From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Lutheran Bishops Issue Letter on the Turn of the Millennium

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Date 12 Oct 1998 16:17:34


October 12, 1998


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- "The coming of the third millennium should not fill
us with fear or dread at thoughts of the end," wrote the presiding bishop
and 65 synodical bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
(ELCA) in a four-page pastoral letter on the significance of the year 2000.
     "The coming of the end of the second millennium fills some people in
our society with fear.  The end of the millennium continues to spawn all
kinds of wild prophecies about the end of the world.  Many people,
Christians included, often imagine 'the end of the world' in terms of the
second coming of our Lord," the bishops wrote in their letter.
     The Christian Bible refers to a millennium only "where it is said
that Satan will be bound for a thousand years and that the saints shall
reign with Christ for a millennium.  However, the Bible does not connect
this period with the second coming of Christ," wrote the bishops.
     The ELCA Conference of Bishops adopted the letter, "The Year of Our
Lord 2000," when it met here Oct. 1-7.  The bishops also issued a two-page
reflection on "The Promise of a New Millennium."  Both are being
distributed through the ELCA's synods and on the World Wide Web to coincide
with the church's Festival of the Reformation, Oct. 31.
     "The beginning of the third millennium is an occasion to mark 2,000
years of the reign of Christ and all the blessings that Christ's reign has
meant and will mean for the Church and the world in the years to come,"
they wrote.
     "Birthdays celebrate the fact that we are alive, that we have good
things to look back on, that we have hope for the future.  On a much
loftier scale that is exactly what we are doing as Christians as we greet
the new century and the new millennium," the bishops wrote.
     Looking back on the past millennium the bishops considered "the great
schism" of Christianity between East and West, the crusades, the
Reformation of the Western church and the spread of the gospel to all parts
of the world.  "In spite of all the shortcomings and wrongdoing of the
Church, by God's grace the reign of Christ was extended and millions upon
millions were reconciled to God," they wrote.
     Looking ahead to the next millennium the bishops brought up such
topics as the environment, the world growing more secular and divisions
within the Church and within society.  "As we move into the third
millennium, let our church and all its members commit to the blessed work
of reconciliation of all that has divided human society in the second
     "Every year is the year of our Lord," the bishops concluded.  They
recalled two biblical promises of Jesus -- "I am with you always," and "I
am coming soon" -- as reasons to live in confidence and in hope.

[Editors: The two-page "reflection" follows.  For the full text of the
pastoral letter check out or contact
Brenda Williams at 773-380-2963.]

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

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