From the Worldwide Faith News archives

USA Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue Focus on "Koinonia"

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Thu, 20 Dec 2001 07:34:53 -0600

Relation to Ordained Ministry, Structures of Church Unity

BALTIMORE, United States of America/GENEVA, 20 December 2001
(LWI/ELCANEWS) - The 10th round of talks in the United States of
America between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and
the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reviewed rough
drafts of sections that would eventually become a statement on "The
Church as Koinonia of Salvation: Its Structures and Ministries."

"Koinonia" is an anglicized Greek word that appears several times in
the Christian Bible and is translated as "fellowship, a close mutual
relationship; participation, sharing in; partnership; contribution,
gift." The dialogue is taking up issues of koinonia as they relate to
"ordained ministry and structures of church unity."

"I continue to be encouraged by the depth and fruits of our work in
this effort to appreciate the significance of priest, pastor and
bishop in God's work of salvation," said the dialogue's Catholic
co-chairperson, the Most Rev. Richard J. Sklba, auxiliary bishop of
the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee following the December
6-9 meeting.

"In the course of our four days this time, it's become increasingly
clear that there are five or six points of clear convergence, which
we can all recognize around the table, whose descriptions still need
refinement," said Sklba. A major development of the meeting came
through the dialogue's study of church history to illustrate how
similarly the two traditions have structured their ministries, he

The Lutheran co-chairperson, Rev. Charles H. Maahs, former bishop of
the ELCA Central States Synod, Overland Park, Kansas, said "We have
come to a point where we can acknowledge one another's strengths
while being clear about those issues that continue to separate us in
our relationship."

Members of the dialogue presented rough drafts of papers, analyzed
the wording and discussed ways of organizing the papers into a final
report. In addition to the chairpersons, the dialogue teams include
six participants from each church and staff from both church offices.

Participants developed a tentative outline that would divide the
report into two sections, a common statement and supporting
materials. The statement would include an introduction and
presentation of the dialogue's findings about areas of agreement and
those still needing study. Supporting materials would give deeper
explanations of the findings in biblical and historical research, as
well as in recent developments and confessional positions. A
four-member drafting committee will prepare a draft that the dialogue
could review at its next meeting in May. 

Maahs noted that although the group would not have a final draft next
May it "will have a draft that will probably be able to clarify for
us the places where we can arrive at some consensus terms about our
structures and our ministries and the places where we will need to
continue to do some work."

Sklba noted that there are Lutheran pastors and Roman Catholic
priests serving the same neighborhoods who prepare their homilies
together. He said this was the "kind of communion we recognize
already existing and a sign of what should and still could come in
the future."

The ELCA has 5.13 million members in 10,816 congregations across the
USA and Caribbean. Those congregations are organized into 65 synods
each headed by a bishop. The Roman Catholic Church has more than 62
million members in the USA. Its 187 dioceses or archdioceses oversee
almost 20,000 parishes.

The USCCB and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) National Committee
in the USA initiated the first round of the "bilateral" dialogue in
1965. It has produced a number of common statements on such topics as
Scriptures, saints and justification by faith. The 10th round of
talks began in September 1998.

The Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ), based
on many years of intense ecumenical dialogues on justification in the
USA, Germany and internationally, was signed by representatives of
the LWF and Vatican on 31 October 1999 in Augsburg, Germany. By this
agreement both partners confirmed that earlier mutual doctrinal
condemnations do not apply to the teaching of the dialogue partners
as presented in the JDDJ. Based on the consensus reached, continued
dialogue is required on the issues mentioned especially in the JDDJ
itself as requiring further clarification.

The ELCA joined the LWF in 1988. Its former presiding bishop, H.
George Anderson, an LWF vice-president, was among the JDDJ

(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran
tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now has 133
member churches in 73 countries representing over 60.5 million of the
64.3 million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on behalf of its
member churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical
relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights,
communication, and the various aspects of mission and development
work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.)

[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is the information service of the
Lutheran World Federation (LWF). Unless specifically noted, material
presented does not represent positions or opinions of the LWF or of
its various units. Where the dateline of an article contains the
notation (LWI), the material may be freely reproduced with

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