From the Worldwide Faith News archives

U.S. Lutheran and Reformed Churches Make History

From NEWS <>
Date 05 Oct 1998 16:57:00


October 5, 1998


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- History was made when four major U.S. Protestant
churches celebrated their new relationship of "full communion" with a gala
worship service Oct. 4 here at Rockefeller Memorial Chapel.
     More than 1,500 members from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in
America (ELCA), Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Reformed Church in America
and United Church of Christ shared Holy Communion for the first time
together -- something full communion makes possible.
     "Here we are this day, servants of Christ, giving thanks for the
unity of our churches in the faith once delivered to the saints, affirming
our baptismal identity as God's people," said the Rev. James Kenneth
Echols, president of the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.  Echols
delivered the sermon.
     "It is God who opened the eyes of these Reformed and Lutheran
theologians to see that the disagreements that divided were in fact
differences that need not divide," Echols said.  "It was God who opened
their eyes to see that we could live more closely together in mutual
affirmation and admonition, drinking from the same cup of salvation in
witness to the one who shed his blood for us all."
     Echols said, "Part of the meaning of this day has to do with
committing ourselves, as the Formula of Agreement declares, to engage
together in God's mission."
     The four church bodies adopted "A Formula of Agreement" with a series
of votes from June 1997 to March 1998, entering into full communion.  Full
communion is not a plan to merge; it commits the churches to share locally
and internationally in their mission and to develop procedures whereby
clergy in one church body may serve as pastors in congregations of another
church body.
     The 90-minute worship service began with representatives of the four
church bodies processing into the chapel from four directions and meeting
at a central baptismal font to affirm the churches' mutual recognition of
     "We gather to repent of the ways we have condemned each other, to
recognize our mutual Baptism, and to encourage the sharing of the Lord's
Supper among our members," said the Rev. H. George Anderson, presiding
bishop of the ELCA.
     Joined around the baptismal font Anderson, Stated Clerk Clifton
Kirkpatrick of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), General Secretary Wesley
Granberg Michaelson of the Reformed Church in America and President Paul H.
Sherry of the United Church of Christ confessed past divisions.
     "We gather to pledge ourselves to live under the gospel in mutual
affirmation and admonition that respect and love for each other may grow,"
said Sherry.
     After the "baptismal renewal," confession and forgiveness, the
representatives of the four churches combined to form one procession to the
altar led by the cross.
     The Rev. Cynthia McCall Campbell, president of McCormick Theological
Seminary, was the presiding minister at the service.  McCormick is related
to the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).  Dr. Addie J. Butler, Philadelphia,
was the assisting minister.  Butler is vice president of the ELCA.
     Vestments worn by ministers at the service represented the variety of
traditions in the four churches.
     The liturgy included resources from the Lutheran and Reformed
churches, as well as new liturgical material commissioned for the worship
service.  Music was drawn from the Presbyterian tradition, the Lutheran
tradition, and from the traditions that make up the United Church of Christ
and the Reformed Church in America, according to the Rev. Paul R. Nelson,
chair of the Lutheran-Reformed worship committee.  Nelson is director for
worship in the ELCA's Division for Congregational Ministries.
     The "Prayers of the People" were led in a variety of languages by
members of the Lutheran and Reformed churches.  Ministers and the
congregation greeted one another with expressions of peace following the
     Worship ended with a charge from each of the four church body
leaders. "Remember this day on which we have joined together to hear the
Word and share the sacrament," said Anderson.
     The congregation responded by saying: "May our proclamation of the
Word and sharing of the sacrament be a sign of healing and hope to the
     Musicians included organist David Eicher of First Presbyterian
Church, LaPorte, Ind.; pianist Dennis Friesen-Carper, Valparaiso, Ind.;
percussionists from Valparaiso University, Valparaiso; the Sanctuary Choir
of Trinity United Church of Christ, Chicago; Hope College Choir, Holland,
Mich.; the Tower Brass from Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago; and bell
ringers from Bethany Lutheran Church, Batavia, Ill., Augustana Lutheran
Church, Hyde Park, Chicago, and the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago.
     The ELCA is made up of 5.2 million members in the United States and
Caribbean; 2.6 million make up the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); 1.5
million make up the United Church of Christ; and the Reformed Church in
America has 300,000 members.
     Rockefeller Memorial Chapel is the chapel for the University of
Chicago.  The Gothic structure was built between 1925 and 1928, named for
the university's founder, John D. Rockefeller.

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