CONCORDAT WITH MAJCO REAFFIRMED UNANIMOUSLY AT ELCA MONTANA SYNOD CONFERENCE
Adapted from http://www.elca.org
Established in the early 1990s, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Consultative Panel on Lutheran-Jewish Relations was formed to investigate the history of Jewish-Christian relations, to combat common misinterpretations of Judaism, and to identify areas of potential cooperation and understanding.
The Consultative Panel was responsible for the development of the Declaration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America to the Jewish Community, adopted on April 18, 1994, by the Church Council of the ELCA, in which the Lutheran Church repudiated Luther’s anti-Semitic writings. The text follows.
Declaration of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North America to the Jewish Community
“In the long history of Christianity there exists no more tragic development than the treatment accorded the Jewish people on the part of Christian believers. Very few Christian communities of faith were able to escape the contagion of anti-Judaism and its modern successor, anti-Semitism. Lutherans belonging to the Lutheran World Federation and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America feel a special burden in this regard because of certain elements in the legacy of the reformer Martin Luther and the catastrophes, including the Holocaust of the twentieth century, suffered by Jews in places where the Lutheran churches were strongly represented.
“The Lutheran communion of faith is linked by name and heritage to the memory of Martin Luther, teacher and reformer. Honoring his name in our own, we recall his bold stand for truth, his earthy and sublime words of wisdom, and above all his witness to God’s saving Word. Luther proclaimed a gospel for people as we really are, bidding us to trust a grace sufficient to reach our deepest shames and address the most tragic truths.
“In the spirit of that truth-telling, we who bear his name and heritage must with pain acknowledge also Luther’s anti-Judaic diatribes and the violent recommendations of his later writings against the Jews. As did many of Luther’s own companions in the sixteenth century, we reject this violent invective, and yet more do we express our deep and abiding sorrow over its tragic effects on subsequent generations. In concert with the Lutheran World Federation, we particularly deplore the appropriation of Luther’s words by modern anti-Semites for the teaching of hatred toward Judaism or toward the Jewish people in our day.
“Grieving the complicity of our own tradition within this history of hatred, moreover, we express our urgent desire to live out our faith in Jesus Christ with love and respect for the Jewish people. We recognize in anti-Semitism a contradiction and an 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. Finally, we pray for the continued blessing of the Blessed One upon the increasing cooperation and understanding between Lutheran Christians and the Jewish community.”
The Montana Synod Conference of the ELCA was held Friday and Saturday, June 5-6, 2015. Representing MAJCO on Saturday were Jerry Weissman and Arnie Schandelson. On behalf of the Jewish community, Jerry Weissman offered some extemporaneous remarks, after which the Concordat between MAJCO and ELCA was unanimously reaffirmed
The following is taken from an email from Jerry Weissman concerning his remarks on this occasion.
“The original authors of the Concordat were there in recollection of the events of April 1994 to the signing in June of 1995. They spoke of how Martin Luther turned against the Jews when they would not join him in his version of the New Christian religion, afterwards called the Lutheran church. They spoke about more than 1000 years of slaughtering Jews culminating in the Holocaust, and they spoke about the Holocaust itself. Then it was my turn.
“I thanked them for inviting Arnie and myself, and reminded the crowd that Arnie and I were there 20 years ago, and also said that the members present looked strong enough to join the two of us again 20 years in the future when we celebrate 40 years.
“I welcomed the crowd from the representatives of the Grandfather Religion, Judaism.
“I spoke then about what the world was like in 1994 when the idea of this concordat was made. Christians were being rounded up in Concentration camps in Kosovo. That got a lot of head shaking in agreement. I reminded the crowd that 70 years ago Christians and Jews invaded Europe to rid Humanity of the scourge that killed so many Jews, Gypsies, Russians, Christians, homosexuals, and people who were physically and mentally challenged. The Nazi’s were at war with the world and people of faith. Again lots of head shaking in agreement.
“I then spoke about what is happening today in Iran, In Iraq, In Syria, in Libya, where Christians, Yazidis and others were being rounded up to be sold into Slavery, to be raped, to be immolated and to be beheaded. I declared that what is happening today to the Sunday people of faith was being done by people declaring their actions to be commanded by their religion, and I described those people as those of no faith. This is a new and at the same time old war on people of faith.
“I ended by recalling that in 1982 we were in Jerusalem and had been to the Western Wall, and that I was with Mike Traub, who was then the Secretary of the guides union. I described the distance from the wall to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where Queen Helen was said to have found the remnants of the true cross. I asked Mike what he would say if the Messiah (Moschiach) were to appear and he could ask him a question. He replied that he would ask Him If He had been here before.
“I think for such an unusual event for Jews, it went rather well.”