From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Synod Assembly Wants 'Historic Episcopate' Optional

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date 04 Apr 2000 15:31:59


April 4, 2000


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- An assembly in Fargo, N.D., of the Eastern North
Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA),
resolved March 24 to "fully support the right of its constituent
members, congregations, pastors and bishops to freely accept or reject
local implementation of an historic episcopate."  Acceptance of the
"historic episcopate" is a provision of an ELCA proposal for full
communion with The Episcopal Church.
     By a vote of 436 to 57 and 10 abstentions -- 87 percent approval -- 
the synod assembly pledged "to preserve the freedom of its individual
members, congregations, pastors, and bishops, who for reasons of faith
and/or conscience must either accept or reject the mandatory imposition
of an historic episcopate so that they may live out their faith as full
members of the ELCA within this synod."
     It also pledged to continue working with the Episcopal Church and
other Christian denominations "with whom we share unity in the gospel of
Jesus Christ."
     The assembly noted that the ELCA Church Council will meet here
April 8-9 and asked that the council respond to its resolution at that
meeting.  The church's 65 synods each hold an annual assembly.  The
Eastern North Dakota Synod Assembly is the first of 2000 and the only
one of the year held before the April council meeting.
     The proposal, "Called to Common Mission," was endorsed at the
ELCA's 1999 Churchwide Assembly by a vote of 716 to 317 -- 27 votes more
than the two-thirds majority needed to approve the measure.  Among other
things, full communion would make it possible for the ELCA and Episcopal
Church to exchange clergy and commits them to work together on future
mission and service projects.
     In approving the proposal, the ELCA agreed to accept the historic
episcopate -- the concept that those who ordain new pastors are from a
line of bishops stretching back to the earliest days of the church.
Episcopalians would agree to suspend a 17th century rule about who can
be considered a priest and agree to accept the ministries of all current
ELCA pastors and bishops.
     The Episcopal General Convention will meet in July to vote on
"Called to Common Mission."  Episcopalians approved a similar document
in 1997, but the ELCA Churchwide Assembly rejected it by a six-vote
margin that year.
     The Eastern North Dakota Synod resolution cited a Lutheran
principle to support its action.  "It is not necessary that ceremonies
instituted by men [humans] should be observed uniformly in all places,"
stated the Augsburg Confession.
     The historic episcopate is "a ceremonial appeal to human authority
and is not necessary for the true unity of the Christian Church," said
the resolution.  It declared, "Any and all efforts to mandate or require
an adoption of an historic episcopate would violate our Synod's
Confession of Faith."
     The resolution said, "The Eastern North Dakota Synod of the ELCA
has many members, who as a matter of conscience must resist and not
comply with measures or actions that mandate an historic episcopate."
     Another resolution failed, 228 to 233 and 15 abstentions, that
would have asked the ELCA Church Council to consider delaying
implementation of "Called to Common Mission" until after the ELCA
Churchwide Assembly in August 2001.  The delay would have allowed
opponents and proponents of the proposal time to resolve their
differences, according to the resolution.
     The ELCA is already in full communion with the Moravian Church in
America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Reformed Church in America and
United Church of Christ.
-- -- --
     The ELCA's Eastern North Dakota Synod Assembly resolution is
available at

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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