Ecumenical and Interreligious Perspectives »Blog Archive Renewal of the“ Declaration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to the Jewish Community ”- Ecumenical and Interreligious Perspectives


Kathryn M. Lohre

On November 11, the ELCA Church Council approved amendments to the “Declaration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) to the Jewish Community” * as an expression of the church’s continued opposition to growing anti-Semitism. The audits specifically named the anti-Jewish “incitement to violence” too often. We are thinking of Pittsburgh and Poway, but also of the daily acts of violence experienced by our Jewish neighbors who go unnoticed, underreported or ignored. The point is that anti-Semitism is not just a harmful, derogatory idea of ​​Judaism, but a catastrophic and sometimes deadly force in the world against our Jewish neighbors that we must beware of – in ourselves, in our church and in the world around us. For this reason, the action taken by the Council included not only revisions but also an invitation to the church to enter a time of study and reflection using the Declaration and other Lutheran-Jewish sources available in the Office of the Presiding Bishop.

By design, the Declaration provides a measure of accountability within ELCA and the Jewish partners of this church. (One of our dear Jewish partners has a framed copy of the Declaration on the wall of his office!) As Lutherans – through the Lutheran World Federation, our previous organs and the ELCA, we reject Luther’s troubling legacy and our complicity in the unique horrors of the Holocaust and the constant plague of anti-Jews. bias, intolerance, hatred and violence. To be clear: this requires more than just a declaration of our intentions, but acts of daily repentance and renewal experienced in the community, and through intentional relationships with our Jewish neighbors.

At the same time, ELCA lives its responsibility to others. In September this year, the Church Council adopted the “ELCA Declaration to American Indians and Alaska Natives” as a step in implementing the church’s rejection of the 2016 doctrine of revelation. The latest ELCA declaration concludes by acknowledging that “we understand that no document, no matter how carefully drafted, will perform acts of truth and justice in relation to our American Indian and Alaska Native American brothers and sisters. We also understand that what has evolved over hundreds of years will require lasting commitment. ” The history of the church – and its constant witness – cannot be corrected by simply declaring it wrong.

This brings me to the second part of the recently adopted revisions of the “ELCA Declaration for the Jewish Community.” The text adopted in 1994 began: “In the long history of Christianity, there is no more tragic development than the treatment of the Jewish people by Christian believers. The superlative in this original sentence inadvertently calls for false comparisons – between the Holocaust committed against the Jewish people and the genocide committed against the indigenous people, between growing anti-Semitism and anti-indigenous racism to cite two examples. Instead, what we should look for are deadly ties: the complicity of the church, the political and theological justification of sinful ideologies, the continual perpetration of intolerance, violence, and even death against those considered inferior, unworthy, expendable, or less than humanly dominant (and dominant). ) culture. To that end, it now states, “In the long history of the church, the treatment of the Jewish people by Christians has been among our most terrible and shameful legacies.” These connections will help us see more clearly the truths we need to say in order to be healed, and the work we need to do to preserve God’s vision of life in abundance for all humans and creation.

I thank God for the brave people, including the late Rev. Dr. Franklin Sherman, who was key in the development of the “ELCA Declaration to the Jewish Community” in the 1990s, and the late Rev. Dr. Gordon Straw, who in 2018 challenged the church to take seriously the church’s rejection of the Doctrine of Revelation, even in the context of our Jewish relations. Even on blissful memory, they helped us realize that sometimes even correctives need correction.

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* Written by the ELCA Consultative Council for Lutheran-Jewish Relations and adopted by the ELCA Church Council in 1994, the “ELCA Declaration to the Jewish Community” rejects Luther’s anti-Judaic writings, opposes anti-Semitism and expresses ELCA’s desire to build real relations with the Jewish community. .

Kathryn Mary Lohre serves as Assistant Presiding Bishop and Executive Director for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations and Theological Distinction for ELCA



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