A "bilateral dialogue" involves two parties coming together in order to seek awareness, heal wounds and deepen a relationship. Contemporary bilateral dialogues between churches in the world received new enthusiasm from the entry of the Roman Catholic Church into the ecumenical movement in 1965, an event marked and ratified by the Second Vatican Council. Since then, many of these dialogues have allowed churches to establish relationships that permit greater sharing of pastors, witness, mission and ministries.
African Methodist Episcopal (AME)
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church have shared a relationship in the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and at other tables. Interest in establishing a bilateral dialogue led to formal meetings addressing the question "How has the American experience affected and/or shaped the life of my church?” Additional meetings explored questions such as "Protest and Reform: A Study of Martin Luther and Richard Allen," "Marginality in the Biblical Witness," and "The Role of the AME Church in American Political Culture.” “Understanding One Another: A Congregational Resource” was written in the hope that many congregations of our respective communions will use it to accomplish the goal of manifesting unity.
African Methodist Episcopal Zion (AMEZ)
It began by one neighbor welcoming a new neighbor: Hood Theological Seminary of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church moved to a campus next to the offices of the ELCA North Carolina Synod in Salisbury, North Carolina. The local cooperation there has since grown into a national dialogue. Topics have included: the nature of the church; HIV/AIDS related ministries; seminarian education; and how the complex history of race-relations shape the mission and ministry of our churches in the North American context today. In 2010 the churches developed a Statement of Mission . In 2011, a Summit was held to celebrate our work together in ministry and to learn more about the history of our churches.
Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
The ELCA and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) met for the first time in April 2004 with an initial series of papers exploring a common understanding of Holy Communion and dialogue around the sacrament of Holy Baptism. The dialogue was put on hold due to leadership and staff changes at both churches. It resumed in 2021 with the goal of determining what form of ecumenical relationship will enable the two church bodies to affirm their common confession of the Christian faith and to witness to the good news of Christ together more fully. The two churches will explore how they have grown in mutual understanding and common mission over time. An important consideration will be the maturity of the full communion relationship each church shares with the United Church of Christ (UCC). For this reason, the UCC was invited to appoint an observer.
Mennonite Church USA
Representatives of the Mennonite Church USA (MCUSA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) began the first in a series of dialogues in 2002. Dialogue topics included reflections on the Protestant Reformation, the experience of each church in the North American context, and the role and authority of confessional writings. A key element in the dialogue was an examination of the persecution of Anabaptists by Lutherans and others, and the healing of those painful memories. A summary report was produced entitled, “Right Remembering in Anabaptist – Lutheran Relations” , which included recommendations for further interaction between these two churches.
Based upon these recommendations, the ELCA Church Council adopted the “Declaration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on the Condemnation of Anabaptists” , expressing "deep and abiding sorrow and regret for the persecution and suffering visited upon Anabaptists during religious disputes of the past." In 2010, the Eleventh Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) took the historic step of asking the Mennonites for forgiveness for past persecutions. Delegates unanimously approved, “Healing Memories: Reconciling in Christ” , which offers historical background on the early condemnations of Anabaptists by Lutherans, new perspectives on what that history means today, and next steps towards a future as reconciled communities of faith.
The Orthodox Church
Discussions with the Orthodox Church in the United States produced a significant document regarding faith in the Holy Trinity . It has also developed a document known as “The Aleppo Statement” , which discussed the possibilities of finding a common date for Easter. The Lutheran-Orthodox Dialogue in the USA offered a “Common Response to the Aleppo Statement on the Date of Easter/Pascha,” along with a Table which details future dates for Easter . Primary dialogue is international with the Lutheran World Federation – Orthodox Joint Commission.
Roman Catholic Church
The Lutheran-Catholic Dialogue has been in ongoing discussions since 1965. Each “round,” or set of discussions, covers a specific topic important for the life and vitality of both communions. Recent rounds have had focused discussions on “The Church as Koinonia of Salvation” , “The Hope for Eternal Life” , and Ministries of Teaching: Sources, Shapes and Essential Contents (for discerning the truth coming to us in God’s Word and communicating this truth in normative teaching for today). In order to harvest the fruits of our dialogue, a Declaration on the Way (to unity) highlights essential areas of agreement as a foundation for unity. The 13th round of Lutheran-Catholic U.S. Dialogue began in 2022.
Declaration on the Way: Church, Ministry and Eucharist
Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification (JDDJ)
Declaración Conjunta Sobre la Doctrina de la Justificación
JOINT STATEMENT on the occasion of the Joint Catholic-Lutheran Commemoration of the Reformation
"Live in harmony with one another." ~ Romans 12:16