ELCA News Bloghttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/ELCA, United Methodist Church observe fifth anniversary of full communion agreementELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/66http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/66<div class="ExternalClass758CB8EE1FE14F068CB2DA313E5B95EF"><p>The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the United Methodist Church observed the fifth anniversary as full communion partners during a Nov. 13 worship service at the Lutheran Center in Chicago.</p><p>In his sermon, the Rev. Wayne N. Miller, bishop of the ELCA Metropolitan Chicago Synod, said, “We come together to celebrate a convergence of two great Christian traditions. One initiated by Martin Luther and the other John Wesley.”</p><p>Miller spoke about the early days of each faith and said that, although both denominations were “thoroughly grounded in the word,” their “contexts were different.”</p><p>“The paths of these traditions diverged for many, many years until now,” he said. “Because we, you and I, sisters and brothers, on this day when the evening is nearly over, have been granted the extraordinary grace to meet again on the road, and in a very modest way, to reassemble the whole body of Christ – head, hand and heart together – by tipping the walls that might otherwise separate us on their sides, and to transform those walls into a table set by the etiquette of three simple rules to do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God.”</p><p>“This is yet another partial fulfillment of Jesus’ prayer that all may be one for the sake of the world, that they might believe,” said the Rev. Jonathan W. Linman, assistant to the bishop for faith and leadership formation, ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod, and one of the co-chairs of the ELCA – United Methodist coordinating committee. The committee, which meets every nine months, helps coordinate the relationships among church staff as they share ministry and resources. The committee met at the Lutheran Center Nov. 13-14. </p><p>“We give thanks to God for the opportunity to celebrate five years of full communion – to reflect on what we have, by God's grace, been able to accomplish together, and to renew our commitments to the unity we have in Christ,” said Kathryn Lohre, executive for ELCA ecumenical and inter-religious relations. “Our full communion partnership is grounded in a common commitment to evangelism, witness and service. It is no coincidence that evangelical outreach has been the recent focus of the coordinating committee's work, and we pray that this will become a hallmark of Lutheran-Methodist partnerships throughout our churches in the years to come.”</p><p>Full communion is not a merger between denominations. It is a relationship based on common confessing of the Christian faith and mutual recognition of Baptism and sharing of the Lord’s Supper. The churches worship together and may exchange clergy.</p><p>The Rev. Dr. Edgardo Colón-Emeric, assistant professor of Christian theology at Duke University and also a committee co-chair, said the observance of the fifth anniversary means, “a celebration of a new relationship. One that is in the process of sowing and beginning to see the first shoots of what we hope to harvest. (It) is not a relationship that is an agreement that stays on paper, but something that brings new life to the mission of our churches.”</p><p>Highlights of the ELCA and United Methodist Church agreement include&#58; joint mission, especially in the areas of evangelical outreach and congregational vitality; clergy exchanges; and the development of a one-day ELCA-United Methodist Church retreat model for Lutherans and Methodists in local communities to come together to learn about each church’s traditions. The coordinating committee is also exploring how the two churches can further engage in the area of advocacy. </p><p>“The Lutheran church has such an amazing heritage and an amazing history,” said Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, United Methodist Church ecumenical officer for the Council of Bishops. “So, for us United Methodists to deepen our relationship, and to realize we are part of the family of God together, and to share our visible signs of unity, it broadens our understanding and it improves our discipleship. I believe we are living into the prayer that Jesus prayed that we might be one that the world might believe. I just feel like it’s what God has called us into and that we’re living into the possibility where the time is right, and it really is time for us to celebrate that union.”</p><p>In addition to the Methodist Church, the ELCA is in full communion with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A), the Reformed Church in America, the United Church of Christ, The Episcopal Church and the Moravian Church in America. <br></p></div>11/21/2014A new consortium supports Lutheran Disaster Response, social ministry affiliatesELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/65http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/65<div class="ExternalClass8E5CD17A659C494882785B74A9AAF257"><p>​<span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">Lutheran Disaster Response will participate in a new Midwest Disaster Consortium designed to create sustainability among four social ministry organizations affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA) disaster response ministry. The social ministry organizations active in the consortium include Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, Lutheran Social Services of North Dakota, Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota, and Lutheran Family and Children's Services of Missouri.