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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.

Preaching and Teaching “With Love and Respect for the Jewish People”

By Rev. Peter A. Pettit

We have just navigated our way through Reformation Sunday once again and many in the church will have wrestled with the appointed texts of the Revised Common Lectionary. Jeremiah’s “new covenant,” Paul’s “faith apart from works of the law,” and John’s “if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” all lean into the problematic posture of the church’s millennia-long anti-Jewish rhetoric. Few among us want to go there; any echo of that rhetoric in our preaching and teaching is usually unintentional. The ELCA in 1994 spoke explicitly, in “A Declaration of the ELCA to the Jewish Community,” of “our urgent desire to live out our faith in Jesus Christ with love and respect for the Jewish people.” That means we need to learn to step clearly away from even unintentional offenses into which the lectionary and long-standing theological habits might lean us.

A 56-page guide that has recently been published on the ELCA website lays out steppingstones for taking those deliberate steps of understanding, respect, and authentic representation in relation to our Jewish neighbors and their faith traditions. The guide distils decades of recent research into accessible sections focused on ten key areas of textual, historical, and theological significance. Prophetic language, Jewish leadership in Jesus’ day as well as Jewish diversity then and now, Jesus and the Torah, gospel contexts, Paul among Jews and Gentiles and Martin Luther’s reading of Paul, law and gospel, promise and fulfillment, old/new language regarding covenants, and the dynamics of lectionary constructions all gain clarity through the explication of core principles and numerous examples. Indexes to both scripture and the lectionary calendar aid in locating relevant discussions.

The guide was developed by the ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations with input from many ELCA colleagues, consultants in the Episcopal, Roman Catholic, and Presbyterian churches, scholars from around the world, and Jewish partners. Dr. Phil Cunningham, a leading Roman Catholic expert at St. Joseph’s University, admitted to a measure of “holy envy” when seeing the guide published. (Of course, he was quoting the Lutheran bishop, Krister Stendahl, with that phrase!). Prof. Ruth Sandberg at Gratz College and Prof. Dan Joslyn-Siemiatkoski at Boston College have already committed to using it in courses on “Post-Holocaust Theology” and “Un-doing Anti-Judaism in the Church.”

Rabbi James Rudin, senior interreligious advisor to the American Jewish Committee, plans to use it in a local dialogue group in Florida. He cheers it as “most useful on a ‘retail’ level (congregational clergy and laity) because it clearly focuses on many of the neuralgic issues present in authentic Christian encounters with Jews and Judaism.” Abel Bibliowicz, author of Jewish-Christian Relations: the First Centuries (4th ed., 2022), has called the guide “thoughtful, courageous and paradigmatic…, a groundbreaking and admirable effort.”

As a handy reference to support weekly preparation, a study document for a clergy or adult study group, or the focus of a retreat or learning series on thinking as Christians in relation to Jews and Judaism, the guide can provide resources for a wide range of settings in the church and beyond. It can be accessed as a downloadable PDF on the ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations resource page and through


Peter A. Pettit is teaching pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport IA and a member of the Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations. For 20 years he directed the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding of Muhlenberg College.


New Horizons for Episcopal-Lutheran Relations

By Richard J. Mammana

The Episcopal Church’s 80th General Convention in Baltimore this summer was a watershed moment for relationships of Lutherans and Anglicans around the world. The triennial gathering was delayed by a year because of the global Covid pandemic, but the bicameral legislative process (one house for bishops and another for priests and lay deputies) has been in place since 1785. The General Convention makes decisions about the mission and governance of The Episcopal Church, the official name of which is the Domestic and Foreign Missionary Society of the Protestant Episcopal Church in the United States of America.

ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth Eaton brought prerecorded video greetings to the assembly, wishing God’s blessing on its deliberations. She was joined by Dr. Heinrich Bedford-Strohm of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria and new communion partners the Rev. Susan C. Johnson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and Archbishop Antje Jackelén of the Church of Sweden.

While the video greetings were brief and represented an accommodation to health precautions, they were also a sign of increasing depth and breadth in international Anglican-Lutheran relations. (Previous conventions have had in-person ecumenical guests, observers, preachers, and participants from across the Christian spectrum in addition to the presence of representatives from other religious traditions.)

2022 marks two decades of full communion between the ELCA and The Episcopal Church—a pioneering decision for Christians in the United States that now bears fruit in about two hundred ministry sites including combined church plants, shared facilities, joint camping ministries and governmental advocacy, food pantries, campus ministries, archival work, very regular exchange of pastoral care and preaching, and collaboration in educational initiatives. Resolution A183 celebrated continued cooperation and shared ministries between the ELCA and The Episcopal Church.

Two memorial resolutions honored the contributions of Episcopal priest-ecumenists J. Robert Wright (1936-2022) and William Norgren (1927-2022) for their work in shepherding the dialogues that led to Called to Common Mission and the current full communion relationship. Another resolution continued the mandate for the Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee, which provides resources for implementation of the full communion between the churches: devotional and educational material, liturgical guides, historical documentation, and asset mapping, in addition to constituting a contact group for relations on the official denominational level.

