From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
U.S. Lutheran-United Methodist Dialogue Teams Meet in Norway
News News <NEWS@ELCA.ORG>
Wed, 9 Oct 2002 10:38:32 -0500
ELCA NEWS SERVICE
October 9, 2002
U.S. LUTHERAN-UNITED METHODIST DIALOGUE TEAMS MEET IN NORWAY
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The U.S. Lutheran-United Methodist dialogue
convened Sept. 12-16 in Oslo, Norway. Participants in the talks between
the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the United
Methodist Church (UMC) took advantage of the meeting's time and location
to consider key theological issues -- "justification" and
"sanctification" -- as they effect the possibility of the two U.S.
churches entering a relationship of full communion.
The dialogue meeting was held prior to an Oslo meeting of the
World Methodist Council executive committee. The Rev. Andreas Aarflot,
former bishop of the Lutheran church in Norway, and the Rev. Roar G.
Fotland, dean of the United Methodist Seminary in Norway, addressed the
The U.S. dialogue is co-chaired by the Rev. Allan C. Bjornberg,
bishop of the ELCA's Rocky Mountain Synod, Denver, and Bishop Melvin G.
Talbert, Nashville, Tenn., of the United Methodist Church.
In 1997 the Church of Norway, which is Lutheran, and the United
Methodist Church in Norway entered into a relationship of full
communion, which means that the two churches recognize each other's
sacraments and that clergy can serve in either church without being
re-ordained. The Norwegian agreement's foundational document,
"Fellowship of Grace," was a centerpiece of the U.S. dialogue meeting.
"This landmark agreement has provided helpful insights into key
theological issues for United Methodists and Lutherans," Bjornberg and
Talbert said in a communique after the meeting. The Rev. Lars-Erik
Nordby, a Methodist member of the U.S. dialogue team, was instrumental
in developing the Norwegian agreement.
Two other dialogue members -- the Rev. Paul W. Chilcote, professor
of historical theology and Wesleyan studies, Asbury Theological
Seminary, Orlando, Fla., and the Rev. Timothy J. Wengert, professor of
Reformation history, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia --
presented papers on the United Methodist and Lutheran understandings of
justification and sanctification.
The bishops' communique said, as with previous conversations
addressing Lutheran and Methodist understandings of the sacraments, "we
are encouraged by the level of convergence that is being experienced
around these topics, even though there are distinctions unique to each
"It was an amazing experience to be in Norway," Bjornberg said in
an interview. He said the beauty of the country was accompanied by
discussions with Lutherans and Methodists who shaped full communion
there. "We benefitted by listening to folks who participated in the
conversations and also by learning about the ethos of those two churches
in Norway -- how they've come to work together over the past few years,"
The dialogue topics of sanctification and "perfection in holiness"
proved to be very complex, said Bjornberg. The topics will continue to
provide material for "future conversations as we'll begin to carefully
articulate our points of agreement and divergence," he said.
"Ecumenical conversations do not search for total agreement, but
they search for convergence. There will always be distinctions between
our two church bodies," said Bjornberg. "We've come to an area that
will not only give shape to our uniqueness but also give shape to where
we can come together and find convergence," he said.
Talbert said, "Regarding justification and sanctification, we are
clear there are some distinctions but not enough to block our moving
toward full communion. We are excited about the progress made thus
The two churches or their predecessor church bodies conducted
official dialogues from 1977 to 1979 and from 1985 to 1987. This was
the third meeting of the third round, which began in September 2001.
Ministry and mission will be topics for the dialogue's next meeting,
Feb. 13-16. Participants plan to meet twice a year.
With 8.5 million members, the UMC is the second-largest Protestant
denomination in the United States. The ELCA is the fourth largest, with
5.1 million members.
The ELCA has 10,766 congregations organized in 65 synods, each
headed by a bishop, across the United States and Caribbean.
The UMC has 36,361 congregations in 50 episcopal areas across the
United States and Puerto Rico. It includes another 1.4 million
Methodists in about 5,150 congregations in 18 episcopal areas in Africa,
Asia and Europe -- including Norway.
*Kathy Gilbert, a news writer for United Methodist News Service, was on
assignment in Norway.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG
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