</span></p><p>&#160;</p><p>&quot;We are pleased to be able to help facilitate and participate in this consortium that will help our affiliates become more effective in their response to disasters, with the ultimate goal of &#160;effectively helping people and communities impacted by disasters,&quot; said the Rev. Michael Stadie, program director for Lutheran Disaster Response.<br> <br>The social ministry organizations that will compose the Midwest Disaster Consortium have been providing disaster response services for a combined total of more than 100 years. This consortium is made possible through a grant from the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation. The grant period began Oct. 1 and continues to Sept. 30, 2016. The sustainability provided by this grant ensures that each organization in the consortium will be able to continue its important work in assisting communities with disaster-related needs, especially among the most vulnerable populations in low-profile, non-federally declared disasters. The consortium will put an emphasis on developing best practices around disaster case management, which consists of helping those impacted by disaster navigate the recovery process on an individual basis and developing long-term recovery strategies, which include addressing the unmet needs of impacted communities that exist months and years after a disaster occurs. <br><br>Lutheran Disaster Response enables ELCA members and others to respond to disasters in the United States and overseas with a focus on long-term recovery, accompanying and providing assistance to people and communities impacted by disaster as they navigate their way through recovery.</p></div>11/19/2014ELCA receives over $2.5 million for Typhoon Haiyan relief effortsELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/64http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/64<div class="ExternalClass3B483E85DB7E46D282FB0F9E23806DA7"><p>​Since Typhoon Haiyan struck the Philippines a year ago, impacting about 13 million people, members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and others have contributed more than $2.5 million for the ELCA’s humanitarian assistance for the storm's survivors. The funds are disbursed through Lutheran Disaster Response to support ongoing recovery efforts carried out by Lutheran World Relief and the National Council of Churches of the Philippines. </p><p>“It has been a year since typhoon Haiyan struck and there have been many natural disasters around the world in the intervening months, but God hasn't forgotten the people of the Philippines and neither has the ELCA,” said the Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop. “We continue to support relief work and will stay until the job is done.”</p><p>In observance of the first anniversary of the storm, Carl Stecker, ELCA director for diakonia, said “we pray for those who remember and mourn their losses. We remember those still struggling to recover homes and livelihoods; and in solidarity, the ELCA continues to provide funds for the ongoing recovery and rehabilitation efforts of Lutheran World Relief and the National Council of Churches of the Philippines.”</p><p>Stecker traveled to the Philippines in June with the Rev. Stephen S. Talmage, bishop of the ELCA Grand Canyon Synod, and colleagues from Lutheran World Relief to observe relief and recovery activities. The most recent disbursement of funds was in September, when the ELCA provided $400,000 to assist in relief efforts of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines.</p><p>Since the days immediately following the disaster, funds from the ELCA have helped provide food, shelter repair kits, safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene materials, mosquito nets, kitchen sets and school kits. The assistance also helped in the implementation of cash-for-work activities that included debris removal and clean-up.</p><p>“Typhoon Haiyan, which is locally called Typhoon Yolanda, will be a day that no one in the Philippines will forget,” said Stecker. “They will remember where they were, what they were doing and who they were with when the typhoon struck – much like people of my generation do when they recall the death of President John F. Kennedy. Those in the areas most violently impacted will remember with tears the loved ones they have lost, and homes and livelihoods destroyed. Many in less affected areas will remember early Christmas parties cancelled and replaced by packing parties – packing food, water and other necessities to be sent to the affected areas. It was a time of national solidarity between those who escaped this typhoon and those who lost everything.”&#160; </p><p>Information about Lutheran Disaster Response is available at <a href="http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/Lutheran-Disaster-Response/Our-Impact/Pacific-Typhoon">http&#58;//www.elca.org/Our-Work/Relief-and-Development/Lutheran-Disaster-Response/Our-Impact/Pacific-Typhoon</a>.<br></p></div>11/14/2014ELCA presiding bishop and ecumenical leaders provide Advent devotionsELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/63http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/63<div class="ExternalClass6D319DC071334E78B56428F5542FEC10"><p>​The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), and leaders from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, the Anglican Church of Canada, and The Episcopal Church have written a series of weekly Advent devotions for members of the four denominations.<br>In addition to Eaton, devotions were contributed by the Rev. Susan C. Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada; the Most Rev. Fred Hiltz, primate, Anglican Church in Canada; and the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop and primate, The Episcopal Church.<br>In his introduction to the devotions, the Rev. Donald J. McCoid, director for ELCA ecumenical and inter-religious relations, said the church leaders have met over the past five years “to share with one another, provide worship observances for the 10th Anniversary of Full Communion agreements, to advocate for creation and the environment and to call members to prayer for situations of war and turmoil. At their most recent meeting, the leaders agreed to provide Advent devotions for the four churches.”