Tag Archives: Ecumenism

UMC General Conference 2012 (GC2012): A family reunion

Savannah ApartmentA few years ago, our middle daughter spent a year at SCAD—the Savannah School of Art and Design—and we became acquainted with this stately city of the south that had escaped the destruction of the civil war.  We spent a frantic first weekend trying to find a suitable apartment to rent.  Sitting at a Waffle House near the airport on the morning of our scheduled departure, we remained frustrated and dissatisfied with everything we had seen to that point.  We decided to reschedule our flights and spend one more day looking.  It was worth the wait.  We found a huge third floor apartment in an antebellum mansion overlooking Forsyth Park with beautiful woodwork and two fireplaces, and the rent was surprisingly reasonable.

It was Savannah where John Wesley arrived in 1736 to begin his missionary work, and a uniquely American church was born with deep southern roots.  Today, twelve million United Methodists are the primary spiritual heirs of Wesley’s missionary efforts.

But, there are others who were torn away by the harsh realities of slavery and a church willing to abide by the racial mores of a different time.  At General Conference 2012 (GC2012), there will be a family reunion, of sorts, and old wounds will be redressed.  A full communion agreement is expected to pass with overwhelming support that would establish a formal bond with several African-American denominations that also are progeny of Wesley’s early church.

An affirmative vote would establish a new relationship among the African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist Episcopal Zion, African Union Methodist Protestant, Christian Methodist Episcopal, Union American Methodist Episcopal and United Methodist denominations.

“I think it’s important and significant because our family in the United States is not united, and there are reasons why this is so,” said retired United Methodist Bishop Alfred L. Norris Sr., who leads the Pan-Methodist Commission.

Most of those reasons center around racism, he noted, with the other denominations “started as a response, reaction, revolt against inhumane treatment in the Methodist family.”

Bishop George WalkerA year ago, I was a voting member at my own denominational national convention, the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Orlando.  One of the highlights was the address by Bishop George Walker of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church.  He received a long and warm standing ovation.

Bishop Walker’s presence was both the culmination of five years of dialogue with the AME Zion Church, and also the prelude to scheduled meetings in Salisbury, North Carolina between leaders of the two denominations.  On the 16th of September, 2011, the leaders celebrated what promises to be an “unprecedented agreement between historically white and black churches” in a communion service at St. John’s Lutheran Church of Salisbury.

The mutuality expressed at the religious service and also at the discussions the following day are the result of a fortuitous geographical commonality. Salisbury is home to AME Zion’s Hood Seminary, Livingstone College, and the ELCA’s North Carolina Synod Headquarters. Rubbing elbows together in the same small city led to friendships which in turn led to the current discussions.Bishops Hanson and Walker depart the Covenant Service

Georene Jones, a St. John’s member and student in the theological studies program at Hood Theological Seminary, called Friday’s service an “absolute affirmation of what I believe.”

“It gives me great hope for the future of the church,” she said. “This is a culmination of my hopes and dreams.”

The ELCA and the UMC have been full communion partners since 2009.

UMC leadership structure

I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the five, principal mainline Protestant denominations lately (UMC, ELCA, PC(USA), Episcopal, and UCC).  The ELCA is a full communion partner with each of these, and I heard Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefforts Schori speak highly of the Episcopal/ELCA partnership at an Episcopal Diocesan Convention.

Both the ELCA and the Episcopal Church function with a national presiding bishop, a full-time, long term position.  Bishop Mark Hanson, only the third ELCA Presiding Bishop since the denomination was formed in 1988, is nearing the end of his second term.  Presiding Bishop Schori serves out of the Episcopal Headquarters in NYC though she was previously Bishop of the Nevada Diocese.  She is only the 26th presiding bishop in Episcopal history which goes back to Revolutionary War days.

The UCC has a General Minister/President, the Presbyterians have a General Assembly Moderator, and the Methodists have a President of the Council of Bishops who serves a two year term while continuing to serve as bishop of his or her regional body.

