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Preview the Thirteenth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation

One week from today the Thirteenth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation will begin in Krakow, Poland. The Assembly will take place September 13-19, and serves as the highest decision-making body of the LWF, which represents 77 million people from 150 member churches across 99 countries. In addition to celebrating the common faith of the Lutheran communion across contexts and cultures, the Assembly offers mutual enrichment through joint reflection and discernment while providing a platform for joint decision-making. As the principal authority of the LWF, the Assembly is the most representative expression of the LWF communion. Delegates from all member churches take part. The outcomes and decisions will lay the foundation for the work of the LWF in the coming six to seven years.

The theme for this year’s assembly – One Body, One Spirit, One Hope – reminds us that in a fragmented world, we are called to unity in the one body of Christ. The theme is drawn from Ephesians 4:4 (NRSV): “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling.”

There are also three subthemes – the Spirit creates, the Spirit reconciles, the Spirit renews – which will help delegates reflect upon and interpret the main theme in light of the creative, reconciling and transformative love of God.

Two Pre-Assemblies get underway this weekend, the Women’s Pre-Assembly (Sept 8-11) in Wroclaw and the Youth Pre-Assembly (Sept 8-11) in Wisla Malinka. The Men’s Pre-Assembly will be held on September 12 in Krakow.


The Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession in Poland is serving as the host church for this year’s Assembly and is one of the founding members of the Lutheran World Federation. A minority church in Poland, the numbers vary from region to region with the largest population in Cieszyn Silesia region (about 47,000). Smaller communities can be found in Upper Silesia and Masuria regions. Lutheran parishes in the rest of the country are located in larger cities. The church functions mainly in the diaspora, in six dioceses. It has 133 parishes and 150 ministers.

You can learn more about the host church and the country of Poland in the Welcome to Poland guide, which is available for download in English, German, Spanish, and French on the Assembly website.



The Assembly Study Guide is a publication aimed at preparing LWF member churches for the Thirteenth Assembly. It is offered as a resource to inspire reflections on how the global communion of churches is called and equipped to be a sign of hope in the midst of God’s creation as it participates in God’s holistic mission. The study guide is available to download in English, Spanish, German, and French via the Assembly website.


In the document From Windhoek to Krakow: Six-Year Report you’re invited to discover the Lutheran World Federations’ workover the last six years as it started on the threshold of commemorating 500 years of the Reformation and the new LWF Strategy 2019 –2024. The Six-Year Report is available to download in English and German, with Spanish and French added prior to the start of the Assembly via the Assembly website.


Two seminary presidents from Indonesia and Ethiopia and a retired archbishop from the Church of Sweden will be exploring the theme of ‘One Body, One Spirit, One Hope’ during plenary sessions at the assembly.

Indonesian New Testament scholar, Rev. Dr Benny Sinaga is president of the Sekolah Tinggi Bibelvrouw, an all-women’s seminary located beside Lake Toba in North Sumatra. She will present the topic of ‘One Body’, exploring what it means for churches to be “one in Christ” in a polarized, post-pandemic world.

Rev. Dr Bruk Ayele, president of the Mekane Yesus seminary, in Ethiopia, will explore the topic of ‘One Spirit’, reflecting on how the Holy Spirit can guide us towards unity amid the current crises facing our world.

The former archbishop of the Church of Sweden and vice president of the Nordic region, Rev. Dr Antje Jackelén, will be the third presenter, reflecting on the topic of ‘One Hope’. Hope is a central theme in Jackelén’s writing and preaching. She published a book in Swedish entitled ‘Impatient in Hope’, to support pastors during the pandemic.

You can learn more about all three thematic speakers in this article on the Assembly website.


Those attending the Assembly in Poland will visit Auschwitz-Birkenau memorial and museum, which preserves the memory of the more than one million people who were murdered in the Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War. The visit to the memorial and museum by participants will be “a call to action to stand together, wherever people’s dignity is being violated.”


Hope for the Future is a study document for renewing Jewish-Christian Relations. This forward-looking title that resonates with Thirteenth Assembly theme “One Body, One Spirit, One Hope” as serves as a guide to continuing opportunities for dialogue and exchange with our Jewish siblings. Dr. Esther Menn, who is the Dean of Academic Affairs at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago and chairs the ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations served as the chair of the Study Document Task Force.