<br>In her devotion for the first week of Advent, Eaton writes, “Advent is an odd season. It isn’t culturally accessible. It doesn’t lend itself to retail. There are no made-for-TV movies telling heartwarming stories about the great and terrible day of the Lord. It is an unsettled season that holds in tension the now and the not yet, longing and hope, judgment and redemption.”</p><p>The Advent devotions are available at <a href="http&#58;//download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Advent_Devotions.pdf">http&#58;//download.elca.org/ELCA%20Resource%20Repository/Advent_Devotions.pdf</a>.</p></div>11/13/2014Dialogue on peace with Iraqi religious leaders includes ELCA representative ELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/62http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/62<div class="ExternalClass84C68DE6DA34495CB5BC724B634DAC90"><p>​Religious leaders from Iraq, Norway and the United States have made a commitment to research the prospects of building peaceful relations among people and states experiencing conflict and violence and to &quot;normalize&quot; such work and dialogues, according to the Rev. Stephen Bouman, executive director for congregational and synodical mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).<br> <br>&quot;I believe right now, with extremisms surfacing from all religions, that we are in a struggle for the soul of our Abrahamic faiths,&quot; said Bouman. Apart from politics, Bouman said that religious leaders can have an effective role in brokering peace, coexistence and initiating humanitarian response in places like Syria, Iran, Iraq and elsewhere.<br> <br>Through the Peace Research Institute Oslo and The Catholic University of America, a group of Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Turkmen and Kurdish religious leaders from Iraq met in Istanbul this year in an effort to maintain religious dialogue and seek action together for peace. Bouman, who was one of four U.S. participants invited by the research institute, said that this is the first effort by the institute &quot;to create safe space for Iraqi leaders. My presence was in service to that process. I have been participating in the Iran dialogues for the past seven years.&quot; To help facilitate the dialogues, Bouman said there are mutually agreed upon guiding principles.<br> <br>&quot;The first is that we must be secure in our own religions, in our own identity. A second tenant is that no one gathered has special access to God; there is no absolute inside track to God. Third, we come to the table as interpreters of our own religious texts,&quot; said Bouman.<br> <br>The Rev. Trond Bakkevig, pastor of the (Lutheran) Church of Norway and a participant in the dialogue, said a fourth tenant is that religious &quot;text can be used in service to war, conflict, etc. Texts are also infused with ethos of forgiveness, reconciliation, etc. These should guide our interpretation. Religious leaders can escalate conflicts by intensifying religious elements. When religious leaders enter a dialogue, they have to agree on an internal discipline.&quot;<br> <br>&quot;And finally,&quot; said Bouman, &quot;Inter-faith means that the dialogue has to be made public. People need to see us talking and acting together and identifying mutual acts of mercy.&quot;<br> <br>Many of the dialogue participants shared stories of suffering, terror and death, particularly wrought by ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and Islamic State), which is striving to create an Islamic state across Sunni areas of Iraq and in Syria. A woman at the dialogue table told stories of women being sold, thousands of young men killed and the demolition of buildings and infrastructure by ISIS, said Bouman, adding that the Christian presence in Iraq has greatly diminished. &quot;We heard harrowing, horrific accounts of human suffering. We saw a film clip of an ISIS massacre of 3,000 young cadets (mostly Shiite) at an Air Force base. The room went silent and tears flowed.&quot;<br> <br>&quot;They were also members of the dialogue group who have been forced out of their homes by ISIS fighters,&quot; he said. &quot;They addressed their concerns in our meeting. But the fact that Sunni, Shiite, Christian, Turkmen and Kurdish religious leaders were gathered at the table was an amazing statement of faith.&quot; Bouman noted that a group of Izidi religious leaders were also invited to the meeting in Istanbul but unable to come, adding that &quot;One Izidi leader said, 'When the soul is destroyed without a sin and the land is usurped by force and man is displaced coercively, that is repugnant injustice.' And so began communication they sent to us.&quot;<br> <br>&quot;I felt I saw history unfold during the first meeting of Iraqi religious leaders convened by Norway and accompanied by four American leaders. Our U.S. group included U.S. Rep. James McDermott of Washington and two leaders from Catholic University​​,&quot; said Bouman.<br> <br>&quot;Unlike the Iranian process, where safe space is created by not being too public, this process is meant to be shared as broadly as possible. Congressman McDermott committed to reading an Izidi statement into the Congressional Record, and I will share it broadly through the ELCA Conference of Bishops and our church's ecumenical and interfaith partners,&quot; said Bouman, adding that he will continue to commit and participate in dialogue among these religious leaders.