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ELCA news releases are detailed accounts describing events and ministires of the ELCA 

ELCA News
  • Herbert Chilstrom, first ELCA presiding bishop, dies

    Herbert W. Chilstrom, 88, the first presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), died Jan. 19 at his home in Green Valley, Ariz. He was born in Litchfield, Minn., on Oct. 18, 1931.

    He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Corinne (Hansen), also a Lutheran pastor; a daughter, Mary Cress of Mesa, Ariz.; and a son, Christopher Holt of Baltimore; and four sisters, Winnifred Christenson of Robbinsdale, Minn.; Virginia Francis of Pickens, S.C.; Martha (Charles) Anderson of Ashby, Minn.; and Janet (Frederick) Sickert of West Linn, Ore.

    Chilstrom completed academic degrees at Augsburg University, Augustana Seminary, the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Princeton Seminary, and New York University, where he earned a doctor of education degree.

    He served Lutheran congregations in Pelican Rapids, Elizabeth and St. Peter, Minn.

    He was professor and dean at Luther College, Teaneck, N.J., from 1962-1970. In 1976 he was elected bishop of the Minnesota Synod of the Lutheran Church in America (LCA). At the 1987 merger that created the 5.2-million-member ELCA, he was elected the first presiding bishop.

    Chilstrom was awarded 15 honorary doctorates by 15 colleges, universities and seminaries. He was named a Commander of the Royal Order of the North Star by King Carl Gustav IV of Sweden, received the Pope John XXIII award from Viterbo College, the Servus Dei Award from the ELCA, as well as numerous other honors and awards.

    Chilstrom served on numerous boards of directors, including vice president of the Lutheran World Federation, Geneva, Switzerland; Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.; Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota; Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, Minn.; the National Council of Churches and others.

    He also authored numerous books and articles.

    After retirement he continued to be active in church and community, preaching and lecturing in many parts of the country. He became a Minnesota Master Gardener, volunteering and serving as interim director at the Linnaeus Arboretum at Gustavus Adolphus College.

    The family prefers that memorial gifts be given to the Herbert Chilstrom Chair in New Testament Studies at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, or to one of the Chilstrom Student Scholarship Funds at Luther Seminary; Augsburg University, Minneapolis; Gustavus Adolphus College, or Concordia College, Moorhead, Minn.

    - - -
    About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
    The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with nearly 3.5 million members in more than 9,100 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.

    For information contact:
    Candice Hill Buchbinder
    Public Relations Manager
    773-380-2877
    Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org



  • Bishop Eaton issues pastoral message on death of Herbert Chilstrom

    Dear Church,

    With sadness I bring you the news that Presiding Bishop Emeritus Herbert W. Chilstrom died at home early this morning. His wife, Pastor Corinne Chilstrom; his son, Chris Holt; and family were with him.

    Bishop Chilstrom was the first presiding bishop of the ELCA. Many of you knew him in those early days when the ELCA was just getting started – there was no furniture at the Lutheran Center, files were in boxes, phones were on the floor, and the skeleton staff worked on card tables and folding chairs. He was once told by a corporate executive sitting next to him on a plane that this was no way to start a corporation and it would never work. Thirty-three years later we are still here, entrusted with the ministry of the gospel and serving the neighbor.

    I can’t imagine the uncertainty and chaos of those first months, but all I know we were filled with hope for this new church the Spirit had brought into being. And I know that Bishop Chilstrom served out of the conviction that it was God’s will to raise up an ELCA witness to the gospel, and with God, all things are possible.

    I remember Bishop Chilstrom saying once that his mother told him: “Herb, you might be the only Bible some people read.” It was her way of telling him, and his way of telling us, that we are living witnesses to the grace of God.

    Bishop Chilstrom chose “Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart!” (ELW, 873) to be the sending hymn at his funeral. Verse five announces:

     

    At last the march shall end;

    The wearied ones shall rest;

    The pilgrims find their home at last,

    Jerusalem the blest.

    Rejoice! Give thanks and sing!

     

    Through tears, but in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection, we rejoice.

     

    Peace,

    The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
    Presiding Bishop
    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

     


  • ELCA presiding bishop issues pastoral message on Iran conflict

    "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" (Matthew 5:9). 

    The current crisis between the United States and Iran is worrisome for many of us in our church, in our nation and in the world. Our country and Iran need urgently to find ways to resolve our differences through a de-escalation of the current crisis, using diplomacy and other peaceful means.

    Armed conflict and war are always tragic for those directly involved and often as well for civilians, who also may suffer under punitive sanctions. These situations are evidence of broken relationships.   

    Our social statement, "For Peace in God's World," offers guidance: 
    We of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America share with the Church of Jesus Christ in all times and places the calling to be peacemakers …. 
    The basis of the Church's peace-calling is in God's final peace, the peace of God's eternal reign. That calling is to proclaim the Gospel of God's final peace and to work for earthly peace.

    For our part, we have a window of opportunity to stop the current conflict before it worsens. We should appeal now to our elected officials to pursue the path of dialogue and diplomacy with Iran — for our sake, for the sake of the people of Iran and for the sake of the world God so loves. 

     
    In peace,

    The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton

    Presiding Bishop
    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

    - - -
    About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
    The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with nearly 3.5 million members in more than 9,100 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.

    For information contact:
    Candice Hill Buchbinder
    Public Relations Manager
    773-380-2877
    Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org

     


  • ELCA presiding bishop pastoral letter on the United Methodist Church

    ​Dear Church,

    Through full communion, we have grown in unity and fellowship over the past decade with the United Methodist Church (UMC). We are receiving and sharing gifts, strengthening the body of Christ, and deepening mission and ministry for the sake of the world.

