From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Lutheran Bishops Discuss Who Can Ordain Pastors

From Brenda Williams <>
Date 21 Oct 1998 12:22:44


October 21, 1998


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- "People object to the church saying that you can't
have a pastor without having a bishop," the Rev. Peter Rogness, bishop of
the Greater Milwaukee Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America,
told the ELCA Conference of Bishops when it met here Oct. 1-7.  The bishops
discussed a proposed agreement for "full communion" with The Episcopal
Church and the possibility of including a "conscience clause" about who can
ordain Lutheran pastors.
     Rogness is on a panel that is advising writers of "Called to Common
Mission" (CCM), a revised proposal for full communion between the two
churches.  An earlier proposal was defeated by the ELCA's 1997 Churchwide
Assembly.  The panel and writers met Oct. 13-15 to develop the final
version of the proposal.
     According to the proposal, ELCA "bishops shall preside and
participate in the laying-on-of-hands at the ordination of all clergy."
That would be in agreement with "The Book of Common Prayer" which describes
the Episcopal ordination of priests.
     The ELCA Constitution says bishops "exercise solely this church's
power to ordain (or provide for the ordination of) approved candidates."
"Provide for" implies that the bishop could appoint an assistant to ordain.
The proposal makes it clear that the bishop would appoint another bishop or
former bishop.
     "To some people, the presence of a bishop symbolizes the unity and
continuity of the church," said the Rev. E. Peter Strommen, bishop of the
ELCA's Northeastern Minnesota Synod.  "To others allowing a bishop to
delegate authority symbolizes that authority cannot be monopolized."
     "CCM is likely to pass" by a two-thirds majority at the 1999
Churchwide Assembly, said the Rev. David W. Olson, bishop of the ELCA's
Minneapolis Area Synod.  He estimated that 15 or 20 percent would vote
against full communion with the Episcopal Church.  "We are now coming up
with a certain number of people who feel bound by their conscience and need
some options."
     "I want a broad consensus that we can rejoice over, so I don't have
to go around telling congregations why they should remain in the ELCA,"
said the Rev. Stanley N. Olson, bishop of the ELCA's Southwestern Minnesota
     "These people are viscerally reacting to hurts that came from three
or four generations ago," said the Rev. Paul W. Egertson, bishop of the
ELCA's Southern California (West) Synod.  "That suggests the need for
pastoral care and healing."
     "My conscience is troubled by jeopardizing what we have and what it
can mean for us," said the Rev. Philip L. Hougen, bishop of the ELCA's
Southeastern Iowa Synod.  "We bishops need to get ourselves more together
than we are.  We are at a point with the Episcopal Church that we really
have to move ahead."
     The bishops asked Rogness and the Rev. Ronald B. Warren, bishop of
the ELCA's Southeastern Synod, to convey these concerns to those writing
the full-communion proposal.  Both bishops are members of the advisory
     On another ecumenical issue, the ELCA's 1997 Churchwide Assembly
approved a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification which
declares that certain 16th century condemnations issued by both churches no
longer apply.  The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the Vatican both
approved the declaration in June but did not agree on a formal signing.
     The Rev. H. George Anderson, ELCA presiding bishop, told the
Conference of Bishops he expected the LWF Council's executive committee
"would give the green light" to signing the declaration with the Roman
Catholic Church.  "I will be very surprised if the LWF backs off," he said.

* The Rev. Edgar R. Trexler is editor of The Lutheran, magazine of the

For information contact:
Frank Imhoff, Assoc. Director 1-773-380-2955 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home