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Lutherans and Catholics Hold Latest Round of Dialogues

September 10, 1998

Washington (September 10, 1998)--Representatives of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) met in Chicago to initiate the Tenth Round of the US Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue. The theme was "The Church as Koinonia of Salvation: Its Structures and Ministries." Bishop Charles Maahs of the Central States Synod of the ELCA and Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba of Milwaukee co-chaired the dialogue.

Hosted at ELCA headquarters in Chicago, the Dialogue was held September 3-5.

It built on nine earlier rounds of US dialogue and nine rounds of the International Lutheran Catholic Dialogue, sponsored by the Lutheran World Federation and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. The US dialogues have covered such themes as the Creed, baptism, Eucharist, ordained ministry, teaching authority, scripture and tradition, papal primacy, justification, and Mary and the saints. There was a five year pause in the dialogue in order to prepare and respond to the Joint Declaration on Justification by Faith, approved by the two churches in June.

The meeting reviewed preparatory papers on communion/koinonia as they might touch on structures and ordained ministry by Dr. John Reumann (emeritus) of Lutheran Seminary of Philadelphia, by Dr. Susan Wood of St. John's University, Collegeville, and Dr. Michael Root of Trinity Lutheran Seminary. Papers were assigned for the next meeting on the use of koinonia in current dialogues and ecumenical sources. A future paper will take up the use of communion in relation to ordained ministry and structures of church unity as used by the Fathers of the Church, especially as quoted in contemporary ecumenical studies. These background studies will help the dialogue focus on future work and provide a contribution to the unity of the churches that does not duplicate past research.

There was an extended discussion of the Joint Declaration on Justification by Faith and the significance of the action of the two churches. The US Dialogue welcomed the degree of positive response from the churches thus far and showed a hope that everything possible will be done to move forward to an unreserved affirmation and signing of the Joint Declaration.

This Dialogue was the occasion for the presentation of a new summary of the results of the US and international dialogues: The Lutheran-Catholic Quest for Visible Unity: Harvesting Thirty Years of Dialogue, copublished by the ELCA and the NCCB. The Dialogue will meet twice a year to pursue its work.

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