    Last week, in a flurry of misleading headlines, many of us read that the United Methodist Church had split. This is not, in fact, what happened. On Jan. 3, it was announced that an ideologically diverse group of leaders collaborated in a mediation process resulting in their unanimous support for a proposed agreement. If adopted, the Protocol of Reconciliation and Grace through Separation would result in the separation of the United Methodist Church. At this point, it still needs to come through the appropriate legislative mechanisms in order to be deliberated by the UMC General Conference in May. The proposed agreement is just that at this time.

    Many of you may be pondering the good Lutheran question: What does this mean? For the UMC? For our full communion partnership? It is simply too soon to have clarity on those questions. I assure you that there are leaders, both ELCA and UMC, who are carefully and faithfully tending to these questions. My staff colleagues and I are in regular conversation with our counterparts. As actual decisions are made by the General Conference and details become clearer, we will share information and seek to interpret it.

    For now, I invite your continued prayers for, and accompaniment with, our full communion partners. Reach out to your neighbors and let them know that you are walking with them and praying for them, for the unity of Christ's church, and for God's justice and peace for all people and creation. This is a time for deepening our commitments to the relationships at the very heart of our bond as siblings united in Christ.

    In Christ,

    The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton

    Presiding Bishop
    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

    - - -
    About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
    The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with nearly 3.5 million members in more than 9,100 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.

    For information contact:
    Candice Hill Buchbinder
    Public Relations Manager
    773-380-2877
    Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org

     


  • ELCA presiding bishop responds to anti-Semitic incidents in New York

    ​December 30, 2019

    Today is the last day of Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. As our Jewish siblings lighted the menorah, they sang this blessing:  

                  We kindle these lights because of the wondrous deliverance You performed for our ancestors. During these eight days of Hanukkah, these lights are sacred; we are not to use them but only to behold them, so that their glow may rouse us to give thanks for Your wondrous acts of deliverance.

    Tragically, several acts of anti-Semitic hatred, bigotry and violence in New York during these days have marred the joyful festivities in Jewish communities across this country and around the world. Within the last year, we have witnessed the broader surge of anti-Semitism from Pittsburgh to Poway in which these most recent incidents have occurred. Our Jewish neighbors are living in pain, grief and fear.  

    Twenty-five years ago, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America joined other Lutheran Christians worldwide in repudiating anti-Judaism within our own tradition. In our 1994 “Declaration of the ELCA to the Jewish Community” we affirmed that “we recognize in anti-Semitism a contradiction and affront to the Gospel, a violation of our hope and calling, and we pledge this church to oppose the deadly working of such bigotry, both within our own circles and in the society around us.”

    This will require more of us than repeated statements. It will require building bridges of inter-religious understanding in our communities. It will require reaching out to our Jewish neighbors to offer our care, support, love and protection. It will require our persistence in addressing the root causes of anti-Semitism and its menacing companions of white supremacy and xenophobia.   

    In different ways, and for different reasons, this is a time of year when Jews and Christians celebrate the miracle of light. In our prayers and actions, may we be a living presence of God’s sacred light that rouses us all to resistance and righteousness.

    In peace,

    The Rev. Elizabeth A. Eaton
    Presiding Bishop, ELCA
    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

    - - -
    About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
    The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with nearly 3.5 million members in more than 9,100 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.

    For information contact:
    Candice Hill Buchbinder
    Public Relations Manager
    773-380-2877
    Candice.HillBuchbinder@ELCA.org



     


  • The ELCA makes innovation a priority for future growth

    ​CHICAGO  — The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) is pleased to announce the appointment of Mikka McCracken as the new Executive for Innovation and Director, ELCA Leadership Lab. This new role will serve as a change champion, equipping and supporting the development of key leaders to address the most pressing problems of the church. 

    "The way people hear and receive the gospel is changing at a at an increasingly rapid rate. The competitors of the gospel are many. What hasn't changed is the liberating good news that we are loved and are set free to serve the neighbor. The Leadership Lab gives us the space to experiment and innovate in real time so that more people can know more about Jesus and experience the love of God," stated Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, presiding bishop of the ELCA.

    McCracken feels an innovation culture powered by the vocations and passions of many will help break through silos that too often render the church irrelevant in people's lives, our communities and the world. 

    "I believe that God's grace and love in Christ matters and I am excited to be part of Bishop Eaton's vision for the future of this church. The Leadership Lab will be a church-wide innovation space where people can co-create, design and dream new and useful ideas, process and projects. This work will be new, and different, and hard, but in a way, it's a true call back to our Reformation roots. We want to become the innovation denomination."

    A South Korean adoptee and life-long ELCA Lutheran, McCracken served most recently as Director for Strategy and Engagement with ELCA World Hunger. From 2010-2017, she served on the Lutheran World Federation international council, and currently serves on the Vorstand of the ELCA Wittenberg Center in Germany. McCracken is a graduate of Gustavus Adolphus College and is currently pursuing a certificate in management excellence from Harvard Business School Executive Education.

     

    - - -
    About the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:
    The ELCA is one of the largest Christian denominations in the United States, with nearly 3.5 million members in more than 9,100 worshiping communities across the 50 states and in the Caribbean region. Known as the church of "God's work. Our hands.," the ELCA emphasizes the saving grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ, unity among Christians and service in the world. The ELCA's roots are in the writings of the German church reformer Martin Luther.

    Contact:
    Candice Hill Buchbinder
    Public Relations Manager
    773-380-2877
    Candice.HillBuchbinder@elca.org




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