LWF General Secretary, Rev Dr. Anne Burghardt shared the following in the preface:

“I invite LWF member churches to use this study document as an educational resource and reflective guide in renewing Jewish-Christian relations in their respective contexts. In our world increasingly characterized by polarization, hostility, and even hate toward people who are different from us, may this document inspire member churches to be messengers of hope both locally and globally bringing justice, peace and reconciliation to all.”

Be sure to follow along throughout the Assembly at, where you’ll be able to access photos, press releases, and livestreams. Also, you can follow along via LWF and ELCA social media platforms.

Content from this post was pulled directly from and

Understanding the Knesset’s (Israeli parliament) Recent Ruling in Light of our Jewish Relations

Last week the ruling coalition in Israel’s Knesset (parliament) took a unilateral vote that puts further strain on an already fragile situation. The following post is offered by the ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations in response to these actions and in solidarity with those who seek democracy and the well-being of all in the region.

A unilateral vote by the ruling coalition in Israel’s Knesset (parliament) on Monday, 24 July, presents a challenging moment and distinctive opportunity for us as interfaith partners with the Jewish people. Here are a few details about what happened, what it means, and how we might respond.

What happened: Israel’s ruling coalition led by Benjamin Netanyahu passed a law that eliminates the power of the Supreme Court of Israel to invalidate laws and governmental actions that are deemed “unreasonable.”

That standard is familiar in other legal systems that are legacies of British colonial rule and is used infrequently in Israel – at most, only a handful of times each year. Yet it is crucial in Israel’s democracy. In the absence of a constitution and a tripartite government akin to the US, this power of the court is one of the most significant checks on any government’s ability to rule by whim and dictate.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court in September will hear multiple petitions asking it to rule that this legislation itself is illegitimate. Stay tuned. Also, the Knesset goes into its late-summer recess on Monday, 31 July. Further legislative action on the coalition agenda will not take place until October. One hope voiced in Israel is that the break will allow for dialogue and negotiations in a cooler political climate.

What it means: This action is widely seen as a first step toward establishing the current coalition as the de facto administration of a virtual Netanyahu dictatorship. The US Jewish Reform Movement, in its response, “vehemently condemns” what it describes as “strongarm tactics [to] push through this divisive legislation which imperils Israel’s already-fragile democracy.” The conflict over the legislation underscores a deep rift within Israeli society about national identity, values, and priorities. Hundreds of thousands of protesters have been in Israel’s streets for 30 consecutive weeks in opposition to the coalition’s larger plan, of which “this is the first significant step.” The vote itself was unanimous only because the Knesset opposition beforehand walked out en masse in protest against the process.

The legislation is causing significant disruption in Israeli society, with repercussions for Palestinian Lutherans and the work of the Lutheran World Federation in the region, such as Augusta Victoria Hospital (AVH) in East Jerusalem. The hospital is a key provider of health services for the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem, Gaza and the West Bank as a member of the East Jerusalem Hospitals Network.  AVH’s diabetes, dialysis, and pediatric oncology programs also benefit from close cooperation with nearby Hadassah Hospital.

That cooperation and AVH’s critical services could be severely harmed if there is a significant exodus of Israeli doctors from the country. Such a scenario is not impossible, as an organization has already been set up to assist Israeli doctors who choose to leave.

More broadly, the policies of the ruling coalition regarding Palestinians both within Israel and in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza are already the harshest of any Israeli government to date. Those who have sponsored and supported the legislation have made it clear that they would seek further steps that include expanding the scope of the illegal West Bank settlements by Jewish Israelis, strengthening police powers against protesters and suspected terrorists, and narrowing civil rights for non-Jews. If this legislative victory stands, it means even more difficult days and nights for Palestinian communities in an already-dire circumstance.

What we can do: As in any crisis, a word of encouragement and solidarity with our Jewish neighbors in the U.S. who are concerned for the future of Israel’s democracy would be very timely. Supporting our Jewish neighbors as the political process works out in Israel is the most helpful thing we can do. The 1991 ELCA social statement, “The Church in Society,” includes a commitment to “work to further democratic processes throughout the territory of this church and the world, and to redress the persisting social and economic inequalities that prevent many from participating effectively in those processes.” Standing with and encouraging those who work to sustain and expand Israel’s democratic character is one way we can embody that commitment.

