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Lutheran-Jewish Relations Panel Discusses 'Passion,' Book, Talks

Date Tue, 13 Apr 2004 11:45:54 -0500


April 13, 2004

Lutheran-Jewish Relations Panel Discusses 'Passion,' Book, Talks

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish
Relations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
discussed the film "The Passion of the Christ," the possibility
of compiling a book of essays based on its "Talking Points" and
the dialogue involving the ELCA and the Union of Reform Judaism.
The six-member panel met here March 26-27.
     "The Passion of the Christ," produced and directed by Mel
Gibson, opened Feb. 24 in movie theatres across the United
States.  The panel issued a statement before the film premiered,
"Concerns and Recommendations in Anticipation of the Forthcoming
Film," which offered Gibson advice on what the panel has learned
about removing anti-Jewish themes from passion plays, such as the
Oberammergau passion play in Germany.  Since panel members had a
chance to see the film, they began drafting another statement to
speak directly to the movie.

Talking Points: Topics in Jewish-Christian Relations
     In 2002 the Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations
issued "a series of discussion starters on eight topics in
Christian-Jewish relations of particular relevance for
Lutherans," according to the introductory notes of "Talking
Points: Topics in Jewish-Christian Relations."
     At its March meeting the panel began making writing
assignments and planning the process toward publishing a short
book, expanding on the "Talking Points," by the end of the year.
     The topics of "Talking Points" are:  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, and Christians and Jews in the context
of world religions.
     "The talking points have been out for a little over a year
now, and we've started to see them used in congregations and
clergy groups," said the Rev. Peter A. Pettit, assistant
professor of religion and director, Institute for Jewish-
Christian Understanding, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pa.
Pettit is a member of the ELCA panel.
     From initial feedback, it became clear that each topic
needed "a short chapter, filling in some background both about
Judaism and about church attitudes toward Judaism.  So, that's
what we'll be trying to do -- organized point by point, chapter
by chapter around the talking points," he said.

Dialogue with the Union for Reform Judaism
     In May 2003 the ELCA began an informal dialogue with leaders
representing the Commission on Interreligious Affairs of Reform
Judaism.  After that day-long dialogue here at the ELCA
churchwide office, the leaders agreed to meet for more
discussions over a two-year period.
     The Rev. Franklin Sherman, chair of the Lutheran panel and
associate for interfaith relations, ELCA Department for
Ecumenical Affairs, pointed out that there are only Lutherans on
the Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations.  "For the
past year we've been involved in a formal dialogue with that part
of American Judaism which is called Reform Judaism, and the name
of their overarching body is the Union for Reform Judaism," he
     The talks grew out of a visit that the Rev. Mark S. Hanson,
presiding bishop of the ELCA, paid to the headquarters of the
Reform Jewish movement in New York.  "He wanted to make sure that
what we were saying as the ELCA regarding the Middle East
situation was not interpreted as emerging out of anti-Semitic
sentiments," Sherman said.
     The panel discussed plans for the next ELCA-Reform Judaism
meeting this fall in New York.
     "It is in a way a 'get acquainted' dialogue.  It's
exchanging thoughts on how each of us perceives our role in
American society, the problems of educating the younger
generation and deepening them in the faith," Sherman said.
     "Lutheran-Jewish dialogue is not unprecedented.  That goes
back quite some time," Sherman said.  "There was a hiatus when we
were not having such face-to-face discussions, and now we are
again, so that's a cause for rejoicing," he added.
-- -- --
     The ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs provides
information about the church's interfaith discussions at on the Web.

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

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