At the upcoming UMC quadrennial General Conference in Tampa, delegates will consider revisions to their organizational structure.  Among the proposed changes is the creation of a full-time President of the Council of Bishops without responsibility for any jurisdiction other than the national church.

Would this position be more like the presiding bishops of the ELCA and Episcopal Churches?  “Commenters have called the proposed position everything from a United Methodist archbishop to the denomination’s CEO.”

Click here for full details from a UMC News Service report.

The ELCA and Ecumenical Partners

Bishop Hanson with Dr. SayeedThe 2011 ELCA Churchwide Assembly (CWA11) was hopeful, spirited, and frequently emotional.  I was often moved to tears, and I was not alone.  Assembly speakers routinely received standing ovations.

The ELCA believes in ecumenism, the expression of unity and cooperation with other religious bodies.  Wet eyes and and a long, loud ovation filled the assembly hall when Bishop Hanson embraced Dr. Sayyid Sayeed, the National Director of The Islamic Society of North America.  Similarly, the voting members rose to their feet to greet Bishop George Walker of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church (AME Zion) when he addressed the Assembly.

Bishop Walker’s presence was both the culmination of five years of dialogue with the AME Zion Church, and also the prelude to scheduled meetings in Salisbury, North Carolina between leaders of the two denominations.  Bishop George Walker

Last Friday, the 16th of September, leaders of the two denominations celebrated what promises to be  an “unprecedented agreement between historically white and black churches” in a communion service at St. John’s Lutheran Church of Salisbury.

The mutuality expressed at the religious service and also at the discussions the following day are the result of a fortuitous geographical commonality.  Salisbury is home to AME Zion’s Hood Seminary, Livingstone College, and the ELCA’s North Carolina Synod Headquarters.  Rubbing elbows together in the same small city led to friendships which in turn led to the current discussions.Bishops Hanson and Walker depart the Covenant Service

Georene Jones, a St. John’s member and student in the theological studies program at Hood Theological Seminary, called Friday’s service an “absolute affirmation of what I believe.”

“It gives me great hope for the future of the church,” she said. “This is a culmination of my hopes and dreams.”

See reporter Nathan Hardin’s excellent report in the Salisbury Post.

A Lutheran Christmas

Awashima with Aunt Karin and Ty, the dog.Northfield and the greater metro area of Minnesota are extremely snowy this year … apparently the snowiest since they began keeping records, and more snow is on the way next week.  Our cul de sac is shrinking as the snowbanks shoved to the edge by snow plows are over ten feet high and encroaching onto the roadway.  This photo of daughter Karin, holding our granddaughter (Karin’s niece) was taken before the latest dump of six inches.  Here’s a link to Karin’s own blog post with wood smoke, wintry remembrances.

We attended the last of three candlelight services at our congregation at Bethel Lutheran last evening.  The music ministry at Bethel is always spectacular with unbelievable talent within our congregation.  Last evening, Anton Armstrong, the conductor of the world renowned college choir at St Olaf and Bethel member, offered an a capella solo rendition of “Sweet Little Jesus Boy”, St Olaf choir soprano and Bethel member Rachel Dahlen offered several solos—as part of a women’s ensemble and also to cello accompaniment, and harpist Rachel Miessler offered harp preludes as well as a solo offering of “Silent Night” between Scripture readings.  What is amazing is that different soloists and ensembles, including the full Bethel choir, provided music at the earlier two services.

On Thursday morning at the regular Bethel Men’s group, we shared personal Christmas stories and family traditions.  For a group that is mostly Scandinavian, there were a variety of traditional family meals featuring dishes, besides Lutefisk, that were unknown to others (suet pudding??).  Retired St Olaf baseball coach Jim Dimick remembered his Christmas away from home in the military, pulling guard duty late on Christmas eve, but the far off strains of “Silent Night” from a nearby chapel eased his homesickness and resulted in a a transcendent moment when he felt the strong presence of God.  Reminds me of one of my favorite definitions of divinity:  “God is what’s there when there’s nothing else.”  Former Northfield High School choir director Wayne Kivell led the men in a harmonized closing of “Silent Night”. 

