From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Presiding Bishop Says Ecumenism Is Lutheran

From Brenda Williams <>
Date 08 Oct 1998 08:25:33


October 8, 1998


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- "The ecumenical question is often posed as a vote
for or against 'Lutheran identity.'  We  cite our confessional tradition as
the reason for our continued separation from other Christian bodies," said
the Rev. H. George Anderson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America (ELCA).  "I believe that it is precisely our Lutheran
identity that drives us to reach out."
     After celebrating a new relationship of "full communion" with three
churches of the Reformed tradition Oct. 4, Anderson walked four blocks
north from the Rockefeller Memorial Chapel to the Lutheran School of
Theology at Chicago (LSTC).  There he addressed more than 150 people on
"The Lutheran Communion and Ecumenical Relationships."
     Anderson introduced several international guests in the audience who
had come for the gala worship service at Rockefeller Chapel and an LSTC-
hosted celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Lutheran World Federation
(LWF).  The guests included LWF General Secretary Ishmael Noko and the
World Council of Churches' General Secretary Konrad Raiser of the
Evangelical (Lutheran) Church of Germany.
     The ELCA's presiding bishop stressed the important role U.S.
Lutherans play among Lutherans around the world in the Lutheran World
Federation.  "Too often we see the LWF as an end in itself," he added,
encouraging Lutherans around the world to "expend, extend and to share"
through greater involvement in the World Council of Churches.
     "What gifts do we bring to the ecumenical movement as a Lutheran
communion?" Anderson asked.  He answered that their confessions and history
give Lutherans "a fundamental aptitude for ecumenism."
     "We know that we are always sinners," said Anderson.  "We understand
that repentance is a part of international and ecumenical relations. ...
In that repentance we discover that God forgives."  That perspective is the
foundation for Lutherans to talk openly with other Christians and with
people of other faiths, he said.
     In the 1920s and 1930s there was a renewed interest in Martin Luther,
the 16th century German theologian who engendered the Lutheran tradition,
said Anderson.  That gave Lutherans the attention of Protestant and Roman
Catholic scholars during the early years of the ecumenical movement.  "We
are in their textbooks," he said.
     The Augsburg Confession of the Lutheran church defines "church" as
"the assembly of all believers among whom the gospel is preached in its
purity and the Holy Sacraments are administered according to the gospel,"
said the presiding bishop.  "Lutherans do not have a monopoly on Jesus
Christ," he inferred, and they do not commit themselves to a single church
     Lutherans are free to talk with Christians in all church bodies,
said Anderson.  "While we can't begin to be in full communion with all
those folks, we can recognize the work of God in all of them," he said.
     Anderson concluded that Lutherans should "see the Spirit moving out
before us" and not squander their opportunities to advance the ecumenical
movement.  "I am haunted by those words of Jesus: 'I ask that they may all
be one ... so that the world may believe.'"

For information contact:
Frank Imhoff, Assoc. Director 1-773-380-2955 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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