From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Council Sets CCM Implementation Date, Responds to Synods

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date 10 Apr 2000 13:18:43


April 10, 2000


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Through a series of actions, the Church Council
of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) declared its
continued desire to move into full communion with The Episcopal Church.
It determined an implementation date for the proposed full communion
agreement, "Called to Common Mission" (CCM), and said the ELCA's 65
synods are not free to accept or reject portions of governing documents
of the church.  The council also left open the possibility for
discussions with the Episcopal Church of potential exceptions to CCM
related to ordinations, similar to an earlier statement from the ELCA
Conference of Bishops, in their March 6 pastoral letter.
     The council met here April 7-9.  It functions as the ELCA's board
of directors and serves as the legislative authority of the church
between churchwide assemblies.  The next assembly is Aug. 8-14, 2001, in
     The council adopted three separate actions related to CCM: an
implementation date, a response to a CCM-related resolution from the
Eastern North Dakota Synod and an action on constitutional issues, with
suggestions on how to bring concerns for churchwide response. All
actions were presented through the council's Legal and Constitutional
Review Committee chaired by Dale V. Sandstrom, council member, Bismarck,
N.D.   Each action was adopted overwhelmingly, but not unanimously.
     Throughout their discussions, council members expressed concern
for the unity of the ELCA and invited continuing discussion of CCM-related issues.
     In his report to the council before it discussed CCM, the Rev. H.
George Anderson, ELCA presiding bishop, acknowledged there are concerns
in the ELCA about CCM.   "My basic concern is that this council not
interfere with the action of the churchwide assembly," he said, adding
now is not the time to "abandon governing documents" of the church.
     CCM was adopted 716-317 by the 1999 ELCA Churchwide Assembly.  A
general convention of the Episcopal Church will consider CCM this July
in Denver.
     In one resolution, the council established Jan. 1, 2001, as the
implementation date for CCM.  The Episcopal Church, based on its
governing documents, plans to implement the agreement simultaneously,
assuming its general convention adopts the proposal.  Earlier
suggestions from some Lutheran opponents of the proposal called for
implementation to be delayed until after the 2001 ELCA Churchwide
Assembly, to allow time for constitutional issues to be reconsidered.
     Some opponents of CCM say they do not agree with the ELCA's
acceptance of the historic episcopate, brought to the relationship by
the Episcopal Church.  They say it violates Lutheran confessions and
threatens Lutheran identity.  The historic episcopate is a succession of
bishops back to the early Christian Church.  As part of CCM, Lutherans
would install bishops into the historic episcopate, and bishops would
perform ordinations.
     On March 25, the ELCA Eastern North Dakota Synod Assembly, which
met in Fargo,  adopted a resolution on the issue. The resolution said
the synod "supports the right of its constituent members, congregations,
pastors and bishops to freely accept or reject local implementation" of
the historic episcopate. The resolution was forwarded through the synod
council to the ELCA council for a response.
     The ELCA council's response said ecumenical commitments and
church-to-church relationships are made by the whole church and "are not
legislated on a synod-by-synod basis."
     It recognized the churchwide assembly's decision to adopt CCM and
encouraged the Episcopal Church to act favorably on the proposal.  It
called for "orderly processes of decision-making" within the ELCA and
invited "continuing prayers, study and conversation" on CCM and
expressed desire for the "greatest possible unity" within the ELCA and
with the Episcopal Church.
     The council also said if CCM is adopted by the Episcopal Church,
there will be opportunity to "examine jointly ways to practice the
commitments of full communion, exploring together a variety of matters
which include possible ways to allow a synodical bishop, in unusual
circumstances and with appropriate consultation, to authorize another
ELCA pastor to preside at an ordination."
     The council urged "that we, as sisters and brothers in Christ, in
keeping with biblical exhortation, put away falsehood and speak the
truth in love," citing Ephesians 4:25 in the Christian Bible.  The
council also expressed gratitude for the many "wholesome ways and varied
settings" in which CCM has been studied and discussed.
     The Rev. Mario C. Miranda, council member, Bayamon, Puerto Rico,
moved that the council delete the reference "to put away falsehood" and
remove the reference to Ephesians 4:25.  The motion died for lack of a
     In the course of discussion, the council removed from the proposed
response a line that expressed concern "that portions of the resolution
of the Eastern North Dakota Synod exceed the authority of the synod
assembly and are contrary to the synod constitution and the churchwide
constitution."      A few council members objected to the proposed
language before it was removed.
     The Rev. Susan L. Engh, council member, Wayzata, Minn., said the
language contained "a serious charge," and she questioned whether
something could be ruled unconstitutional if it has not been
implemented. The Rev. Lowell G, Almen, ELCA secretary, said the Eastern
North Dakota Synod resolution appeared to reject constitutional
amendments adopted by the churchwide assembly, including the suggestion
that the historic episcopate could be accepted or rejected by members,
pastors, congregations and bishops.
     The Rev. Andrea F. DeGroot-Nesdahl, bishop of the ELCA South
Dakota Synod, Sioux Falls, twice encouraged the council specifically to
acknowledge the concerns of the Eastern North Dakota Synod and the
tensions and opposition that passage of CCM has raised.  DeGroot-Nesdahl
is one of nine advisory bishops to the council.
     The 2000 Eastern North Dakota Synod Assembly was the first of the
year, and many more synod assemblies will be meeting, said the Rev.
Donald H. Maier, bishop of the Northwestern Washington Synod, Seattle.
"It would be helpful to know what the mind of the council is," he said.
     In its final CCM-related action April 9, the council offered
guidance to synods that may consider resolutions similar to the Eastern
North Dakota Synod resolution.
     "While resolutions of a synod assembly seeking changes in this
church's governing documents are in order, resolutions of a synod
assembly pledging to support or undertake actions in violation of this
church's governing documents are not in order," the council said.
     The council also said there are methods available to congregations
and synods "to address their concerns and seek particular decisions."
These include resolutions from congregations to synods, resolutions from
synod councils to the church council, and memorials from synod
assemblies to the churchwide assembly, the council said.
     The resolution acknowledged that the adoption of CCM has caused
"great hope and thankfulness" throughout the ELCA, "as well as deep
concern and opposition."
     "It is appropriate for synods and congregations to express their
views to the church," said Sandstrom in presenting the proposal. "It is
not appropriate to advocate violating governing documents of the
     The council included a series of footnotes with this resolution,
specifying sections of the ELCA constitution which may affect the status
of future resolutions.
     Brian D. Rude, council member, Coon Valley, Wis., said in
concluding remarks he was concerned about a few items in the council's
agenda for this meeting.
     "I'm troubled by a trend that suggests we as a church can accept
or reject governing documents of the church," he said, adding he
respects people who have differing views on the issues.
     "It is my fervent hope that we can reach compromise on CCM," Rude
said. "We need to think long and hard about the trend that we can 'pick
and choose' portions of governing documents we choose to accept or

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

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