Obie as SantaA week ago, thirty-four Pearsons (my wife’s family) gathered at Green Lake Bible Camp in Western Minnesota.  Brother-in-law Pastor Keith Pearson (Hector, Minnesota) is on the Green Lake Camp board of directors, and he made the arrangements.  The photo is yours truly playing the role of Santa Claus, but my granddaughter Awashima wasn’t real pleased.

Here are a few other Lutheran themed Christmas notes.

Blogger Jim Kline apparently left an Illinois congregation earlier this year when the congregation voted to exit the ELCA.  Jim found another ELCA congregation, which he joined on Reformation Sunday, and he reported on his own Christmas Eve candlelight service experience:

As the late afternoon service began, I noted that the light through the windows was slowly waning. As we progressed through the service, the familiar carols and prayers brought a sense of closure to me, culminating with the incredibly moving experience of the congregation singing “Silent Night” to the glow of our individual candles. The familiarity of this ritual, accompanied by communion, brought a sense of peace as I look back on the changes in my religious life during the past year.

Earlier this fall, I attended the Fond du Lac Episcopal Diocese annual convention where I met many new Episcopal friends including Bishop Russell Jacobus.  Last evening, an ecumenical candlelight service was offered at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in Fond du Lac.  Bishop Jacobus presided over the Eucharist and the Rev James Justman, the local Lutheran Bishop (East Central Wisconsin ELCA Synod), offered the Christmas eve sermon.  A combined choir from the host Episcopal parish, a local ELCA congregation, and the choir from Community United Methodist Church offered a choral concert just prior to the Eucharist service.

Merry Christmas to all and God bless us, every one.

Synod of the Baptized

Synod of the baptized logo On Saturday, September 18th, the Catholic Coalition for Church Reform (CCCR) will convene a Synod of the Baptized in Minneapolis with expectations for an overflow crowd of nearly 500 persons.  The Synod byline is “Claiming our place at the Table.”  More information is available on CCCR’s website.  The website lists eight progressive Catholic coalition partners with ties to Minnesota, and here is a portion of their self-definition:

We are the Church. In our understanding of Church, all the baptized are one big community of smaller communities, we are all equal, we all participate in different ministries (lay, clergy, bishop), we communicate with one another, and we share a vision and a self-critique. The five words we have been using to summarize this model of Church are community, equality, participation, dialogue, and prophecy. It is a model arising out of Vatican II and seems to us most in line with the Gospel message. It has been promulgated by the Asian bishops and it also fits well with the positive values of our U.S. culture.

There are other models of Church that can be drawn from Vatican II documents, more top down models, and this is what is causing tension in the contemporary Church. We believe that the fate of grown-ups is to live with ambiguity and tension, so we are not daunted by differences in points of view. Our intent is to try to create community based on the model we think best, to remain open to dialogue with people who espouse other models, and to keep focused on the Church’s mission.

The Synod keynote address will be offered by Paul Lakeland:

Paul Lakeland is the Aloysius P. Kelley S.J. Professor of Catholic Studies, and Director of Fairfield University’s Center for Catholic Studies. He has been teaching at Fairfield University since 1981, where he has previously served as Director of the Honors Program and Chair of the Religious Studies Department.

Michael Bayly and Paula Ruddy are board members and key organizers of the Synod.  They have been blogging at Progressive Catholic Voice in preparation for the Synod, discussing challenges for the contemporary church, following the list offered by Lakeland in his recent book entitled Church.  Lakeland’s list of challenges includes ecumenism, the role of women, scandal of sexual abuse, etc.

