The following suggestions for fostering Lutheran-Jewish dialogue and cooperation were drafted by the Consultative Panel on Lutheran- Jewish Relations of the ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations, and were adopted by the ELCA Church Council at its meeting on November 16, 1998. These guidelines are an outgrowth of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's April 1994 "Declaration to the Jewish Community," which repudiated the anti-Jewish writings of Martin Luther and expressed Aour urgent desire to live out our faith in Jesus Christ with love and respect for the Jewish people."
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America hopes also to issue guidelines for relations with members of other faith communities in the United States.
As Lutherans, we seek to renew and enhance our relationship with the Jewish people, a relationship long distorted by misunderstanding and prejudice. In its 1994 Declaration to the Jewish Community, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America publicly repudiated the anti-Jewish views of Martin Luther, expressed repentance for Christian complicity in hatred and violence against the Jews through the centuries, and committed itself to building a relationship with the Jewish people based on love and respect. For Lutherans to read, understand, and acknowledge this Declaration (see accompanying text) can be a first step in renewing our relationship with the Jewish community. Reconciliation always begins with an understanding of the offense and a willingness to repent and amend one's ways. Only then can further steps be taken to forge a new relationship.
We as Christians share deep and common roots with Jews, not least books of Scripture revered by both communities. There is much to be gained in exploring those common roots, as well as the reasons for the "parting of the ways" during the first generations of the followers of Jesus. New Testament texts reflect at many points the hostility between the two communities, but also point to ways in which a new spirit of mutual respect and understanding can be achieved.
We as Christians also need to learn of the rich and varied history of Judaism since New Testament times, and of the Jewish people as a diverse, living community of faith today. Such an encounter with living and faithful Judaism can be profoundly enriching for Christian self-understanding. It is to nurture this blessing that we offer these guidelines for honest and faithful conversation and cooperation between Lutherans and Jews.
These guidelines have been issued so that those who desire to engage in interfaith dialogue might benefit from the experience of those who have gone before. They are intended to provide practical assistance as well as the encouragement needed for a rewarding journey.