From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Wartburg Speaker Says Historic Episcopate for Unity, Not Salvation

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date 07 Apr 2000 10:24:58


April 7, 2000


     DUBUQUE, Iowa (ELCA) -- Full communion with the Episcopal Church
is "natural, easy, like breathing," said the Rev. Donald S. Armentrout,
an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) pastor and professor of
church history at the Episcopal School of Theology at the University of
the South, Sewanee, Tenn.
     Armentrout addressed about 100 participants at the "Mission in
Ecumenical View" conference at Wartburg Seminary here March 23. Wartburg
is one of eight ELCA seminaries.
     Calling upon more than 30 years of experience studying and
teaching among Episcopalians, he urged participants to welcome the
mission opportunities and gifts, including the historic episcopate,
which the ELCA will receive through "Called to Common Mission." CCM is a
full communion proposal with The Episcopal Church. The 1999 ELCA
Churchwide Assembly adopted CCM; a general convention of the Episcopal
Church will vote on the full communion agreement in July.
     The ELCA's acceptance of the historic episcopate as part of CCM
has sparked controversy within the denomination. It calls for ELCA
bishops to be installed by three bishops who stand in a succession of
bishops reaching back to the earliest days of the Christian church. This
line is continued by laying on of hands by bishops within this line.
Under CCM, only an ELCA bishop could ordain ELCA pastors.
     "The reason I'm committed to Lutherans having the historic
episcopate is not for apostolicity but for the sake of catholicity,"
Armentrout said. "There are certain ways we Christians try to ensure
that we have apostolicity grounded in the faith taught by Jesus'
apostles" -- through means such as the creeds, the New Testament, the
historic episcopate, the Lord's Supper and Baptism.
     "We should adopt the historic episcopate not to ensure
apostolicity but for the sake of catholicity for the unity of the
church," he added. "It is the way most of the world's Christians
organize themselves."
     Lutherans dropped the historic episcopate out of necessity during
the 16th century Reformation. Roman Catholic bishops did not join the
Lutheran movement, requiring the reformers to drop the practice despite
their desire to maintain it, Armentrout said. He cited article 14 of the
Apology of the Augsburg Confession, a Lutheran confessional document, in
which the reformers affirmed their desire to maintain historical
ecclesiastical orders that included ordination by bishops within the
historic episcopate.
     The Episcopal Church and ELCA "are in agreement in all major
issues of faith," Armentrout said. "Among laity there is complete
reconciliation in the sacrament of Baptism..... [CCM] is about
reconciliation at the level of order and polity. We do this not because
[the historic episcopate] is essential for salvation but for the sake of
unity in the church." Armentrout said the historic episcopate symbolizes
modern Christians' oneness with God's people of every time and place.
     Such unity makes a positive difference in mission, said the Rev.
Cynthia Rauh Banks, an Episcopal priest who until recently served St.
Thomas, an ELCA-Episcopal church in Campbellsville, Ky.
     It grabbed people's attention "that two Christian traditions had
come together (to start a new mission) in this community at the lowest
point of its life," she said. "We are called to reveal the healing and
reconciliation that is ours in Christ Jesus. Just as marriage says
something to the culture that living together doesn't, full communion
communicates something to the culture that simply working together
doesn't. It says we are one in Christ Jesus and that the reconciling
power of the gospel is real."
     Once full communion is adopted, the two churches should seek to do
everything together they can, aligning or merging programs for the sake
of more powerful and efficient witness, Armentrout said. He listed
several joint mission possibilities CCM offers, including mission
congregations, youth ministry, chaplaincies, campus ministry, new
liturgical revision, shared facilities and adult catechetical work.

Editor's note: The spelling on the Rev. Cynthia Rauh Banks' middle name
is correct.

*The Rev. David L. Miller is editor of The Lutheran, the magazine of the

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

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