Ruddy’s latest post about ecumenism notes the historical role played by Minnesota’s own St John’s Abbey and University:

Minnesotans are familiar with the liturgical movement that began in Europe in the middle of the 19th century from the involvement of St. John’s University and Abbey in Collegeville and the great teachers trained there. [Lakeland] says that in some ways the liturgical movement laid groundwork for the ecumenical movement in crossing denominational lines. It all led up to the great Ecumenical Second Vatican Council of 1962-65.

I was privileged to have studied under Father Godfrey Diekmann at St John’s School of Theology who was one of these important reform figures behind the scenes of Vatican II that Lakeland referred to.

Lutherans and Muslims: 9/11 musings

 A week ago, amidst rising anti-Muslim anger,

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) joined a coalition of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders to denounce rising anti-Muslim rhetoric and bigotry in the United States, as the country prepares to commemorate the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Read the full article here.

Pastor Stephen Bouman once served as bishop of the Metropolitan New York synod of the ELCA.  He currently serves in a leadership position of the ELCA Churchwide offices.  I met Pastor Bouman earlier this summer when he attended the biennial convention of Lutherans Concerned North America.  During that event, he delivered the sermon at the Goodsoil service at Central Lutheran Church in Minneapolis.

With a hat tip to Pastor Clint Schnekloth of Stoughton, Wisconsin, who blogs at Lutheran Confessions, I reprint the September 11th retrospective sermon of Pastor Bouman.

“You shall be called repairers of the breach, restorers of streets to live in.” Isaiah 58:14

This morning, nine years later, at 8:46 am., the time of the first attack, I do what I have done every year since that day. I listen to Brahms Requiem. I am quiet. I remember. Later tonight, I will listen to Bruce Springsteen’s album, The Rising, and toast the end of the day and the new day to come. I am still haunted, as if it were yesterday, by the images, the smoke rising downtown, visible from my office window. The second plane roaring down the Hudson right past our office. The stricken looks on hundreds of people’s faces as we gathered for prayer at noon at the Interchurch Center in Manhattan. I remember dialing the phone frantically, trying to find family, pastors, those we knew who worked in the towers. I remember the collision of feelings and images, the helplessness, the growing terrible panic, best described by this line from Leonard Bernstein’s Mass: “how easily things are broken.”

In the petty squabbles over who can pray at Ground Zero, in the self righteous cruelty of a so-called religious leader threatening to desecrate the resting place of thousands of our neighbors and particular people I have loved by burning a book holy to billions of our neighbors on this planet, I am overcome with anger and powerlessness. Even the good name of the faith I hold dear, is trashed and desecrated at Ground Zero.
I have different memories of this sacred space of obscene suffering, yet sacred struggle. And I have different memories of who should be able to pray where and why.

Two things come to mind and I offer them today. First, when the towers fell, we in New York did, by instinct, what people did all over the world. The spiritual dna hardwired into what it means to be human expressed itself naturally and deeply. We prayed. We prayed together. We prayed in as wide a way as possible. We wanted to talk to our Maker, and wanted the comfort of human solidarity. St. Augustine was right: the soul was made for God, and will not find its rest until it rests in God.

Peter DeVries put this prayerful solidarity beautifully in his book “the Blood of the Lamb”:

“the recognition of how long, how very long, is the mourner’s bench upon which we sit, arms linked in undeluded friendship-all of us, brief links ourselves, in the eternal pity.”

On Wednesday evening, September 13, there was an emotional reunion of religious leaders in New York City at Abyssinian Baptist in Harlem. Pastor Calvin Butts, chair of the Council of Churches of the City of New York had put the interfaith service together. Imams, rabbis, pastors hugged and shared news of loss and nascent efforts at response. As we walked together toward the sanctuary I saw the bright television lights and Robin Williams of Good Morning America interviewing Don Taylor, the Episcopal bishop who is vicar for New York City. We were funneled in that direction by the tv flacks. I just continued to walk toward the sanctuary, empty of any wisdom for the next day’s breakfast. The singing at the liturgy was powerful, the remarks by leaders moving. As I gave a brief homily it occurred to me that Dietrich Bonhoeffer had preached from this pulpit for his friend Adam Clayton Powell. Bonhoeffer himself was a victim of bogus Christianity, a twisted version of spiritual warfare. Later, on the street, I saw some members of our synod and we embraced. I cried for the first time. Prayer enabled that.

