You are invited to read the proposed “A Declaration of Inter-Religious Commitment: A policy statement of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.”
This document comes to you bearing the wisdom of many who have participated in the process of review and revision over the past year. It is strongly affirmed by the ELCA Conference of Bishops, and unanimously recommended by the ELCA Church Council.
Hearings will take place during the 2019 Churchwide Assembly. Voting members and visitors will have an opportunity to raise questions and to share about their own inter-religious engagement. The Assembly will consider the proposed document for action during the ecumenical and inter-religious plenary on Thursday, August 8. Should the Churchwide Assembly adopt this text, it will stand alongside “A Declaration of Ecumenical Commitment: A policy statement of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America” (1991).
It is exciting to be on the cusp of considering a common basis for our inter-religious relations across the diverse ministries and contexts of this church. It is the hope of the Inter-Religious Task Force, and its chair Bishop Patricia Lull, that you will find renewed joy and fresh insights as you read this document, and that you will experience its potential as a tool to aid practical application and theological reflection in the places where you worship and serve.
This proposed declaration reflects the realities of our long-standing inter-religious relations as a church, while giving us a framework for a common articulation of our context, our calling and our commitments to this vocation. We are truly freed in Christ to engage our neighbors in this multi-religious world.
In 1991, the second Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America adopted, “A Declaration of Ecumenical Commitment: A Policy Statement of the ELCA.” This document provided a common theological basis and framework for this church’s ecumenical relations. Acknowledging the important distinction between seeking unity amongst Christians and “the responsibility of the Church to enter into conversations and reach greater understanding with people of other faiths,” the Declaration called for a “separate, official statement to describe [the ELCA’s] commitments and aspirations” in the area of inter-religious relations.
The Task Force worked for a year to develop a draft, which was completed by late 2017. After a process of preliminary review by various full communion, ecumenical and inter-religious partners, as well as by the ELCA Conference of Bishops’ Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Liaison Committee and the board of the Lutheran Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Representatives Network (LEIRN), the draft was publicly posted.
From January through June 2018, individuals, congregations, networks, and institutions of this church shared their input and feedback with the Task Force. Over the summer months of 2018, the drafting team worked to revise the document accordingly. It was then brought to the Conference of Bishops and Church Council in the fall of 2018. On the whole, the proposed document is resonant with the initial draft, but also notably different. A new structure, as well as clarified content, have emerged.
In October 2018, the ELCA Conference of Bishops strongly encouraged the ELCA Church Council to recommend the proposed policy statement for adoption by the 2019 Churchwide Assembly. In November 2018, the ELCA Church Council unanimously took this action. You can view a timeline of the complete process for the policy statement here.