Greetings to the Ecumenical Patriarch
from Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson
A Message from Bishop Mark Hanson
President of the Lutheran World Federation and
Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
to the Patriarch Bartholomew I
version en español
Your All Holiness:
I greet you in the name of our Blessed Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and on behalf of the Lutheran World Federation – A Communion of Churches, representing sixty-nine million members and one hundred forty member churches in seventy- nine countries, and over four million members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
As Lutherans, we have deep and abiding gratitude for your ecumenical, spiritual, and global leadership. As the Ecumenical Patriarch, your words and concern for God’s people and creation continue to be a model for Christians throughout the world.
We watched with great appreciation your appearance and witness on the Sixty Minutes television program in December 2009. Human rights, religious freedom, and environmental conservation are concerns that Lutherans share with you in the United States and throughout God’s world.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has adopted a statement, Caring for Creation: Vision, Hope, and Justice, that gives direction to our church’s vision for and commitment to the environment. Central to our vision of God’s profound involvement with the world is the Incarnation.
The statement affirms, “We see the despoiling of the environment as nothing less than the degradation of God’s gracious gift of creation. Scripture witnesses to God as creator of the earth and all that dwells therein (Psalm 24:1). The creeds, which guide our reading of Scripture, proclaim God the Father of Jesus Christ as the ‘maker of heaven and earth,’ Jesus as one Being with the Father; ‘through (whom) all things were made,’ and the Holy Spirit as ‘the Lord and giver of life’ (Nicene Creed).”
We confess our complicity in the severity of the environmental crisis that is before us. We understand that humanity’s separation from God and from the rest of creation is the central cause of the environmental crisis. We join you and our Orthodox sisters and brothers in acknowledging that the need to respond is a spiritual call to care for the creation entrusted to us by our gracious God.
The Lutheran World Federation’s Eleventh Assembly will be held in Stuttgart, Germany in July 2010 under the theme “Give Us Today Our Daily Bread.” We affirm the need to care for creation and to serve all of God’s people, especially those with greatest need. This theme reflects our conviction that God sends us to respond to the hungry, those who hunger for the Bread of Life, for daily bread, and for justice and peace.
As Lutherans, we continue to grow in understanding and unity with the Orthodox Church. Our theological dialogue in the United States has enabled our Conference of Bishops and Church Council to receive the common statement on Faith in the Holy Trinity. In our new worship book, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, we have acknowledged that the filioque is a later addition to the Nicene Creed. As we engage in theological conversations, we grow in understanding, share our own faith tradition, and bear witness to our unity in Christ.
In the Lutheran World Federation, our churches have appreciated the statements from the LWF-Orthodox Church dialogue. Our common statement on the Eucharist, The Mystery of the Church: The Holy Eucharist in the Life of the Church, has been received and studied in our churches. A deeper understanding of recent dialogues on Chrismation, the Sacraments, and the current conversation on the Nature of the Church are vital to our shared theological commitment to unity in Christ’s Church. It is our commitment and hope that we may not only continue in our dialogues, but also address those issues that separate us.
Together we mourn the loss of life and the destruction that has fallen upon God’s people in Haiti. As we consider the poor and their circumstances in Haiti and in other places in the world, we know that God calls us to work toward eliminating poverty wherever it exists. Responding together is a powerful witness to what Christian unity can do for the world that God loves.
Your All Holiness, we pray that we may find ways to work together for peace and justice in the world. Our mutual concern for a just peace in the Middle East and for peace among all people is one that is grounded in God’s Word and in God’s calling for us to love and care for our neighbor.
With profound respect and admiration, we pray that God will bless you and your ministry. We also ask that you remember in your prayers the Lutheran World Federation and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, even as we promise to remember you in our petitions of intercession and thanksgiving. May God provide the way to union in Christ and in His most Holy Church.