The First Paul Wattson Lecture in Chicago was delivered on Tuesday evening, October 17, 2017 by the Reverend Elizabeth A. Eaton, Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, at the Catholic Theological Union. The Lecture is co-sponsored by the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement and CTU. The Board of the Lecture is made up of the 10 presidents of the theological schools in the ecumenical association known as ACTS, the Association of Chicago Theological Schools.
Bishop Eaton is the fourth Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, the most numerous Lutheran denomination in the United States and ecumenical partner of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. The ELCA is the American church of the Lutheran World Federation, which partners ecumenically with the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. Her topic for the evening was the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Lutheran Reformation, which will be marked on October 31, 2017, 500 years after Martin Luther published his 95 Theses questioning the selling of indulgences.
She entitled her talk, “October 32nd”, a play on words focusing on the future of ecumenical relations between Lutherans, Roman Catholics and other Christians, as well as reaching out to persons of other faiths. A good crowd of about 50 were in attendance from the various schools of theology in the Chicago area, particularly those at CTU. Her lecture was preceded by a small seminar of about 12 ecumenists from the Chicago area who engaged in a broad discussion of issues faced in the modern world by Catholics, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Methodists and others. The challenge of divisions in the American culture were highlighted. Bishop Eaton addressed those issues as well in her thought provoking lecture later on.
The day before the lecture, a business meeting was held by ACTS at Loyola University Chicago in which the members pledged continuing support to make the Paul Wattson Lecture in Chicago an ongoing annual event.