A beacon of hope to the world today

29 Oct 2016
 LWF Vice-President for North America Bishop Susan Johnson:  There was a time when I would have thought such an event was impossible. Photo: LWF/P. Mumia

LWF Vice-President for North America Bishop Susan Johnson: There was a time when I would have thought such an event was impossible. Photo: LWF/P. Mumia

Canadian National Bishop Johnson says Joint Commemoration affirms ecumenical and diaconal calling

(LWI) – As she prepares to witness the historic Joint Commemoration of the Reformation in Lund and Malmö, the LWF Vice-President for North America Bishop Susan C. Johnson, shared with Lutheran World Information some of the ecumenical and diaconal initiatives Canadian Lutherans and Catholics are engaged in.

What is the importance of the joint Catholic-Lutheran commemoration in Lund and Malmö from your perspective?

The commemoration acknowledges the important place the Reformation has not just in terms of our confessional identity but in shaping world history. When we remember that we are commemorating this with 74 million Lutherans around the world—it is a chance to remember that we are part of a larger family connected to sisters and brothers in Christ around the world through our identity as Christians. There was a time when I would have thought such an event was impossible: The Pope with LWF leadership commemorating the Reformation? What a wonderful sign of the Holy Spirit that continues to work in and among us calling us to the unity of the church, which Jesus has proclaimed.

How are Lutherans and Catholics working together in your region, can you name an example of good cooperation?

We have a long history of working together in the Canadian Council of Churches and in KAIROS, an ecumenical social justice coalition. There are a number of events being planned here in Canada to recognize the commemoration in an ecumenical way.

I have been participating in a Lutheran-Catholic working group. We will be releasing study materials co-written between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops later this year. Part of the resource is a five-part study guide which can be used in individual segments or as a whole series, aimed to bring Catholic and Lutheran congregations and parishes together to facilitate discussions around some of the historical and theological questions surrounding the Reformation and the advancements in reconciliation which have occurred over the past 50 years. In addition, a homily resource has been developed for Sunday, 29 January 2017, the last Sunday of the 2017 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

We also understand there will be a number of locally coordinated Lutheran-Catholic gatherings happening between the time of Reformation Day 2016 and the 500th anniversary in 2017.

How can we work together in hope for refugees and displaced people in your region?

ELCIC members from across the church have enthusiastically embraced the ELCIC Reformation Challenge, of which one of the goals is to sponsor 500 refugees. By early October, our members and congregations had made commitments to sponsor over 320 refugees to Canada. ELCIC members are truly working together in hope and In Mission for Others to assist refugees and displaced people. We are hearing so many stories of how congregations are partnering with other groups in their respective communities to be able to sponsor families and find the capacity, both financially and through human resources, to support this work. Many of these sponsorships are being done ecumenically, including with Roman Catholics. This is something we can build on, and the Malmö event will encourage us.

How is the reformation being commemorated in your region?

Lutherans across Canada are commemorating the Reformation anniversary in a wide variety of ways. There are many locally coordinated events that will take place between Reformation Day 2016 and the 500th anniversary in 2017. We are highlighting a number of them on our website and continue to add more gatherings as we become aware of them (http://elcic.ca/reformation2017/events.cfm).

One of the ways we hope ELCIC members will get involved is through their participation in the ELCIC Reformation Challenge, demonstrating our understanding of being Liberated by God's Grace by responding to a world in need. This challenge is gathering a lot of energy from across the church and I'm excited by all the creative ways members of the ELCIC are engaging in this challenge.

You will represent the LWF and your region in Lund and Malmö, what are you looking forward to personally during the day?

I'm excited to participate in an event which is so historical and which also provides a beacon of hope to our world. It is a wonderful expression of two things we have been saying about ourselves: to be Lutheran is to be ecumenical and to be Lutheran is to be diaconal.


Bishop Susan C. Johnson has been LWF Vice-President for North America since 2010. She is the National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.


More about the Joint Commemoration