ELCA NEWS SERVICE
July 22, 2010
Lutheran World Federation President Says Ecumenical Commitment to Continue
STUTTGART, Germany (ELCA) -- The Lutheran commitment to ecumenism will not end until members can share the Eucharist with other churches, said the Rev. Mark S. Hanson, president of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, according to a news release from Lutheran World Information (LWI).
The LWF Assembly is the organization's highest legislative body, and it is meeting here July 20-27. The LWF is 140 member churches in 79 countries, representing more than 70 million Christians worldwide.
Speaking at a July 21 news conference following the presentation of his report to the LWF Eleventh Assembly, Hanson outlined progress made in ecumenical relations, but said that "we must continue the dialogue about theological issues that still prevent us from communing together," LWI reported.
Hanson was asked if he could envision a day when a Roman Catholic and Lutheran married couple could commune together with the blessing of both churches. It is the lay people of the churches who are driving and sustaining these conversations, he responded, acknowledging the "grassroots ecumenism" that is alive among lay people, the release said.
While leaders wrestle with difficult theological issues, lay people of different churches pray together, study together and work together to build just societies, the release said. "If Roman Catholics and Lutherans [for example] can feed the hungry together, wouldn't it be good if they could be fed at the Lord's Table together?" Hanson said.
Hanson acknowledged that he is unlikely to see all Christian churches communing together in his lifetime, but "if I can contribute to that vision being realized, I'll be very grateful."
Hanson's desire to see full unity among churches extends also to unity within Lutheran churches, the release said. He is concerned about emerging conversations in some Lutheran churches about what it means to be truly Lutheran. "I sense that there is a growing desire on the part of some to look at our rich, shared confessions not as a reason for conversation about how we can live in that confessional tradition, but rather as a way of determining who is truly Lutheran and who is not. That would be an unfortunate breakdown."
A better response would be to invite people who share the Lutheran confessions to explore how they speak to us rather than use them to divide us, Hanson said.
Engaging in respectful conversation about what unites us rather than divides us is also the way to approach the subject of human sexuality, Hanson said in the release. With respect to this particular issue, a helpful starting point is to identify what we have in common, he said.
"We are all sexual beings," Hanson said. Starting from common ground makes it easier to engage in conversations about points of diversion. Hanson noted that LWF member churches will be engaged in discussions about marriage, family and sexuality until 2012.
"Some churches discuss these issues in relation to creation, others from the starting point of the doctrine of the two kingdoms and others approach them from the biblical context," he said. "Rather than starting from a position of judgment and assuming that some churches are following Scripture and others are not, it would be more helpful to first examine how our own tradition, context and understanding of Scripture have framed our views on this subject."
Information about the LWF's Eleventh Assembly is at http://www.lwf-assembly.org/ on the Web.
Follow news and commentary about the LWF assembly at http://sites.google.com/site/communiogarden/ and http://www.facebook.com/pages/Communio-Garden-EN/142406455776020
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