I was confirmed in an ELCA Lutheran church, I participated in Living Water Ministries camps for eleven years, and I’ve gone to the ELCA Youth Gathering in Detroit. One might say that my ‘Lutheran Résumé’ is through the roof. But, here’s the shocker– I started my faith life by being baptized into the Episcopal church. I had inherited Lutheranism from my paternal family but many people on my mother’s side were Episcopal priests. Because of this, my family has molded my faith life into a beautiful culmination of ELCA Lutheran and Episcopalian traditions.
Living Water Ministries is an example of the success that comes when Lutherans and Episcopalians work together. At its core, LWM is an ecumenical organization. We thrive when we share our strengths with others and aren’t afraid to ask for help in areas in which we could be stronger. This week in particular, is a week where we celebrate our Lutheran/Episcopal partnership and the spiritual gifts that come from working together. In fact, the majority of this week’s campers are Episcopalian!
An example of a spiritual gift that the Episcopal Church shares with us is their exceptional safeguarding policies and programs. Each year, we call on Eric Travis, Episcopal Missioner for Youth and Young Adults to teach us important information about preventing sexual abuse. Here are some additional thoughts from Eric about our ecumenical partnership:
“I love working with my Lutheran siblings in ministry. We have a common mission, a common theology and a common love for Jesus. One of the best things, to me, about this partnership is that we each have our own strengths that lifts up everyone. Lutherans are great at doing large things and events. Episcopalians are great at small groups and events. Together, we are great at all of it, especially when we help each other. My favorite part of the Lutheran/Episcopal partnership in Michigan is summer camp. The joining together of young people from all areas of the Synods and Diocese at Stony Lake is a highlight of my year. I love working with the wonderful and professional staff at Camp, who not only care for me and our young people, but also call upon me to share my expertise. Working to understand each other’s polity and theology has helped to open us all to the many ways that God works with people. We are stronger together than we are apart.”
Eric couldn’t have said it better, we are stronger together than we are apart. Of course, there are differences between the ELCA and the Episcopal church, like the different verbiage that is used or whether or not Apostolic Succession is practiced. But we must acknowledge that these slight theological differences hold us accountable to staying open-minded and welcoming as a youth ministry organization. We must also stay grounded in the fact that both the ELCA and the Episcopal Church have common missions– to share the gospel with others.
As a result of that passion to share the gospel, Living Water Ministries serves both our constituent congregations and we are boldly reaching beyond these denominational boundaries to share the good news of Christ as an expression of the ELCA and the Episcopal Church into the world.