Israel is one of the “sancta” of the Jewish people, as noted in the recent ELCA study guide, Preaching and Teaching “With Love and Respect for the Jewish People.”  Jews around the world look to Israel as the national expression of their peoplehood. Public and private prayer on behalf of Israelis, the Jewish people around the world, and Palestinians who are affected by the crisis is certainly in order. See examples below from Pr. Peg Schultz-Akerson in Santa Monica, CA. Feel free to use them and adapt them as appropriate to local circumstances (as in the naming of other countries with which your own community may have particular ties).

Staying informed regarding the legislation and ongoing developments is also key to constructive engagement and interpretation.

Prayer Examples:
Merciful God, we pray for wise actions in response to these critical days in the Holy Lands. Especially we pray for the safeguarding of democracy for the State of Israel. Protect and empower all who courageously advocate for a sustainable future for all who share the Holy Lands, including the Palestinian people. Protect us from religious nationalisms that are divisive and intolerant. Strengthen all efforts for good. 
God of mercy, receive our prayer. 
Thank you, generous God, for the life-saving work of our Lutheran World Federation’s Augusta Victoria Hospital on the Mount of Olives. Bless its care for the underserved in the West Bank and Gaza. May the resources needed be multiplied to meet the growing needs, including the support given by the United States and others. Strengthen efforts toward positive change throughout the world, including in Iran, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria, and in the United States.
God of mercy, receive our prayer.

A Season of Action: Ecumenical Responses to the Climate Crisis

On Thursday, April 20, 2023 the ELCA Church Council unanimously adopted the church’s sixteenth social message, titled “Earth’s Climate Crisis — an action that acknowledges the urgency of this critical moment and our responsibility as Christians to respond decisively. On this Earth Day, 2023, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton released a video on the ELCA’s Facebook page highlighting this call to action. Eaton named this as a “moment of Kairos, a critical moment in time when God is calling for decisive action in history.”

This action will need to happen in our congregations and communities, but also reach far beyond them, because challenges this monumental require strategic collaboration and partnerships. Here are just a few snapshots of how the climate crisis is being met through ecumenical engagement, statements, and actions from the ELCA, the World Council of Churches, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.


Ecumenical Conference on Faith and Climate Justice in Puerto Rico

By: Rev. Dr. Carmelo Santos

On Saturday February 25, 2023 nearly 300 hundred people gathered for the first ecumenical conference on Faith and Climate Justice in Puerto Rico. The conference was an initiative of the ELCA Office of the Presiding Bishop through the combined leadership of Jennifer DeLeon, ELCA Director for Racial Justice, and myself, the ELCA Director for Theological Diversity and Ecumenical & Inter-Religious Engagement, along with the generous sponsorship of Lutheran Disaster Response and ELCA World Hunger.

The actual planning and implementation of the event was a beautiful ecumenical collaboration between the ELCA’s Caribbean Synod (Office of the Bishop), the Diocese of Puerto Rico of the Episcopal Church, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Archdiocese of San Juan of the Catholic Church (through their “pastoral ecological” of Sister Lissette Aviles), and civic organizations such as the Rockefeller Foundation. The purpose of the event was to prayerfully discern together how the challenge of climate justice can be addressed from the perspective of faith, with examples of what is already happening on the ground.

We chose Puerto Rico in part because the Caribbean is on the front lines of climate change, as demonstrated by the devastating effects of hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 from which the people are still recovering, and because of the creative ways in which churches and civic groups are responding to the challenge. The rest of the church can learn much from what is happening there.

The event opened with a prayer from the Episcopal bishop followed by a presentation on the basics of climate change by a local prominent scientist and a video that we commissioned on the history of the work on faith-based climate justice in Puerto Rico. That was followed by a series of presentations by inspiring leaders on the ways different organizations are making a positive impact at the local level addressing the challenges of climate (in)justice in very practical ways. Others presented on the theology underlying the work of climate justice, from Pope Francis’ encyclical Laudato Si, to biblical texts and theological principles guiding this work. The event concluded by people gathering into small groups selected based on the region of the island where they live, so that they could discuss, with the guidance of leaders who had been trained ahead of time, how the issues discussed affect their communities immediately and how they might have been feeling called by the Spirit to get involved.

