ELCA Delegation Visits Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch In Istanbul

 — Mar. 21, 200621 mars 2006

ISTANBUL, Turkey (ELCA) — A 17-member delegation from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) met here March 17 with His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The Lutherans offered official greetings to the patriarch, suggesting he visit the ELCA churchwide office in Chicago, as he did with his predecessor, Patriarch Demetrios.

The greeting was read aloud by the Rev. E. Roy Riley, bishop of the ELCA New Jersey Synod, Hamilton Square, and chair of the ELCA Conference of Bishops. Riley and the Rev. Lowell G. Almen, ELCA secretary, Chicago, are leading the delegation. Bartholomew offered his own official greeting, followed by informal remarks.

The 40-minute meeting with Bartholomew took place here at the Ecumenical Patriarchate, located at the “Phanar” — the Greek quarter. Bartholomew is the world leader of Orthodox Christians, which include churches such as Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox and Antiochan Orthodox. Among patriarchs who lead the many Orthodox churches, Bartholomew is considered “first among equals.” He was elected in 1991.

The Orthodox is a significant minority in this country of 70 million people, 99 percent of whom are Muslim. In addition to dwindling population in Turkey, the Ecumenical Patriarchate contends with local problems such as property losses and closed schools. They also continue to seek the reopening of a secondary school and a theological school on Halki Island, both ordered closed by the Turkish government in 1971. The Orthodox maintain the Ecumenical Patriarchate here as their world ecclesial center, tracing its history to the earliest Christian communities when this city was known as Constantinople.

The ELCA delegation visited here as part of an extended ecumenical journey. Lutherans will also visit world church leaders in Geneva, London and Rome.

“Today marks another step in the long journey of conversations of Orthodox and Lutheran leaders and representatives,” Riley said, noting that in 2009 Lutherans will commemorate the 450th anniversary of the first contact of an Orthodox representative — Patriarch Joasaph II — with a Lutheran reformer, Philip Melanchthon, in Wittenberg, Germany.

“History records that Deacon Demetrios Mysos was sent in 1559 from Constantinople to Wittenberg. From May 20 through the end of September 1559,

Professor Melanchthon and Deacon Demetrios examined similarities of the Orthodox and Lutheran objections to medieval abuses seen at that time in the Roman Church.”

“When he left Wittenberg, Deacon Demetrios carried with him a letter from Professor Melanchthon to Patriarch Joasaph II. He also had in his possession an unusual document — a Greek translation of the Augsburg Confession, the basic doctrinal statement of the Lutheran Reformation,” Riley said.

Over the next several years Lutheran and Orthodox church scholars continued conversations, until they reached an impasse on issues such as “the tradition of the Church and differing views of human nature, including considerations of Free Will, the Fall of Humanity and Original Sin, and faith producing good works,” Riley said. A third and final response from Patriarch Jeremias II on these issues concluded the dialogue, but the patriarch invited exchange of letters “for the sake of friendship,” Riley said.

“We may wonder whether — if the ease of communication that exists in our time had been available in the 16th century — a longer period of conversation and growing in mutual understanding might have emerged centuries ago for Orthodox and Lutheran leaders and members,” he said.

Riley added that Lutherans “continue to yearn for fruitful communication and conversation,” keeping in mind Jesus’ prayer that “they may be one (John 17).”

Almen presented Bartholomew with an icon of St. Paul created by the Rev. Gary L. Safrit, retired ELCA pastor, Greer, S.C.

Ecumenical Patriarch emphasizes new look at vision for ecumenism

In his remarks to the Lutherans, Bartholomew said the Ecumenical Patriarchate is committed to promoting dialogue with other Christian churches — including Lutherans — but he said “we are faced with the urgent need to look afresh at our vision and expectations of the ecumenical movement in the 21st century.”

“We live in a world of continuing mutation, new challenges and changes, where wars and conflicts still continue to take place in many parts of the world, where many people still struggle for freedom, justice, and for their national and socio-political identity,” he said. “Also, where nations are in the process to be appropriated into the European idea of a united Europe, and globalization touches the daily life of many people, the Christian Churches cannot remain indifferent.”

Churches are actively involved and participating in such global changes by proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Bartholomew said. “In this new phase of humanity, it is absolutely necessary for the Churches around the world to be in permanent dialogue to seek a better and closer collaboration and fellowship,” he said.

The ecumenical patriarch called the relationship of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the ELCA “a long and good fraternal relationship.” He noted that Orthodox and Lutherans worldwide have enjoyed a long history of fraternal relationships since the 16th century. That relationship has been “deepened” through the international Lutheran-Orthodox theological dialogue, he said.

Bartholomew is known in many circles as the “Green Patriarch” because of his emphasis on care of the environment. He told the Lutherans that among the world’s problems are “dangers for the environment and the integrity of the creation.”

“All of us — Lutherans and Orthodox — should join our spiritual forces to work constructively and fruitfully,” he said.

In informal comments Bartholomew said he will be in Brazil this July for the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s sixth international symposium on the environment. The symposium will bring together a variety of scholars, theologians, church leaders, scientists, political leaders and the media to discuss current environmental challenges.

He noted that Pope Benedict XVI is promoting ecumenical dialogue as a priority, and he said the pope will travel to Istanbul in November for an official visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

Bartholomew also noted the election of His Eminence Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima, a member of the Orthodox Inter-Church Affairs Synodical Commission, as vice moderator of the World Council of Churches Central Committee. “This is important to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We are proud of this fact,” he said. A Lutheran, the Rev. Walter Altman, president of the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil, was elected moderator.

In addition to Almen, his wife Sally, and Riley, members of the ELCA delegation are: + Faith A. Ashton, ELCA Church Council member, Chapel Hill. N.C. + The Rev. Theodore W. Asta, associate to the bishop, ELCA New England Synod, Worcester, Mass. + The Rev. Allen C. Bjornberg, bishop of the ELCA Rocky Mountain Synod, Denver + The Rev. G. Scott Cady, St. Peter Evangelical Lutheran Church, Cornwall, Conn. and president, Lutheran Ecumenical Representatives Network + The Rev. Martha W. Clementson, assistant to the bishop, ELCA Southwestern Pennsylvania Synod, Pittsburgh + The Rev. Jessica R. Crist, associate to the bishop, ELCA Montana Synod, Great Falls, and director, Northern Rockies Institute of Theology + The Rev. Philip L. Hougen, bishop of the ELCA Southeastern Iowa Synod, Des Moines + The Rev. Randall R. Lee, executive, ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations, Chicago + The Rev. Jonathan Linman, director, Center for Christian Spirituality and associate professor, The General Theological Seminary (Episcopal Church), New York + Kathy J. Magnus, Chicago, regional coordinator for North America, Lutheran World Federation + Carlos E. Peña, ELCA vice president, Galveston, Texas, and newly elected member of the World Council of Churches Central Committee + Dr. Michael R. Trice, associate executive, ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations + The Rev. Steven L. Ullestad, bishop, ELCA Northeastern Iowa Synod, Waverly + John R. Brooks, director, ELCA News Service, Chicago

Mary Beth Nowak, ELCA Office of the Secretary, Chicago, will join the delegation in Rome.

Posted: Mar. 21, 2006 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=4852
Categories: ELCA NewsIn this article: Bartholomew I
Transmis : 21 mars 2006 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=4852
Catégorie : ELCA NewsDans cet article : Bartholomew I

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