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ELCA, Orthodox Leaders Discuss Wide Range of Issues

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  • Fr. John-Brian
    February 2, 2004 ELCA, Orthodox Leaders Discuss Wide Range of Issues 04-013-JB ISTANBUL, Turkey (ELCA) -- Relationships domestically and internationally
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 2, 2004
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      February 2, 2004

      ELCA, Orthodox Leaders Discuss Wide Range of Issues
      04-013-JB

      ISTANBUL, Turkey (ELCA) -- Relationships domestically and
      internationally between Lutherans and Orthodox Christians were
      described as "very good" by Lutheran and Orthodox Christian leaders who met
      here Jan. 27. The Lutheran delegation included
      leaders of the Chicago-based Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)
      and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), based in
      Geneva, Switzerland.

      The Lutherans visited here Jan. 26-30 with a variety of international
      leaders and theologians of Orthodox Christians. The Rev. Mark S. Hanson,
      ELCA presiding bishop and LWF president, and the Rev. Ishmael Noko, LWF
      general secretary, headed the 14-member joint ELCA-LWF delegation. Members
      of the ELCA delegation were to have visited here in March 2003, but
      postponed the trip because of security concerns related to the start of the
      U.S.-led war with Iraq.

      In a meeting that covered a wide range of topics, the Lutherans met
      with Orthodox leaders at the offices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, home of
      the international leadership for Orthodox Christians worldwide. In the 3
      1/2 hour meeting the church leaders had a frank discussion on such topics as
      Lutheran-Orthodox dialogues, Lutheran Church relationships in the United
      States, ELCA full-communion relationships, and the ordination of women and
      people who are gay and lesbian in committed relationships.

      His Eminence Metropolitan Athanassios of Helioupolis and Theira, noted
      that Hanson's visit here continued a tradition in which ELCA presiding
      bishops have visited world Orthodox leaders in Istanbul. Athanassios is
      president of the Orthodox Inter-Church Affairs Synodical Commission.

      "We thank you for these regular visits to the Patriarchate," he said.
      This meeting was the first in which both the LWF
      president and general secretary visited Istanbul together, Athanassios
      noted.

      "It is an honor to greet you on behalf of the ELCA and also on behalf
      of the LWF," Hanson said. "We come here to express
      gratitude to God for the deepening unity we experience in the body of
      Christ. We come grateful to God for progress in the U.S.
      and international Lutheran-Orthodox dialogues."

      The ELCA-LWF visit is in keeping with the historic tradition of the
      church, Noko said. Lutherans and Orthodox Christians
      should greet one another as a sign of unity, he added. Good relations
      between Lutherans and Orthodox Christians are possible
      because the churches respect one another and one has never "condemned" the
      other, Noko said. The good relationships "give
      us a unique ecumenical opportunity," he said.

      In North America an ELCA theological dialogue with Orthodox Christians
      is approaching the end of its third round, said the
      Rev. Randall R. Lee, director of the ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs.
      The two churches have been exploring the Holy Trinity and the "mystery" of
      the Christian Church, he said.

      In June, the dialogue participants hope to publish a common statement
      and a guidebook for congregations of both religious
      traditions to use in conversation, and to encourage common prayer services,
      Lee said. Lee said he was grateful to the Rev. Donald
      G. McCoid, co-chair of the U.S. dialogue with Metropolitan Maximos. McCoid
      is bishop of the ELCA Southwestern Pennsylvania
      Synod, Pittsburgh. Maximos is bishop of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of
      Pittsburgh.

      In addition to the North American dialogue, there is an international
      Lutheran-Orthodox theological dialogue. His
      Eminence Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima, a member of the Orthodox
      Inter-Church Affairs Synodical Commission, suggested
      there should be better "coordination" of the two dialogues.Gennadios said
      such an idea was discussed several years ago, but
      has not been discussed much in recent years.

      Hanson pledged there would be a "continuity of topics" in both
      dialogues. "I hope my presidency of the LWF will facilitate
      the integration of the dialogues and not any unilateral action by the ELCA,"
      he said in response. "I hope you hear that
      commitment."

      Athanassios asked the ELCA delegation specifically about the status of
      the ELCA's full communion relationship with the
      Episcopal Church in the wake of its consecration of Bishop Gene V. Robinson,
      who is gay and in a committed homosexual
      relationship. Under present policy, the ELCA expects that its pastors
      refrain from any sexual activity outside of marriage.

      The ELCA is in a study process, examining whether or not to ordain
      clergy who are gay or lesbian and in committed homosexual
      relationships, and whether it should have a policy on blessing same-sex
      relationships. The church has no formal policy about
      blessing of same-sex relationships, though its bishops have advised the
      church they do not approve of such ceremonies.

      Hanson told the Orthodox leaders that the full communion agreement --
      "Called to Common Mission" -- states clearly that
      each church maintains its own clergy standards. "We do not change our
      standards for ordination because the Episcopal Church
      consecrated a gay bishop," Hanson responded.

      "The ELCA is now in a period of study and we are very mindful that we
      do not carry out that study in isolation," Hanson
      said. "We are mindful that study and any recommendations from it impact our
      global and ecumenical relationships."

      The ELCA and Orthodox leaders briefly discussed the ordination of
      women. The ELCA and its predecessor church bodies
      have ordained women for more than 30 years; Orthodox churches do not.
      Gennadios said some Orthodox churches are studying the
      issue, mostly in response to questions from other church bodies.

      "There is no request from inside our church for this (ordination of
      women)," he said. "We respond to questions from
      outside the church. The role of women is very different in the United
      States compared to Turkey and Greece."

      Other subjects discussed in the meeting were the status of other ELCA
      full communion relationships and church-to-church
      theological dialogues; relationships between the ELCA and Lutheran
      Church-Missouri Synod, Middle East concerns; National
      Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and World Council of Churches
      relationships; and the possibility of a single, common
      date for the celebration of Easter by Western and Orthodox churches.

      Accompanying Hanson, his wife Ione, and Lee on the visit to Istanbul
      were: the Rev. Lowell G. Almen, ELCA secretary; the Rev.
      David E. Jensen, Ascension Lutheran Church, Minocqua, Wis. and ELCA Church
      Council member; Kathy J. Magnus, regional officer for
      North America, Lutheran World Federation, Chicago; Arthur Norman, Spanish
      Fort, Ala.; the Rev. Fred S. Opalinski, Trinity Lutheran
      Church, Reading, Pa.; the Rev. Karen S. Parker, assistant to the bishop,
      ELCA Pacifica Synod, Yorba Linda, Calif.; the Rev. Paul
      A. Schreck, executive assistant, ELCA Office of the Secretary and associate
      for bilateral dialogues, ELCA Department for Ecumenical
      Affairs, Chicago.

      Representing the LWF were the Rev. Ishmael Noko, general secretary;
      Karin Achtelstetter, director, Office for
      Communication Services; and Archbishop Georg Kretschmar, co-president,
      Lutheran/Orthodox Joint International Commission, St.
      Petersburg, Russia.

      Reporting on the trip were Achtelstetter and John R. Brooks, director
      for news and media production, ELCA Department for
      Communication
      -- -- --
      Information about Lutheran-Orthodox dialogues can be found on the
      Department for Ecumenical Affairs home page at
      http://www.elca.org/ea on the ELCA Web site.

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