Our time together created much excitement and momentum to join efforts ecumenically in the urgent work of climate justice done from a faith perspective. We are working on editing the presentations and securing permissions to make them available to the wider public. We will also be planning how to build on this success.


Equity is the Path to Sustainability

This is an excerpt from a WCC article published on March 22, 2023. The article can be read in its entirety here.

World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay commented on the synthesis of the 6th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released 20 March.

There is a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all,” the report underlines. Rapid and far-reaching transitions across all sectors and systems are necessary.”

The report also adds that our choices and actions—or inaction—in the next few years will have impacts now and for thousands of years.”

Pillay underscored that the climate emergency demands integrated and coordinated efforts. The report clearly shows that climate change is not merely an environmental phenomenon but one with profound implications on economies, societies, and the health and livelihoods of people especially those living in poverty,” he said. This means that our response to the climate emergency must take an integrated and coordinated approach, understanding that mitigation and adaptation efforts are two sides of the same coin, comprehending the necessity of institutional, economic, and social transformation, and recognizing the need for global collaboration to unite our efforts.”

A second message Pillay shared is that equity is the path to sustainability. The report reveals that the way forward is a climate-resilient development that integrates actions to curb emissions with measures to adapt to climate change in ways that enhance peoples health and livelihoods while at the same time reducing hunger, poverty, and inequality and delivering clean energy, water, and air for all,” he said, adding a third point: Climate solutions exist; political commitment is needed.”

But political will is not enough, he concluded. The pursuit of short-term financial gains through aggressive land use and wanton resource extraction has wrought immeasurable costs to life and all creation and will impose a heavy  burden on our children for millennia, imperiling their very future,” he said. As Christians we believe that life-in-creation is a sacred gift from God.”


A Message from Anglican, Lutheran Leaders for Earth Day 2023

Originally published by on April 18, 2023

Every year on April 22nd, communities and individuals around the world participate in Earth Day. This is a global occasion for collective reflection on our current environmental realities, and an opportunity for commitment to action to protect and preserve Creation for the generations to come. As Christians, we are called to recognize the sacredness of the gift of God’s Creation at all times, and Earth Day provides a distinct occasion to join with other faith communities, networks and civil society organizations  to address the ongoing ecological crisis.

This year we join with our partners in the For the Love of Creation network to encourage you to come Together For the Love of Creation throughout Earth Week (April 16-22). This is an opportunity to break down barriers between faith communities by considering ways we might come together with others to connect, grow, listen, inspire hope, and affect change. You might plan an activity or a gathering and invite others in your community to join you, or you may seek out what others are doing and find ways to come alongside those efforts. Activities might range from intentional times of prayer to greening of your church buildings to policy advocacy with all levels of government. There are some suggestions for activities on the For the Love of Creation website, along with an interactive map where groups can share information on local events across the country. Together we can amplify each others efforts, and increase the effectiveness of our actions.

We cannot deny that the crisis does indeed continue across the globe. Significant and sustained increases to global temperatures are resulting in increased extreme weather events, accelerated biodiversity loss, and ongoing impacts on health and well-being. These impacts continue to be experienced disproportionately by Indigenous peoples and by communities in Global South countries, particularly in low-lying coastal areas and small island nations. Only through collective action can we limit these negative outcomes and reduce the impact of a changing climate.

As we continue to celebrate the miracle of Christ’s resurrection, let us keep hold of the hope of new life and new possibility that is offered to us. It is not too late for us to make a measurable difference in the impacts of global warming and biodiversity loss. The most recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change insists that with “deep, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions” it is still possible to slow the rate of global warming.1 There is still hope, and by acting together we can help to cultivate this hope for our world.

