the ELCA,” he said.

“Ben’s essay was pastoral in tone, theologically clear and creatively engaging,” Trice said.

Dueholm wrote that the Joint Declaration did not force “a false or impossible uniformity” but recognized “the validity of different emphases and terminologies between the two traditions.”

“The Declaration is a welcome statement in light of my own concerns,” Dueholm wrote. “As a former non-believer, I am still amazed that Christians fight their most persistent and passionate arguments over differences that, from the outside, seem so small.”

“Faith, as I have come to understand it, is a disposition of the whole life — not intellectual assent, not acceptance, not the soul’s signature on a dotted line. Works, likewise, are the effect of faith, good in themselves and of no exchange value with God, but absolutely integral to the life of faith,” Dueholm said.

“As a future pastor in the Lutheran church, I see the Declaration as helpful in two very broad and important ways,” Dueholm wrote. “Differences of emphasis and terminology need not be ‘essentialized’ as differences of faith,” he gave as the first way. “The second is that I hope to use the Declaration to stimulate more interfaith dialogue and mission cooperation.”

Posted: Apr. 9, 2005 • Permanent link:
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