A Joint Statement from the
Evangelical Lutheran Deaf Association, Episcopal Deaf Conference and the United Methodist Congress of the Deaf,
December 2015

Ground-breaking Ecumenical Partnership of Deaf Ministries

A history making ecumenical partnership is forming between the Deaf Ministries of the Episcopal Conference of the Deaf, Evangelical Lutheran Deaf Association and United Methodist Congress of the Deaf.

Nine (9) clergy and lay representatives of the Episcopal Conference of the Deaf (ECD), the Evangelical Lutheran Deaf Association (ELDA), and the United Methodist Congress of the Deaf (UMCD) met July 24-25, 2015, at Lovers Lane United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas and finalized the proposed partnership which is being called Deaf ELM.

"Our effort goes beyond 'talking and agreeing' and works toward doing and serving together in ecumenical ministry," stated Rev. Dr. Kirk Van Gilder, vice-president of UMCD and newly appointed Moderator of Deaf ELM for the coming year. "As fellow mainline Protestant denominations, our similarities are strong enough to create bonds between us as we envision and create shared ministry and mission."

Don Rosenkjar, ELDA Deaf missioner and out-going Deaf ELM Moderator, remarked about the efforts to develop a Mission and a Vision Statement, "We struggled for a while, then Cass Martensen, an ECD laywoman, noted there was 'no heart' in the statement." Don continued, "We broke for lunch and ate in a room with the Lovers Lane church's mission, vision, and dream statement on the wall. We returned with new spirit and in a few minutes we had statements full of mutual love, respect and heart."

Mission Statement: In the presence of Jesus Christ, with mutual love and respect, the Episcopal Conference of the Deaf (ECD), the Evangelical Lutheran Deaf Association (ELDA), and the United Methodist Congress of the Deaf (UMCD) partner together to inspire and transform the lives of Deaf people.

Vision statement: Together as one, with God's help we strive to build a spectrum of ministries with Deaf people passionately engaged in creating and supporting diverse ministries, outreach, communication, worship resources, and leadership development that show the love and grace of Jesus Christ to everyone we meet.

Among some of the immediate areas of shared ministry that Deaf ELM is collaborating on are  —lectionary resources in American Sign Language available on Youtube and videos.  —joint Cursillo/Walk to Emmaus/Retreats  —international Deaf ministry Mission trip to Zimbabwe and Kenya June 2016

The proposed statements will be presented at the combined gathering of the ECD, ELDA and UMCD at St. Catherine's University, St. Paul, Minnesota, July 17-24, 2016.

Only 1% of Deaf people who use sign language attend church. There is plenty of ministry and mission to be done. Pastor Beth Lockard, Director of the ELCA Deaf Ministries, said of this historic partnership, "The Deaf Community is a family linked by language and culture. Our bonds are greater than the normal barriers of language, color, creed and denomination. It is an exciting time to be church together."

Left to right: Episcopal Conference of the Deaf leaders, Rev. Marianne Stuart, president; Cass Martensen, secretary; Lee Holland, member at-large.

Left to right: Evangelical Lutheran Deaf Association (ELDA) leaders, Don Rosenkjar; Rev. Beth Lockard, executive director; Mark Koterwski, past-president.

Left to right: United Methodist Committee on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Ministries, Bryan Branson, Patricia Magyar, Sandy Saunders, Tom Hudspeth, Lynn Swedberg, Billy Deters, Richard Stallworth, Beverly Chesebro, Leo Yates, Jr., Evon Malray and Lisa Jordan.

United Methodist Congress of the Deaf officers, left to right; Rev. Dr. Tom Hudspeth, President; Dr. Kirk VanGilder, vice-president; Sandy Saunders, NEJ Vice-President; Rev. Sandi Johnson, Secretary; Karen Miller, NEJ President; Linda Ford, Treasurer; Michelle Martin, SCJ President.

Spelling out in ASL letters E-L-M, representing Episcopal, Lutheran and United Methodist, left to right; Rev. Marianne Stuart, Lee Holland, Cass Martensen, Don Rosenkjar, Rev. Beth Lockard, Mark Koterwski, Rev. Dr. Tom Hudspeth, Carol Stevens and Kirk VanGilder.

Group photo of everyone.