As you work together with your communities this Earth Week (and beyond), please join us in prayer:

Loving God, be with us as we face the challenges in caring for this Creation which you have shared with us. Enfold us as we come together for the love of your Creation. Inspire us as we continue to seek new and creative ways to preserve this gift of Creation for those who will come after us. Amen

[signed] +Christopher Harper
The Most Rev. Chris Harper
National Indigenous Anglican Archbishop, Anglican Church of Canada

[signed] +Susan C Johnson
The Rev. Susan Johnson
National Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada

[signed] +Linda Nicholls
The Most Rev. Linda Nicholls
Archbishop and Primate, Anglican Church of Canada

  1. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, “Synthesis Report of the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6): Summary for Policymakers” paragraph B.1, p.12

ELCA-Disciples Bilateral Dialogue Affirms Shared Understanding of Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry

The following is cross published with permission from


The ELCA and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

By the Rev. Paul S. Tché

Fullerton, California – The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) concluded a productive meeting on January 26-28, 2023, at the Disciples Ministry Center in Fullerton, California, to continue their ongoing bilateral dialogue.

The dialogue team studied together the WCC Faith and Order Commission’s theological convergent text, Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry (1984), led by Bishop Emeritus Donald J. McCoid, who served as Assistant to the Presiding Bishop and Executive for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations of the ELCA.

The discussions focused on the shared understanding of baptism, Eucharist, and ministry and how they are biblically rooted and ecumenically influenced. The dialogue team spent time with the two heads of both communions, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton and General Minister and President Terri Hord Owens, to report the progress made in the course of dialogues for the last three years.

The Pacific Southwest Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) hosted the meeting with great hospitality. The gathering opened with the liturgy from the 2023 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, where Rev. Belva Brown Jordan, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, preached as a guest preacher. The meeting ended with a communion service.

The dialogue team was able to affirm their shared understanding and deepen their knowledge of each other at this meeting.

Bishop William Gafkjen, the Lutheran co-chair, reflected on this meeting as follows:

This meeting was a Spirit-led big step forward in getting to know one another and each other’s tradition with depth and dimension. We were moved beyond knowledge of the people and movements that led to the establishment of our two traditions toward more intimate familiarity with and mutual honoring of the fullness and complexity of each church’s contemporary commitments, concerns, practices, and perspectives. This was a crucial and energizing turn on this path of finding new and fruitful ways to manifest the unity that is ours in Christ for the sake of our shared participation in God’s mission of hope, healing, and reconciliation in the world.

Similarly, Rev. Dr. Robert Cornwall, the co-chair of the Disciples, shared the same sentiment in reflecting on this meeting:

Seeking Christian unity has been our Disciples’ polar star. It is in that spirit that we have entered into the conversation with the ELCA. While there are areas of difference, as we might expect, in our recent conversation making use of the Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry document, we have found many areas of affirmation and convergence that will provide a solid foundation for the journey ahead as we seek to more fully embody what it means to be the Body of Christ. Therefore, we are excited about what comes next.

The ELCA and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) look forward to their upcoming online meeting in the fall.

The ELCA and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) have a long-standing relationship and continue to work towards greater unity and cooperation in mission and ministry.

For more information about the ELCA-Disciples Bilateral Dialogue, please contact Kathryn Lohre, Executive for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations and Theological Discernment, ELCA, at Kathryn.Lohre (at), or Rev. Paul Tché, President of the Christian Unity and Interfaith Ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), at cuim (at)

The Rev. Paul S. Tché, President of the Christian Unity and Interfaith Ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada.

For more information visit the ELCA-Disciples Bi-lateral Dialogue page on
A version of this piece was also cross published by Living Lutheran.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Begins Today

By Kathryn M. Lohre

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity begins today, bridging the feasts of St. Peter and St. Paul. People around the world will be praying, advocating, and working together to uplift the unity that is God’s gift to us to steward and to share with our neighbors.

This year, the resources jointly published by the Commission on Faith and Order of World Council of Churches and the Dicastery for Promoting Christian Unity, have been prepared by the Minnesota Council of Churches. Rev. Dr. Kelly Sherman Conroy, the ELCA’s first Indigenous (Lakota) woman PhD, and Rev. Antonio Machado, were involved in the process.

The theme, “Do good; seek justice,” is from Isaiah 1:17 and invites participants to reflect on historic and ongoing racial disparities and the possibilities for racial justice. The specific history of terror against Indigenous people in Minnesota and the racial re-reckoning wrought by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in March 2020 encourage all people to consider the realities of their own contexts, and to pray and work for meaningful, transformative change toward God’s intentions of the goodness and justice for all of creation.

