From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Assembly Hears Presiding Bishop's Report on Global Connections

Date Thu, 14 Aug 2003 17:33:14 -0500


August 14, 2003

ELCA Assembly Hears Presiding Bishop's Report on Global Connections

      MILWAUKEE (ELCA) -- The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, presiding bishop of
the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), emphasized the
importance of global, ecumenical and interfaith connections in
the third part of his report to the 2003 Churchwide Assembly. The
assembly also received greetings from leaders of the Lutheran
World Federation (LWF) and the National Council of Churches of
Christ U.S.A. (NCC).
      The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of the
ELCA, is meeting here Aug. 11-17 at the Midwest Airlines Center.
There are about 2,100 people participating, including 1,031 ELCA
voting members. The theme for the biennial assembly is "Making
Christ Known: For the Healing of the World."
      The third strategic direction of the ELCA's new strategic plan
urges members to "deepen and extend our global, ecumenical and
interfaith relationships for the sake of God's mission."
      Hanson focused on two images -- ligaments and landscapes -- to
describe the ELCA's role in a changing world. The term
"ligaments," taken from Ephesians 4, refers to the ways that the
ELCA has connected different members of the body of Christ
through full communion agreements, bilateral interfaith dialogue
with Reformed Jewish leaders of the United States and active
participation in the NCC and the World Council of Churches (WCC).
      Hanson offered examples of the ways that ecumenical relationships
have enriched the ELCA's mission and ministry. He added that
local ministries are being shaped by ecumenical partnerships: "In
congregations, you are experiencing, exploring and publicly
expressing our unity in Christ."
      He also acknowledged the "lively theological discussion" that has
resulted from ecumenical initiatives such as "Called to Common
Mission," the full communion agreement of the Episcopal Church
and the ELCA that took effect in 2001.
      Hanson then noted changes in the landscape of ecumenism in the
United States, saying that members of this assembly have the
opportunity to become a founding partner of Christian Churches
Together in the USA (CCT), a forum for Roman Catholics, Orthodox,
Evangelical and Pentecostals, and historic Protestant churches to
work for the unity of the church.
      Hanson affirmed the work of the Lutheran World Federation, based
in Geneva, Switzerland, and commented on his recent election as
president of the LWF at the LWF assembly held in Winnipeg in
July. "The election was not just about me as an individual, but a
recognition of the leadership of the ELCA by our global partners
[in the LWF]," said Hanson.
      Hanson introduced the Rev. Ishmael Noko, general secretary of
LWF. Noko commended the assembly for carrying the same theme as
the LWF assembly, "For the Healing of the World." He shared
insight on the theme: "Such healing is not within our power. We
should not look only to ourselves and our resources but to Christ
and the healing power of the Holy Spirit."
      Noko offered Hanson a bottle of water as a token of appreciation
for his leadership. "This gift is a reminder of his baptism,"
Noko said to the assembly. "The journey on which we are is a long
journey. We are washed by the blood of Christ, but also drink
along the way."
      Noko praised the ELCA evangelism strategy that was adopted
earlier in the assembly, saying it "opens up" congregations,
synods and the entire church to new ministry opportunities. "You
are opening up while the government of the U.S. is closing up. I
have learned to make the distinction [between] the American
people (and American churches) and the American government." He
said that Lutherans in the United States must commit to justice
and a "prophetic voice" in the face of U.S. military power.
      Following Noko's comments, Elenie Huszagh, president of the NCC,
offered thanks for the leadership and support that the ELCA has
provided the NCC in a time of transition. "We who are a part of
the churches in America need to transform our thinking and our
ways of doing business," she commented.
-- -- --
Information about the ELCA Churchwide Assembly can be found at on the Web.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or

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