Child hunger, trafficking tapped as Virginia LARCUM concerns
Leaders of the four Christian faith traditions of the Virginia LARCUM Conference have agreed to tackle the issue of preventing child hunger and trafficking of children.
Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond and Bishop Paul S. Loverde of the Diocese of Arlington were among the Virginia bishops who worked diligently to find two or three items of concern on which they could work together.
They did so at the Bishops’ Forum: “Living into the LARCUM Covenant” held Dec. 2-3 in Waynesboro. In addition to the two Catholic bishops, others were from the Lutheran, Episcopal or Anglican, and United Methodist traditions.
Working to stop child hunger and trafficking of children is seen as a Gospel imperative, said Assistant Bishop Ted Gulick of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.
“There’s nothing we can disagree on about it,” Bishop Gulick told The Catholic Virginian. “It’s an imperative for God’s people which comes directly from the New Testament.”
Bishop Gulick, who was the co-chair of the national Episcopal-Roman Catholic Dialogue for many years, explained that there are various examples of how Jesus welcomes children in the New Testament and he also referred to the 25th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel in which Christian social concerns are addressed.
He said that agreement on these two issues surfaced in private conversations among the bishops.
“My commitment to this statement is absolute,” said Bishop Shannon Johnston of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia.
Bishop DiLorenzo, who attended the entire conference in Waynesboro, had invited the LARCUM bishops to lunch at the Diocesan Pastoral Center a few months ago to have an opportunity to know them better and find what substantive issues they might agree to address together.
He gave his support to the task at hand and for efforts to further the goal of Christian unity.
“You carry the challenge of unifying,” he said. “You are to be commended for your perseverance because it is essential for Christianity.”
The issue of child trafficking is closer to home than many Americans think, Bishop Johnston said.
“It is right here,” he said. “It’s not just over in Sudan.”
The LARCUM Conference began with the Bishops’ Forum Friday afternoon at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church.
Friday evening LARCUM participants celebrated an evening prayer service at Main Street United Methodist Church.
On Saturday the day began with morning prayer at St. John Episcopal Church, followed by group discussion and the final blessing at Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church. There were 119 registered participants.
Pastors of the four Waynesboro congregations meet monthly for lunch. There is a local LARCUM committee of both laity and clergy whose members talk about how they as worship communities can live out common aspects of our Christian life, said Father Rolo Castillo, pastor of the Catholic parish.
The four churches have held four LARCUM forums, the last of which in February 2011 had “The Roots of Ecumenism” as its theme. Each January there is an Ecumenical Prayer Service during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The opening prayer at what was called “The Worship of the Great Assembly” on Friday night seemed to summarize the goals of LARCUM. The prayer, said in unison, had been used in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland on the occasion of the visit of Pope John Paul II:
O God, the Giver of life, we pray for the Church throughout the world.
Sanctify its life, renew its
worship, empower its witness, restore its unity.
Remove from your people all pride and every prejudice that dulls their will for unity.
Strengthen the work of all those who strive to seek that common obedience that will bind us together.
Heal the divisions which separate your children from one another, that they may keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. Amen.
The bishops agreed that campus ministry on Virginia college campuses was a mutual concern of the LARCUM churches. There was a call to do greater collaboration.
“We do campus ministry ever so much better together than we do apart,” said Lutheran Bishop Richard Graham, Bishop of the Metro Washington, D.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.He also spoke of “the extraordinary stress on military families” in which the monthly income is “often not sufficient enough to sustain them because of mobility and with one person not in a place long enough to get a job.”
“Few of our churches have the resources or sophistication to deal with returning military, especially those who are wounded, including some wounds that do not show,” Bishop Graham said.
The 60-year-old Lutheran bishop, who is a graduate of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, said that Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington invited him and the Episcopal and United Methodist Bishops of Washington for lunch each month at his residence. While most of the home is ceremonial in nature, he said there is a private porch which has a view of the National Cathedral.
The Cathedral, which is associated with the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, received major damage from an earthquake this past Aug. 23. Bishop Graham said that the first major church contribution to help repair the damaged Cathedral was a gift of $25,000 from the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington.
“This was a sign in Washington that Christians care about people other than themselves,” Bishop Graham said.
There are many activities the LARCUM churches and individual congregations can work on together as a sign of unity, the clergy agreed. This might include shared pulpits during the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, shared Bible study groups and efforts of social justice concerns.
Lutheran Bishop James Mauney expressed a desire for shared Communion, but Bishop Loverde said this was not possible for Roman Catholics.
“As Catholics, we’re not at a point where we have a shared understanding of the Eucharist where we could allow or participate in shared Communion with the other LARCUM churches,” Bishop Loverde said.
Rev. Thomas` Prinz, pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Leesburg who helped draft the 21-year-old Virginia LARC Covenant (before it became LARCUM), said ecumenism did not always bring a dissolving of differences, “but it is learning how to live together with differences with a fundamental understanding of the Gospel.”
Father Donald Rooney, pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Fredericksburg and convenor of the statewide LARCUM Committee along with Dr. Dominick Hankle of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, said he was pleased with the conference. He reported that a woman told him why she felt this year’s conference was so meaningful.
“She said, ‘I think it was a good conference because all of our bishops were present to us. All of us had the sense that each of those bishops were present for all of us and not just their flock,’” Father Rooney said.
“We look forward to a bright year with a new direction and a new organization which will help us spread this unity across the Commonwealth.”
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