You are invited to engage this work in personal prayer and reflection. You may already have plans to join or lead an ecumenical service, as well. Next week, the ELCA and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) will worship using the ecumenical service during our dialogue meeting, led by our common partner in the dialogue who represents the United Church of Christ, Rev. Mark Pettis.

You are also welcome to join the Ecumenical Service hosted today at the Interchurch Center Chapel in New York City, which will stream live on YouTube at 12 PM ET; a recording will also be posted. This is hosted by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, Graymoor Ecumenical & Interreligious Institute, and the Interchurch Center Committee on Ecumenical, Interfaith, and Community Concerns – of which our Lutheran Office for World Community is a part.

We invite you to share a post on the “Lutheran Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Representatives Network” Facebook page of how you engage this week. Whatever you do, and however you do it, may it be to God’s glory and to the edification of Christ’s church.

I close with the prayer from the Day 1 reflections:

Lord, you called your people from slavery into freedom, Give us strength and courage to seek out those who are standing in need of justice. Allow us to see this need and provide help, and through your Holy Spirit gather us into the one fold of Jesus Christ, our Shepherd. Amen


Kathryn Mary Lohre serves as the Executive for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations & Theological Discernment for the ELCA

Church Anew Lifts Up the ELCA’s “Preaching and Teaching with Love and Respect for the Jewish People”

The following article was originally published by Church Anew* and is shared on the EIR Perspectives blog with the permission of the author. The original article can be found at here.


By Dr. Michael J. Chan

This article will introduce readers to a newly-published resource titled, “Preaching and Teaching with Love and Respect for the Jewish People.” This publication is a product of the ELCA’s Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations and was written under the leadership of Dr. Peter Pettit. The title of this new resource echoes the ELCA’s 1994 “A Declaration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to the Jewish Community,” which names an “urgent desire to live out our faith in Jesus Christ with love and respect for the Jewish people.” I was but one contributor to this important work. What follows is my own sense of this document’s significance, goals, and contents. I’ll begin with some reflections on why it is needed in 2022.

Significance in 2022

In measurable ways, Christian-Jewish relations have improved—whether one thinks in terms of public denominational statements, interfaith collaboration, or deeper attention to Jewish sources in Christian circles. And yet corrosive (and often subtle) currents continue to flow through Christian communities of all theological and ideological stripes. Anti-Jewish attitudes and practices are not unique to the political left or right. They are Christian problems with deep historical roots in some of our most cherished understandings of God.

None of this is surprising. Christianity has many dark and disturbing chapters in its history. In far too many cases, those chapters have involved the Christian mistreatment of Jewish neighbors. Lutherans have a particular stake in this conversation, since our namesake (Martin Luther) represented Jews in profoundly disturbing ways, even calling for rulers to adopt explicitly violent policies. (1)

Concern for the impact of Christian theology on Jewish lives remains of critical importance in contemporary America. The FBI gathers data on hate crimes, which are defined as “a committed criminal offense which is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias(es) against a: race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, gender identity.” The data are unambiguous: Jews remain at risk in America today. In fact, of all the religious groups the FBI tracks, Jews are the most at-risk religious group in America. According to the 2020 report, there were 683 anti-Jewish incidents (a 28% drop since 2019), 110 anti-Muslim incidents (a 38% drop since 2019), 15 anti-Buddhist incidents (increase of 200%), and 89 anti-Sikh incidents (82% increase). The Anti-Defamation League also does a yearly audit of anti-Jewish incidents. In 2020, they reported 2,024. The numbers tell a shocking story: The Jewish community bears the brunt of anti-religious hatred in America.

Given these contemporary realities, I was eager to accept an invitation from Dr. Pettit to contribute to “Preaching and Teaching with Love and Respect for Our Jewish Neighbors.” His vision for this project and his resolve to see it to its conclusion animated the writing team’s work at every juncture.

