From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ELCA Faculty Criticizes 'Planned Exceptions' to Full Communion

From News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Date 25 Apr 2000 10:42:57


April 25, 2000


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The faculty of Lutheran Theological Southern
Seminary, Columbia, S.C., issued a statement April 20 criticizing
suggestions of "planned exceptions" to "Called to Common Mission" (CCM),
a proposal of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) for
"full communion" with The Episcopal Church.  Southern is one of the
ELCA's eight seminaries.
     "Contrary to those who believe that 'planned exceptions' offer a
way both to uphold CCM and to preserve the unity of the ELCA, we would
hold that such a course would undermine both full communion with the
Episcopal Church and the communion we prize within the ELCA," said the
faculty members.
     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.  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.
     Some Lutherans continue to oppose the proposal because the ELCA
would accept the historic episcopate, which is a requirement in the
Episcopal Church for the exchange of clergy.  ELCA bishops would be
installed by bishops who stand in a succession of bishops reaching back
to the earliest days of the Christian Church.  For Lutheran pastors to
enter the historic episcopate, they must be ordained by a bishop.
     "We have watched with great concern and sadness the bitter
controversy that has continued in our church," said the Southern faculty
members.  They noted that the ELCA assembly approved CCM according to
the church's constitution.  "In the midst of this controversy, we
believe that it is necessary to maintain the constitutional order of our
church," they said.
     While hoping to care for "those who are angry or uncertain about
its meaning and implications," the faculty warned against implementing
CCM in "steps which might seem to alleviate controversy in the short
run, but in the long run would damage our own communion, as well as our
communion with the Episcopal Church, in serious and lasting ways."
     One such step being discussed in the public debate would allow
Lutheran pastors to be ordained outside the historic episcopate with the
understanding they would never be involved in a clergy exchange with the
Episcopal Church.  "This would in effect allow individual ordinands
under some circumstances to decide whether or not they would be ordained
by a bishop," said the Southern faculty.
     "We can, to be sure, understand the attractiveness of such a
suggestion.  In a consumer society which exalts individual choice it
almost seems an obvious course of action.  Nevertheless, we believe that
for many different reasons this would be a destructive path for our
church to take," the statement said.
     The faculty statement offered five reasons:
 + To allow planned exceptions to CCM would call into question the right
and competence of the ELCA as a corporate body to order its ecumenical
relations in a normative way;
 + To allow planned exceptions to CCM would establish a precedent that
persons who meet a minimum doctrinal standard but will not agree to
follow the policies and practices of this church nevertheless have an
entitlement to ordination;
 + To allow planned exceptions to CCM would mean renunciation of the
goal of full communion with the Episcopal Church ... to create an
alternate path of entry into ordained ministry in the ELCA with the sole
purpose of allowing some ordinands to avoid a sign of unity with the
Episcopal Church;
 + To allow planned exceptions to CCM would not only preclude the
formation of one ministry common to the ELCA and the Episcopal Church,
it would divide the ministry within the ELCA as well; and
+ To allow planned exceptions to CCM would inevitably give the
appearance of acknowledging that the most vocal Lutheran opponents of
CCM present a credible interpretation of the agreement and its
theological implications.
     If the Episcopal Church approves CCM, the two churches will
establish a consultative commission to facilitate joint planning.  The
Southern faculty proposed that this commission develop "a brief
theological commentary on CCM."
     The faculty said the text of CCM is "already sufficiently clear,"
but it asked that the commentary "state in the plainest manner possible"
that the Christian gospel and sacraments are sufficient for the unity of
the two churches, and that the historic episcopate is not an alternative
to the gospel and sacraments but a strengthening sign of Christian
     The statement acknowledged "deep fractures which this controversy
has revealed in our own unity as a Lutheran church body.  These fault
lines were not created by CCM, and they will not go away should CCM drop
out of the picture altogether.  They would simply reemerge in some other
guise at some other difficult juncture of our life together."  It
recommended "patient theological dialogue on crucial issues of faith"
and avoiding "easy fixes."
     The faculty approved the statement at an April 14 meeting.  The
Rev. H. Frederick Reisz Jr., Southern president, said four absent
faculty members added their approval to make it unanimous.
     "This statement was unanimously approved by the Lutheran
Theological Southern Seminary Faculty: President H. Frederick Reisz,
Jr., Dean Thomas E. Ridenhour, Dr. Phillip Baker,  Dr. Agneta Enermalm,
Dr. Tony S. Everett, Dr. Lynn A. Feider, Dr. Mary B. Havens, Dr. Robert
D. Hawkins, Dr. W. Arthur Lewis, Dr. Lamontte M. Luker, Dr. Nicholas K.
Mays, Dr. Susan Wilds McArver, Dr. Brian K. Peterson, and  Dr. David S.
Yeago," it concluded.
     In April 1999 the Southern faculty issued a statement urging the
ELCA Churchwide Assembly to approve CCM.  "The reasons to approve the
document are numerous, and to our thinking, outweigh reasons for
rejection," it said.
-- -- --
     The full text of the faculty statement will be available on the
World Wide Web from the seminary's home page at

EDITORS: A copy of the text can also be obtained by writing to
President's Office, Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary, 4202 N. Main
St., Columbia, SC 29203.  The seminary's phone number is (803) 786-5150
and fax number is (803) 786-6499.

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

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