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Changing Ecumenical Priorities of the ELCA

The ELCA reports the following:

"In June, an ELCA delegation attended the plenary of Churches Uniting in Christ, held in Montgomery, Ala. Since 2002, the ELCA has participated in this ecumenical body as a 'partner in mission and dialogue' as the members pursued mutual recognition and reconciliation of ministries and tended to related issues of racism and racial justice. Since the last plenary in 2016, the ELCA participated with the member churches in a public mutual recognition of ministries held in Dallas, Texas, in June 2017. However, given our approach to full communion through bilateral dialogue and our mounting concern for racial justice in church and society, the ELCA made the difficult decision at this plenary to end its engagement through Churches Uniting in Christ. In her letter detailing this decision, Presiding Bishop Eaton wrote: 'As we focus on our internal anti-racism work, we are seeking to double-down in our commitment to work for racial justice in a number of ecumenical spaces - the National Council of Churches, the cross-racial dialogue of the Conference of National Black Churches, and bilateral partnerships - where we can invest in the urgency of our ecumenical commitments to end racism and strengthen partnerships with the Historic Black Churches. In those spaces, we will continue to work together and grow in relationship with the members of CUIC. This will be a new way of living out our partnership in mission and dialogue. It also means we have come to the end of the road in our journey with Churches Uniting in Christ as a separate ecumenical entity.' This decision was the result of significant research, dialogue, discernment and prayer. We are committed to continued accompaniment of the member churches of CUIC in their work and witness together and in our shared commitments to racial justice and Christian unity."

I did one of my master's degrees in ecumenism and see significance in this decision. When I started ministry, the predecessor church bodies of the ELCA sought altar and pulpit fellowship with other church bodies which had a similar understanding of scriptures and the sacraments. With the start of CUIC, the church sought to reach out to all Christians, including some we did not agree with on everything. Now the ELCA is putting opposition to racism at the center of its ecumenical relationships with other denominations. It will be interesting to watch how this works itself out.

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