From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
Lutheran-Reformed 'Full Communion' Becomes Official
Brenda Williams <BRENDAW@elca.org>
24 Jun 1998 17:03:40
Reply-To: ElcaNews <ELCANEWS@ELCASCO.ELCA.ORG>
ELCA NEWS SERVICE
June 25, 1998
LUTHERAN-REFORMED 'FULL COMMUNION' BECOMES OFFICIAL
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (ELCA) -- "Full communion" between the Evangelical
Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
became official June 17 during the Presbyterian General Assembly when
Stated Clerk Clifton Kirkpatrick declared official the vote of the
presbyteries approving the accord.
Kirkpatrick called the full communion agreement, which also includes
the Reformed Church in America and the United Church of Christ, "a major
breakthrough." He said the historic agreement "culminates a 30-year search
to together find a way to the glory of God to express the unity of Christ's
church." The ELCA approved full communion with the three Reformed churches
at its churchwide assembly in August 1997.
At a news conference preceding the announcement, the Rev. Guy S.
Edmiston Jr., bishop of the ELCA's Lower Susquehanna Synod, Harrisburg,
Pa., said, "Out of our shared commitment to the gospel, we've come together
after 450 years to say, 'There is nothing that should divide us. We can be
in full communion. This is a united witness we make to the world.'"
Edmiston co-chaired the ecumenical committee that produced the full
The agreement opens up the eucharistic celebrations of each
denomination to members of the others, commits the churches to closer
cooperation in worship and mission and provides for the exchange of
ministers between the churches in accordance with each's own polity and
requirements. The latter provision of full communion is key, Edmiston
"The agreement will be most felt at the local level when there's
interchange of clergy," he noted. "That will happen in urban as well as
rural areas. Small churches struggle to hire pastors -- joint parishes
sharing pastors will make a major impact on all four churches."
Also present for the formal announcement of full communion were Terry
White of the United Church of Christ and Dan Mattear of the Reformed Church
in America. The Presbyterians have been in full communion with those two
churches for many years.
Edmiston outlined a number of ways in which Presbyterians and
Lutherans have been working together in anticipation of full communion:
joint orientation and training of overseas mission personnel, conversations
between Christian educators of both churches about sharing curriculum
materials, and talks between various mission agencies of both churches
about joint projects.
No additional church or interchurch structures are envisioned as part
of full communion, Edmiston said. "There is definite agreement that there
will not be another level of church leadership put in place," he said. "It
will be done through the existing structures of the four denominations --
it is a matter of good dialogue and sharing staff who are already in
In another news conference, the Rev. Joan Brown Campbell, general
secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., said
the full impact of full communion between Lutheran and Reformed churches
will be felt in local congregations.
Local members need the churches to recognize each other formally,
said Campbell. Go to a Baptism, and you will find people from several
denominations gathered. "What people don't understand," she said, "is when
the words are the same, why we can't be together."
"Church by church by church we will finally come together," Campbell
said. To bring full communion home to the layperson it is important to
recognize the ministers of the denominations. It is important to share at
A celebratory worship service is being planned for Oct. 4 in Chicago
at Rockefeller Chapel on the campus of the University of Chicago. In
addition to the heads of communion of the four participating denominations,
the world ecumenical movement will be represented at the celebration by
such people as Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of
Churches, and Joan Brown Campbell, general secretary of the U.S. National
Council of Churches.
[*Jerry Van Marter, coordinator of News Services for the Presbyterian
Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, Ky., and Nancy Rodman, director of the Service
and Resource Center, New Brunswick Presbytery, Tennent, N.J.]
For information contact:
Ann Hafften, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG
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