The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


Toward church unity

The state and future of ecumenism in the ELCA

You could say today’s movement toward Christian unity is a bit like a family picnic for all Christian churches. The invitations came in Jesus’ prayer that “all may be one ... so that the world may believe” (John 17:21). Hot dishes and church histories abound. Not everyone eats every dish or engages in every activity. There are some serious allergies and arguments.

Communion ware The ELCA branch of the family shows up at these gatherings in local, national and international settings. Even scholars—who call this work ecumenism—will tell you that sometimes it’s no picnic. Coming to theological agreement with some partners is challenging. Not all ELCA members agree on directions for the work. Both denominational officials and grass-roots leaders try to get the other excited about what each is doing. Yet all those interviewed agree that—in a world with 35,000 church bodies—Christian unity is vital.

“We’re in a world that is so fractured, so broken, that for the church to have a powerful message, it needs to do it with one voice,” said Rocky Piro, a member of Phinney Ridge Lutheran Church, Seattle. Piro, as president of the Lutheran Ecumenical Representatives Network, is one of 60 laity and clergy who advise bishops on ecumenical issues.

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