Second, Ground zero became a house of prayer for all people. I often saw the holy respect for life at that awful place. When word began to circulate that human remains were found, the word would spread quickly. People would stop what they were doing. The site would gentle down to silence. Hats were removed. People knew that this was holy ground. One of the fire fighters in whose memorial I had participated, was lifted from the ground by his father and brother, both firemen. How dare anyone politicize, pontificate, harass or demonize the prayers of anyone near this sacred site! “My house will be a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of robbers,” said Jesus at another sacred site.

I am remembering that Muslim and Arab neighbors in Brooklyn brought their children to Salaam Arabic Lutheran Church and our neighborhood Lutheran schools for safety. I am remembering that for every broken window or graffiti covered wall of an Arab establishment there were a hundred flowers.

As I watched this morning the names of our brothers and sisters being read at Ground Zero I am proud of my Lutheran family and how we served together with many interfaith and public and private efforts. Our collective work of disaster response started the association of victim’s families. As the last faith based group still attending to 9-11 for the past several years, LDRNY accompanied the families at this sacred space on every anniversary, a “house of prayer for all people.”

For me, this day will always be a day of Lamentations. Kathleen O’Conner put beautifully the deep meaning of lamenting our losses.

“Lamentations is an act of resistance. It teaches us to lament and to become agents in our relationship with God, even if our fidelity only takes the form of telling God and one another our truth….Lamentations crushes false images, smashes syrupy pictures, destroys narrow theologies. It pours cold water upon theologies of a God who prospers us in all things, on a God who cares only about us, on a God who blesses our nation and punishes our enemies, as if we were God’s only people.”

Our Lamentations are not the isolation and depression of wounded entitlement or private grief, but the community at the foot of the Cross moving outward in solidarity and love toward the sorrow of the world God loves.

In celebration of St. Martin’s Table

St Martins Front In 1984, a new restaurant opened in the Cedar Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis, between the west bank campus of the University of Minnesota and Augsburg, a private liberal arts college of the ELCA.  Restaurants come and go, and this new start was hardly noteworthy except that the goal was not to make money but to give it away, and they have succeeded beyond the founder’s wildest imagination.  By the time that St. Martin’s Table serves its final customers this December, 26 years after it first offered delicious, homemade vegetarian fare, it will have gifted over $700,000 to alleviate hunger locally and globally.

St. Martin’s Table is an outreach ministry of the Community of St. Martin. It is a bookstore and restaurant open to the general public. St. Martin’s Table strives to be a center for peacemaking and justice seeking. This focus springs from the Community’s faith, centered in the life and teachings of Jesus, and so we seek to provide hospitality to all people in their journeys toward peace, justice and wholeness.

St Martin's TableThe existence of St. Martin’s Table was one of those things that lay somewhere in the recesses of my mind.  I knew about it, but I didn’t really know about it.  Thus, when I stopped in for lunch for the first time a month or so ago, my response was “why haven’t I been here before” and “I can’t wait to come back.”  The homemade gazpacho and generous wedge of carrot cake were part of the attraction, but it was much more than that.

The food served is a celebration of God’s gifts to us. To that end, St. Martin’s Table serves vegetarian meals with and emphasis on locally grown and organic food. Volunteer servers not only contribute their time, but also contribute their tips to programs that alleviate hunger in the global community.

Conversation takes place not only around the table at noon, but also during programs centered on peacemaking, justice issues and community-building through the arts. St. Martin’s Table is also available for study, worship, fellowship and special events for the wider community.

St. Martin’s Table strives to be fiscally sound and to be a good steward of all resources, especially as they relate to the long-term vitality of the Table. As an alternative business, it is our priority to model a more just way to live and have that reflected in the relationships we cultivate. The Table strives to be a place of peace where creative visions for a world of justice are welcomed and nurtured.

