From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Prepares 'Talking Points' on Christian-Jewish Relations

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date Fri, 7 Jun 2002 16:17:59 -0500


June 7, 2002


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- It seems that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America (ELCA) has taken a major step in its relations with the Jewish
community every four years, said the Rev. Franklin E. Sherman, associate
for interfaith relations, ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs.  The
year 2002 will be no exception, as the church prepares to issue its
"Talking Points: Topics in Jewish-Christian Relations."
     "Talking Points is a series of discussion starters on eight topics
in Christian-Jewish relations of particular relevance for Lutherans,"
said its introductory notes.
     "This is a matter of Lutheran self-examination," said Sherman.
"This is sort of theological homework that we ourselves need to do so
that -- a decade from now or in the next generation -- we might have a
refreshed understanding of our own faith, according to its Jewish roots,
to bring into the dialogue," he said.
     In 1994, the ELCA adopted its "Declaration to the Jewish
Community," denouncing the reformer Martin Luther's "anti-Judaic
diatribes," which contributed to the Holocaust.  "We express our urgent
desire to live out our faith in Jesus Christ with love and respect for
the Jewish people," said the declaration.
     In 1998, the ELCA issued "Guidelines for Lutheran-Jewish
Relations," to foster dialogue and to support participation in joint
activities.  It listed 15 guidelines, it said, "so that those who desire
to engage in interfaith dialogue might benefit from the experience of
those who have gone before."
     By Labor Day of this year, the ELCA will have Talking Points, said
Sherman.  The ELCA Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations
completed the project's drafting process, when it met May 1-3 at
Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pa., and prepared the materials for
     The consultative panel consists of six or seven ELCA members
appointed to advise the ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs on
Christian-Jewish relations.  It was established in 1992 to assist the
church in preparing the 1994 declaration.
     The panel met on its 10th anniversary in the place it first met --
the Institute for Jewish-Christian Understanding at Muhlenberg College,
one of 28 ELCA colleges and universities, said the Rev. Peter A. Pettit.
Pettit is director of the institute and a member of the ELCA
consultative panel.
     "The Talking Points, which the panel has readied for publication
and distribution, will play an important role in assessing the impact
that a half-century of expanded study and dialogue with the Jewish
community has had on this church," said Pettit.  "The discussion they
engender will also help to determine the directions in which our
research and theological development need to move next," he said.
     Having the declaration and the guidelines, "people pointed out,
quite properly, that there were underlying theological issues between
Christians and Jews -- and therefore between Lutherans and Jews -- that
we hadn't dealt with," said Sherman.
     Sherman gave the example that many Christians believe the new
covenant with God through Jesus supersedes God's covenant with Abraham
and his seed, inheriting all the promises and gracious gifts God had
intended for Israel forever.  "If God's covenant with the Jewish people
is forever, what does that say about our covenant?" he asked.
     Talking Points will be issued in a small folder, containing
introductory notes and related information to one side and eight
leaflets to the other side.  Each leaflet will deal with a different
 + Judaism Then and Now
 + Covenants Old and New
 + Law and Gospel
 + Promise and Fulfillment
 + Difficult Texts
 + Jewish Concern for the State of Israel
 + Tikkun Olam -- Mending the World
 + Christians and Jews in the Context of World Religions
     "People can discuss one point a week in an adult forum in a
congregation or pick and choose depending on the time that's available,"
said Sherman.
     "We're taking this approach rather than trying to move toward some
kind of definitive pronouncement on these theological issues," he said.
"The important thing is that people start thinking about these topics
and discussing them."
     A response and evaluation form is an essential element of Talking
Points, Sherman said.  "We want to hear what people are saying, what
they're thinking, what their remaining questions within the questions
are, so that we have an ongoing process."
     ELCA clergy and congregations, as well as seminary and college
faculties, will be the initial "target audience" for Talking Points,
said Sherman.  He said he anticipated the materials being used as
discussion starters, for Lutherans and other interested Christians, for
three to five years.

     In addition to the consultative panel's meeting to finish drafting
Talking Points, the ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs hosted the
first U.S. meetings of the European Lutheran Commission on the Church
and the Jewish People (Lutherische Europaeische Kommission Kirche und
Judentum, LEKKJ).  Fourteen people working in the field of Christian-
Jewish relations in Lutheran church bodies in 11 European countries met
May 2-6 with the panel and with Jewish scholars and leaders in Allentown
and New York.
     The Rev. Johannes Gruner, LEKKJ chair, Stuttgart, Germany,
expressed the group's appreciation for the opportunity to immerse itself
in the unique U.S. context for Christian-Jewish relations.  "We are very
impressed and very pleased to see how your conversations proceed on the
basis of complete equality," he said.  "We will return with many new
ideas and a strong impetus for our own work."
     A key element of the meetings was "Dabru Emet" or "speak the
truth" -- the "Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity" issued
by a group of Jewish scholars and leaders in September 2000.  The
statement expresses appreciation for the willingness on the part of many
Christians to affirm the ongoing spiritual validity of Judaism, and sets
forth theological grounds for a similar appreciation of Christianity on
the part of Jews.
     The Europeans in attendance represented Lutheran churches in
Austria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Hungary, The Netherlands,
Norway, Romania, the United Kingdom, and various parts of Germany.
LEKKJ is supported by the Lutheran church bodies of Europe and is
associated with the Lutheran World Federation.  It has met annually for
some 25 years to discuss current issues in Christian-Jewish and
particularly Lutheran-Jewish relations.
-- -- --
     The Department for Ecumenical Affairs maintains information on
interfaith relations at on the ELCA
Web site.  It includes online versions of the  "Declaration to the
Jewish Community" and "Guidelines for Lutheran-Jewish Relations."

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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