Bishop Mike Rinehart
Each of the 65 synods of the ELCA is asked to select an Ecumenical Representative (ER). This ER is an appointment by the bishop. Many thanks to retired Pastor David Roschke, who served in this role for many years. He has now stepped down.
I have appointed Pastor Karin Liebster in this role, starting September 1, 2018, which is serendipitous, as she was installed as Associate Pastor of Faith Formation at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Houston on September 1, 2002, sixteen years ago. First a little bit about Karin, then a little bit about the role.
Karin came to the United States from Germany where she received her Master of Divinity and was ordained in the Evangelical Church in the Rhineland. Her theological formation took place in the climate of second generation postwar Germany, a time characterized by the desire to build global ecumenical understanding and relationships, the reformulating of Christian theology in light of two world wars, and the effort of the church to repent and renew relations with the Jewish people.
In the 1985-1986 school year, she studied in Jerusalem at Hebrew Union, becoming part of the ministry at Redeemer Lutheran Church in the Old City. She became deeply rooted in Christian-Jewish Dialog, what she describes as “the prime ecumenical relationship.”
After taking her first examinations in Düsseldorf, Karin served her residency in Heidelberg, as a part of the Evangelical Church of the Rhineland. It was there that she learned about agape meals and Taize. After her two-year residency, she returned to Düsseldorf, the seat of the Rhinish church for second set of exams.
In 1993 she moved to the U.S, serving served Montvale Congregational Church in Woburn, MA (United Church of Christ) before moving to Houston in 1997.
The emphasis of Karin’s work at Christ the King is providing educational programs and opportunities toward the formation of the Christian faith in all stages of life. She works closely together with volunteers and ministry staff especially in the areas of children, youth and family ministries. She teaches the Confirmation Class.
Pastor Liebster says about herself and her ministry, “Faith is a wondrous thing. When I most want it, it can escape me. When I least expect it, it comes as a gift. It is this elusive and yet real presence of the triune God which is daily at the center of my real work with real people. I like best the many ways in which we assemble as the Body of Christ – in worship, for storytelling and listening, for study and play, for shared meals and conversations – because each is an opportunity for the Word of the living God to come and meet us.”
Karin is married to Matthias Henze, who teaches at Rice University.
I asked Karin to take on this role because she is one of a number of folks who show up for ecumenical events, because she knows about and cares deeply about Jewish relations, and because she understands that in theology and ecumenical relations, words matter.
She said yes because of her Jerusalem experience, because of the influence of her Heidelberg mentor, because she considers herself a child of the ecumenical age and the World Council of Churches, and because she came from the UCC.
As this synod’s Ecumenical Representative, Karin will be a part of the LEIRN Network: Lutheran Ecumenical and Inter-religious Representative Network. Working with Pastor Kathryn Lohre in the churchwide offices, LEIRN’s role is:
To manifest the unity given to the people of God by living together in the love of Christ and by joining with other Christians in prayer and action to express and preserve the unity which the Spirit gives. (ELCA Constitution, 4.02)
Karin will serve as a direct resource to the bishop for ecumenical issues, connecting with LEIRN and with faith leaders in this synod. Karin will work on the team that plans events for the week of Prayer for Christian Unity in January. She will promote study of dialog materials and encourage ecumenical relationships.
Karin’s work will be primarily in Texas, and frankly, Houston-centric. This is because in Texas, the Methodist, Episcopal and Catholic bishops are in Houston. Houston is also the center for Jewish and Islamic leadership. In Louisiana, Dean Nancy Andrews represents the bishop and synod frequently. Pastor Ron Unger has also been very active, recently coordinating our Reformation events with Archibishop Aymond’s staff. In Baton Rouge, Pastor Robin McCullough is Director of Interfaith Ministries of Greater Baton Rouge.
A special word of thanks to Karin for agreeing to take on this role.