And who is St. Martin, the namesake of the community and the restaurant/bookstore?

The restaurant/bookstore, like the ecumenical community, was named for five Martins who have been models of change, truth and resistance in the Christian faith:

  • Martin Luther, the 16th century reformer who taught the theology of the cross
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., for his leadership in nonviolent protest to end racism and injustice
  • Martin of Tours, a fourth century Roman soldier turned pacifist
  • Martin de Porres, a Spanish-Indian healer who served the poor of Peru in the 1600s
  • Martin Niemoeller, a German pastor imprisoned for his nonviolent resistance to the Nazis during World War II

On August 25th, I received an email that announced that The Table would serve its last meal this coming December.

It is with thankfulness for all of the hospitality that has been shown here for 26 years, and also with great sadness that we announce that St. Martin’s Table will be closing in December, 2010.

Bookstore manager Kathleen Olsen encouraged people to continue to support The Table between now and Christmas. “We hope that our loyal clientele, in addition to those who have never been to The Table, will join us in the upcoming months for good food, good books, and good conversation. Help us celebrate a great 26 years!”

Drop in for lunch or leave a greeting on the Facebook page ( which lists the Thursday menu as “Soups: Creamy Curry Split Pea and Chilled Cucumber Yogurt followed by Cashew Carrot (cold). Spreads: Swiss Dill, Tofuna and Bunny Luv”).

2010: the status of ELCA Lutheran—Roman Catholic ecumenical dialogue

Bishop Hanson and Cardinal Kasper in 2004 As part of a two week, “2010 Ecumenical Journey”, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson and his delegation recently met with Cardinal Walter Kasper at the Vatican.  Cardinal Kasper is the President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity–the Vatican’s point man for ecumenical relations with other church bodies.

Prior to this Vatican meeting on Feb 12th, Bishop Hanson’s delegation had met with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams on Feb 4th for discussion of Lutheran-Anglican relations, and with Eastern Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I and Orthodox ecumenists in Istanbul on Feb 8th and 9th.

What is the status of Lutheran – Catholic dialogue?  A little over a decade ago in 1999, ecumenical discussions led to the “Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification”.  Wikipedia provides a succinct explanation of this agreement:

The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification is a document created by and agreed to by the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and the Lutheran World Federation in 1999, as a result of extensive ecumenical dialogue, ostensibly resolving the conflict over the nature of justification which was at the root of the Protestant Reformation.

The Churches acknowledged that the excommunications relating to the doctrine of justification set forth by the Council of Trent do not apply to the teachings of the Lutheran churches set forth in the text; likewise, the churches acknowledged that the condemnations set forth in the Lutheran Confessions do not apply to the Catholic teachings on justification set forth in the document. Confessional Lutherans, such as the International Lutheran Council and the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference, reject the Declaration.

On July 18, 2006, members of the World Methodist Council, meeting in Seoul, South Korea, voted unanimously to adopt this document as well.

That was then; what’s happening these days? 

In an honest appraisal of Lutheran-Catholic relations, former ELCA Presiding Bishop Herb Chilstrom last year acknowledged that ordaining women “was the first nail in the coffin of further ecumenical progress,” and he asked “how long are we going to live with the illusion that Vatican II is alive and well in Roman Catholicism?”  Chilstrom’s comments were in the context of CWA09 and the probable dampening effect of ELCA pro-LGBT ministry policies on ecumenical relations with the Vatican.

Cardinal Walter Kasper What did Cardinal Kasper have to say about the consequences of CWA09?  Seemingly, his greatest concern was not with the ministry policies themselves but with the schismatic actions of dissenters.

“We are concerned, but the dialogue goes on,” Kasper told the Lutherans.  “We want to continue … so we do not interrupt any dialogue. But what we see are new ‘fragmentations’ in the Protestant world in the churches.  This has bothered us a lot.”