Audience and Usage

As the title indicates, this guide is for anyone in the church who has a teaching or preaching role. At first glance, that might seem too narrowly construed. But it all depends on how one defines preaching and teaching. As I see it, this guide was written for anyone involved in the church’s public witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

With this definition in mind, the audience for this guide includes everyone from pastors to digital content creators, from youth leaders to musicians, and from confirmation teachers to adult education facilitators. Regarding content creators, it is especially important to note the significant role played by visual media in the perpetuation of anti-Jewish concepts and sentiments. This observation was true in the period of the Reformation and remains true today. Anyone charged with the task of teaching children (camp counselors, youth workers, teachers) would benefit from this guide, since many of the most problematic anti-Jewish ideas creep in (often unintentionally) when we are very young.

The guide itself can be used in a variety of ways and contexts. As a starting point, it is divided into ten major sections (more on this below), making the document easy to adapt into a curriculum, whether in the context of individual or group-based study. Given the abundance of bibliographic references, the guide can also serve as an entry point into the larger world of Jewish-Christian dialogue. With the slow rise of Jewish-Christian dialogue, an abundance of resources now exist that can help a person navigate both the joys and complexities of this important conversation. And finally, the guide could easily provide scaffolding for a sermon or teaching series. Many other options exist, but these can at least serve as a starting point.

Content and Organization

The guide is structured around 10 topic areas. The first six emerge out of Scripture itself and include the following:

  • Prophetic language

  • Pharisees, scribes, priests and Jewish elders

  • Jesus and the Jewish law in the Gospels

  • The historical settings of the Gospels

  • Paul among Jews and Gentiles — and later readings of Paul

  • Judaisms of the first century and 21st century.

The final four pay attention to key theological categories that have a special place within Christian (and especially Lutheran) theology and liturgy:

  • Law and gospel; promise and fulfillment

  • Where sin divides (Luther’s notion of sinner/saint)

  • The old/new rhetoric of the Letter to the Hebrews

  • Misleading lectionary dynamics.

Each of these topics is covered in a mini-essay (typically just a few pages long), which begins with a section we title, “Problematic” and “Better.” Here we describe problematic ways the topic of choice has been engaged in the church, followed by a proposal for a better way forward.

Regular call-out boxes draw attention to key biblical texts, practical insights, and other notable facts. Each essay is intended to be theologically rich and eminently practical.

A Handful of Hopes

As a scholar and teacher of the Old Testament, I take great delight in introducing Christians to the fascinating world of early Judaism. This is, quite literally, the matrix of Jesus’ own religious and cultural identity. But more is at stake than mere historical curiosity. Christian love and respect for Jewish people is not simply grounded in the fact that Jews are human beings who bear the image of God—they certainly are, as are all humans. The Jewish people bear an additional mark of dignity: they are a covenant people whose members are the recipients of unbroken divine promises. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection do nothing to alter this. When Christians deny the covenant status of the Jewish people, they undermine the very foundations of Christian hope. Anti-Jewish theology is anti-Christian theology. My first hope is that this guide will encourage a similar conviction among its readers.

I am regularly troubled by how effortlessly we, as Christians, slip into anti-Jewish ways of interpreting the Bible and especially the person and work of Jesus. My second hope is that readers of this guide will develop a deeper awareness of how anti-Jewish currents are still very much at work in Christian churches today—and probably also in their teaching, preaching, and theology.

Finally, I hope this guide will inspire interfaith cooperation. Jewish people are often members of our communities. Jewish children play on soccer teams, participate in 4-H, and make music in the school band. Jewish adults run for local office, manage local businesses, and donate to important causes. It’s one thing to speak more accurately and generatively about Jesus’ Jewish heritage and quite another thing to see Jewish people as important partners in the making of a more fruitful and trustworthy world. Working toward the latter will require Christians first to examine how their own theological tradition works against just such a future.


(1) Gritsch, Eric, Martin Luther’s Anti-Semitism: Against His Better Judgment (Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans, 2012).

*Church Anew is dedicated to igniting faithful imagination and sustaining inspired innovation by offering transformative learning opportunities for church leaders and faithful people.
As an ecumenical and inclusive ministry of St. Andrew Lutheran Church, the content of each Church Anew blog represents the voice of the individual writer and does not necessarily reflect the position of Church Anew or St. Andrew Lutheran Church on any specific topic.
Dr. Michael J. Chan is the Executive Director of the Center for Faith and Work at Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota and serves on the ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations.