Called to Beloved Community: Episcopalians and Lutherans Working Together

Dear Sisters and Brothers,

Grace and peace be with you in Jesus, the Light for all People!

I want to share a video with you describing an ecumenical initiative with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), one of our Full Communion Partners.  In 2015, the General Convention of The Episcopal Church called us to focus on Racial Reconciliation and Racial Justice.  To that end, an initiative was developed entitled, Becoming #Beloved Community.  I shared this material with you in early November and invited us through the Advent season to engage in conversations throughout Northern Indiana, using the resources provided by the wider Church.  We had four conversations during Advent in Gary, Marion, South Bend and Fort Wayne.  These conversations offered insight and wisdom as we listened to one another's stories of race in our communities and churches.

By God's Providence, we came into Full Communion with our Lutheran sisters and brothers in 2000, adopting a working framework entitled, "Called to Common Mission."  Since my election as your bishop, I have reached out to my colleague in the ELCA, Bishop Bill Gafkjen, who serves as Bishop of the Indiana-Kentucky Synod, in hopes of living more fully and practically into our full communion relationship.  Beginning in September, Bishop Bill and Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, the new Episcopal Bishop of Indianapolis, and I have been meeting regularly to again seek ways to live more fully and practically into our full communion relationship.  After prayerful discussion and at the invitation of our wider churches, we decided to embrace "Becoming #Beloved Community," as our first ecumenical initiative throughout Indiana.

The video is an initial conversation describing our hopes for this initiative.  We want to engage in StorySharing...which is "a practice that allows everyone to seek, name, and celebrate the loving presence of Jesus in our lives."  We realize that some of us may engage this process with some fear and trepidation.  But it is our hope that, in our sharing and listening, we may practice love, forgiveness and mercy.

As bishops, we have committed ourselves to identifying areas of our diocese or synod, to begin this process.  In Northern Indiana, I would like to begin this ecumenical initiative in Gary, South Bend and Fort Wayne.  Dates and locations for the StorySharing experience will be shared as soon as they are finalized.

I invite you to begin praying for this ecumenical initiative among Lutherans and Episcopalians in Indiana.  I also invite your reflections, suggestions and insights into the particular and practical ways we might walk together toward Becoming #Beloved Community.

Every blessing,
Doug Sparks