This year also saw an expansion of Called to Common Mission in the United States and the Waterloo Declaration for Canadian Anglicans and Lutherans by creating a new ecumenical, transnational grouping called Churches Beyond Borders. This is a quadrilateral or four-way relationship among the ELCA, The Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church of Canada, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada. Drawing on a 2018 agreement at Niagara Falls, Ontario, this new full communion family affirms the integrity of the bilateral relationships while committing the four churches to ongoing work on the Doctrine of Discovery, climate change, racial reconciliation, gender justice, and other matters specific to North America. It will have important applications in the 13 American states that border Canada and the six Canadian provinces and one territory that border the United States, where First Nations communities and their life and work can both pre-date and transcend national boundaries.

The Episcopal Church also continued this summer to work toward deeper bonds with international Lutheran bodies—one looking back to 350 years of mutual contact in colonial North America and the other to the ongoing needs of the church for diakonia in refugee and asylee resettlement in modern Europe.

The 2022 General Convention’s acceptance of a relationship of full communion with the Church of Sweden completes proposals begun in the 1850s and contacts that began in the middle 1600s. Swedish colonial churches in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries offer early examples of shared ministry between Anglicans and Lutherans; most Swedish Lutheran churches of this period had joined The Episcopal Church by the 1840s. Great waves of Swedish immigration to the United States, sometimes without adequate ecclesiastical accompaniment, further intensified the coming-together of these communities and resulted in 45 Swedish-speaking missions of The Episcopal Church throughout the United States. Full communion will facilitate the sharing of clergy and the greater mutual integration of Americans into Swedish church life and vice versa, fulfilling three and a half centuries of life together. It will also give a deeper context for international disaster relief work done in common and with shared partners.

Still one more emerging connection moved forward in Baltimore this summer is The Episcopal Church’s commendation of a proposal entitled “Sharing the Gifts of Communion” (the Augsburg Agreement) with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bavaria. The background for this agreement is partnership in diaconal ministries in southern Germany by members of the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe and the clergy and leaders of the major local Lutheran landeskirche (regional church). The urgency of this collaboration has intensified in the past five decades along with globalization and Germany’s acceptance of large numbers of refugees from regions of conflict or social oppression. A strong postwar presence of Americans in Germany is part of the explanation for the vitality of Episcopal churches here. The Augsburg Agreement, when accepted by both churches, will make for a new transnational Christian relationship in the further service of the Gospel, rooted in existing regional and international agreements extended to a fresh context in creative ways.

The persistence and proliferation of these Episcopal-Lutheran relationships is notable because of their responsiveness to changing religious and social landscapes in all of the places where they are emerging. Just as global Lutheranism marked a 500th anniversary of gospel freedom in 2017, Anglicans will look to a similar five centuries of our Lutheran-inspired reforms in 1534. The two communities have been in arrangements of mutual communication, occasionally antagonism, and often strong support of one another for all of this time, with a summer of new and renewed connections drawing a bright line under important trajectories of recognition and repair.

My long view of these new horizons in Episcopal-Lutheran relations is that something very good is afoot, and that it will not make headlines in the same way that the earliest movements toward ELCA-Episcopal full communion did. There is no more controversy; all of the General Convention resolutions passed without dissent in two houses famous for their canonical precision and (sometimes partisan) passion. In the short space of twenty years in the American case, strangers now are friends because of one Lord, and for the sake of one world. There has been little news coverage because the decisions generate all light and no heat.

For the other outgrowths of mutual love and recognition, the CCM experience of deep realization that we see ourselves in one another—and that in each other we must also see Jesus Christ—provides an impulse to seek other forms and opportunities of similar connection wherever they can strengthen the church for the healing of the nations. Denver has led us in its way to Waterloo and then to Niagara, and now to Uppsala and Frankfurt by way of Baltimore, and we are glad indeed.


Richard J. Mammana has served as Episcopal Church Associate for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations since 2014. A descendant of the founders of German Lutheranism in eastern Pennsylvania, he is a staff member of the Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee (

Studying Ecumenism – Strasbourg Ecumenical Institute Online Course

Registration closes August 31


The Strasbourg Ecumenical Institute offers advanced training in ecumenical theology for Lutheran pastors. The next study course will be held online from October 10-14, 2022.

The course will be held in English and is designed for pastors with parish experience or for students with advanced knowledge of Lutheran theology. It will cover an overview of the most important ecumenical agreements between Lutherans and other Christian communions over the past half century. In addition, students will examine the ways churches on the different continents are putting those agreements into practice in their local contexts and how leaders and local communities learn from the ecumenical experiences of those in other parts of the globe.

The goal of the week-long course is to equip participants with knowledge of the principle ecumenical agreements between the Lutheran World Federation and its dialogue partners, mainly in the Catholic, Mennonite, Orthodox and Pentecostal churches. Students will also be asked to discuss relations with other Christians in their respective countries with the aim of developing pathways for further rapprochement at local and national level.

Another objective of the course (open only to a maximum of 20 participants) is to allow students from a wide variety of cultural and religious contexts to engage in “intense transcultural dialogue about ecumenical theology and practice.” Organizers hope that these in-depth conversations will serve to strengthen and build relations between churches within the Lutheran World Federation (LWF).

LWF’s Assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Relations and acting director of the Strasbourg Institute, Prof. Dr Dirk Lange, said: “The LWF has committed itself to the ecumenical way towards ecclesial communion. To move forward on that journey, encouraging local ecumenical initiatives and strengthening connections between these initiatives and global dialogues, is critical. This course is an incredible opportunity to enter more profoundly into this dynamic.”

Learn more at the course’s landing page: Study-Course-October22.pdf (

Apply today: application_form-studyingecumenism2022.pdf (