ELCA Assembly Receives Greetings From Roman Catholic Church

8/13/2005 12:00:00 AM

     ORLANDO, Fla. (ELCA) -- The Joint Declaration on
Justification has "become a point of reference" for Roman
Catholics in their ecumenical conversations, said Bishop
Stephen Blaire in his greetings to the 2005 Churchwide Assembly of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA) on Aug. 12.
     Blaire is bishop of diocese of Stockton, Calif., and serves as chair of the Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.  
     The churchwide assembly, the chief legislative authority of
the ELCA, is meeting here Aug. 8-14 at the World Center Marriott
and Convention Center.  About 2,300 people are participating,
including 1,018 ELCA voting members.  The theme for the biennial
assembly is "Marked with the Cross of Christ Forever."
     The document on justification, jointly agreed upon by
worldwide Lutherans and Roman Catholics five years ago, "has been
very, very important, not only for our relationships with the
Lutheran churches, but with all churches," Blaire said.
     Blaire also took up two challenges put forth by the Rev.
Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, in his official report to
the assembly.
     "His [Hanson's] suggestion of the possibility of a joint
declaration on the Eucharist as a way of celebrating the 500th
anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation ... is very worthy of
consideration," said Blaire.  "I'm going to bring that suggestion
to the Bishops Committee for Ecumenical Affairs here in the
United States."
     Blaire went on to make a personal statement about attending
two of the services of Holy Communion during the assembly.
     "It is very painful to come to the moment of communion when
we do not share," he said.  "Not only is communion in our
Catholic theology a sign of achieving of full communion, but it
is also a means of arriving at communion, and we need to explore
that."
     Blaire's personal statement drew applause from the assembly.
     He also embraced Hanson's suggestion of bringing together
Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans and Lutherans to discuss
interpretation of Scripture in the church.
     "[This] is crucial for the mission of the church and
certainly should be at the top of our ecumenical endeavors,"
Blaire said.  This comment also received applause by ELCA voting
members.
     Blaire reported that the 10th Lutheran-Roman Catholic
dialogue had been completed (in 2004) on the topic of Koinonia,
"the Greek word for community, communion, fellowship," resulting
in a document that he described as being "tremendous" and "very
well written."  Theological dialogues between Lutherans and Roman
Catholics have been ongoing for over 30 years.
      Blaire closed by reiterating Hanson's words that "unity in
the body of Christ is God's gift and our task."
     "It is the Holy Spirit that creates the unity of the church,
and we want to cooperate fully," said Blaire.  "This work of God
[must] be primary in our relationship."
     For more information on the Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue and
the Joint Declaration on Justification, see
www.ELCA.org/ecumenical/ecumenicaldialogue/romancatholic/
---
     Information about the ELCA Churchwide Assembly is at http://www.elca.org/assembly/05 on the Web.

For more information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or news@elca.org
http://www.elca.org/news

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