​</p></div>11/07/2014ELCA synod responds to Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone ELCA Newshttp://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/61http://elca.org/News-and-Events/blogs/NewsBlog/61<div class="ExternalClass91E31254E39B4C7AA93C5EAEBA8189EA"><p>​<span style="line-height&#58;1.6;">The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's (ELCA) Northern Texas – Northern Louisiana Synod has raised more than $85,000 in response to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. The funds have provided humanitarian assistance for the synod's companion church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone.</span></p><p>&quot;Our hearts have broken as we have heard stories of the spread of the disease,&quot; said the Rev. Kevin S. Kanouse, bishop of the synod. &quot;We are hearing stories of people dying of treatable diseases, who will not go to the clinics to get medicine because they are afraid they will get Ebola there.&quot; </p><p>&quot;While none of our pastors or individuals in our churches have died from the disease, everyone knows someone who has, and it continues to spread and move closer. Many of our churches are in quarantined villages and they cannot go out to get food, nor can people, without personal protective equipment, come into the villages. The movement of food is very difficult. Costs of food have at least tripled during this time. We know these pastors and members and are personally touched by their crisis.&quot;</p><p>The synod funds have provided for three containers of supplies, which include personal protective equipment and steramine, a high-intensity cleansing agent. The funds have also gone toward food distribution programs to help those who are in treatment centers and for individuals who are under quarantine.</p><p>The Rev. Thomas H. Barnett, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone, said the church in Sierra Leone and the ELCA Northern Texas – Northern Louisiana Synod have &quot;nurtured a participatory partnership in mission&quot; since 1988, when the ELCA was formed and The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone was founded.&#160; </p><p>&quot;For me and my brothers and sisters&#160;in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone, our relationship has been based on the acceptance of each other in love and mutual respect, and the commitment to our fundamental understanding&#160;of the church as a community of faith called to live out that faith in service to others,&quot; said Barnett.&#160; </p><p>&quot;The current support for the Ebola crisis is merely in line with our shared core values and our sense of mission. The congregations and all the affected in the communities are thankful and proud of the friendship,&quot; he said.</p><p>Members of Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church in Amarillo, Texas, have raised more than $2,000 to help their companions in Sierra Leone.</p><p>&quot;It is a gift for us to be partners with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone,&quot; said the Rev. Stephen D. Friedrich, pastor of Beautiful Savior. &quot;We are still living into what it means to be connected, what it can look like and how that can happen from the other side of the world. This is a congregation that rallies when someone is in need, so in the midst of this Ebola crisis our congregation found a natural way to rally in a small way to the need of one of our own,&quot; he said.</p><p>Friedrich said his congregation has been connected with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone over the years through communications from ELCA missionaries and also through opportunities to meet Bishop Barnett during mission (or synod) assemblies. ELCA missionaries who were serving in Liberia and Sierra Leone are currently in the United States, waiting until the situation improves before they travel to the area.</p><p>&quot;I think the connection we share in Christ will go much deeper than money and following from a distance,&quot; said Friedrich. &quot;I hope that as we connect with our new ELCA missionary in Sierra Leone, that we will begin to share more stories and deepen our relationships. I look forward to God using the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone to help us to grow in faith.&quot;</p><p>&quot;In many and diverse ways, this is what the ELCA Northern Texas –Northern Louisiana Synod has been and&#160;continues to be to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone,&quot; said Barnett.&#160; The companion synod relationship has often empowered and emboldened us to be the serving church in our society.&quot;</p><p>&#160;&quot;We cannot just turn inward and take care of ourselves, because when one member of the body of Christ suffers, we all suffer. This makes us church for the sake of the world,&quot; said Kanouse. &quot;Many wish that we would just 'take care of ourselves.' These are brothers and sisters who are family to us.&quot; </p><p>In addition to the funds from the ELCA Northern Texas – Northern Louisiana Synod, Lutheran Disaster Response has provided $125,000 in humanitarian assistance in response to the Ebola outbreak. The funds have been used to purchase and ship personal protective equipment, medical supplies and food. The funds have also been used to help raise awareness of the symptoms and prevention of Ebola and to help with the construction of an isolation unit at Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing. Phebe Hospital, a Lutheran hospital, is the largest public health institution in Liberia.</p><p>&quot;The ELCA has been working with the Lutheran churches in Liberia and Sierra Leone directly and through (appeals from) Action by Churches Together,&quot; said Vitaly Vorona, ELCA program director for Lutheran Disaster Response International. &quot;The Ebola crisis classifies as a complex and very sensitive emergency. The community awareness, resilience and mobilization are a major focus in the response of our companion churches and partners in Liberia and Sierra Leone.&quot;</p></div>10/24/2014