ELCA Bishop Robert Hofstad of the Southwestern Washington synod, a delegation member, responded:

If our Roman Catholic brothers and sisters can say to us, “do not go away from each other too fast,” then how can we in the ELCA be running away from each other with such speed, at least in some anecdotal instances?  How can we be running away from each other so fast when we have a commitment from people like yourselves, and a hope to say “please let us not run away from each other too quickly?”

“That’s a very encouraging word, and that’s a word that I’m going to take back to my colleagues,” Hofstad said.

The report of the meeting from the perspective of the Catholic News Service included both hopeful and troubling aspects of the discussion.

Cardinal Kasper said it is essential “to keep alive the memory of our achievements” in dialogue, educate the faithful about how much has been accomplished and prepare a new generation to carry on the work.

On the other hand, the Cardinal said, “the Vatican needs to better explain to its dialogue partners the Catholic conviction that ‘the Catholic Church is the church of Christ and that the Catholic Church is the true church … [including] the primacy of the bishop of Rome, the pope.’”


Lutherans in ecumenical news

Episcopal Life online reports that the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark has joined the Porvoo Communion

This is the name given to a report issued at the conclusion of theological conversations by official representatives of four Anglican Churches and eight Nordic and Baltic Churches in 1989-1992. The Porvoo Common Statement included the text of the Porvoo Declaration, which the participants commended for acceptance to their Churches.

They were the Churches of England and Ireland, the Church in Wales and the Episcopal Church of Scotland, together with the Churches of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, and the Evangelical-Lutheran Churches of Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Latvia and Lithuania. Acceptance by the signatory churches means that for the first time the Anglican Churches in Britain and Ireland have now moved into visible communion with other national Churches in Europe.

Map of Porvoo participantsPreviously, the Denmark church had merely been an observer and not a signatory due to differences over the ordination of female bishops.  (The Danish Lutherans favored female bishops).  According to the Danes, Anglican bishops have “changed their positions considerably” on such issues, and there are no longer any doctrinal obstacles to membership.

Meanwhile, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) announces that their “Eastern Synod will host the North American region’s preparatory meeting for the July 2010 Eleventh Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).”   

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF now has 140 member churches in 79 countries all over the world representing over 68.9 million Christians.

The Canadian report indicates that there are three North American Lutheran denominations that belong to the Lutheran World Federation: the ELCIC, the ELCA, and the Estonian Evangelical Lutheran Church Abroad.  The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the Wisconsin Synod (WELS), the second and third largest Lutheran denominations in the US after the ELCA, do not belong to LWF.  The LWF has been front and center of Haiti disaster relief.  ELCA president Mark Hanson currently holds the presidency of the LWF, which has its international headquarters in Geneva.

Today, the ELCA and the Moravian Church will celebrate ten years of full communion partnership at Augsburg Lutheran Church, Winston-Salem, N.C.

Leaders and members of the denominations will be attending the worship service.  The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, will preside and the Rt. Rev. Dr. D. Wayne Burkette, president, Provincial Elders’ Conference, Moravian Church North America, Southern Province, will be preaching.

The Moravian Church is one of six full communion partners of the ELCA (United Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, UCC, and Reformed Church of America).

The ELCA takes seriously its call to act ecumenically for the sake of the world and not for itself alone. Unity does not mean that two churches merge; rather, in reaching consensus churches also respect difference. In this way, full communion is when two churches develop a relationship based on a common confessing of the Christian faith and a mutual recognition of baptism and sharing of the Lord’s Supper.  These denominations likewise jointly worship, may exchange clergy, and also share a commitment to evangelism, witness and service in the world.

Jan Hus The Moravian church has its origins in 15th century Bohemia and Moravia (now part of the Czech Republic).  They trace their heritage to reformer Jan Hus, who predated Luther and who was burned at the stake for his heresy.  Hus and his followers planted the seeds of reformation which came to fruition under Luther, Calvin, and others a century later.  The Moravians arrived in the US in 1741.  Their website offers much more of their proud history.