From the Worldwide Faith News archives

US Lutheran Agreements Fuel Multilateral Ecumenical Movement

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Wed, 05 Feb 2003 11:00:35 -0600

Nine Churches to Vote on Entering into Full Communion

CHICAGO, United States of America/GENEVA, 5 February 2003
(ELCANEWS/LWI) - Ecumenical agreements the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America (ELCA) forged with the Episcopal Church and with
three Reformed Churches are providing some help to nine church
bodies that are moving toward relationships of full communion,
according to the two ELCA representatives who attended a January
15-17 meeting of the Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC) ministry
task force in Birmingham, Alabama, USA.

The ELCA, an observer during the 40-year process leading up to the
January 2002 formation of the CUIC, decided in 2001 to continue as
a "partner in mission and dialogue" in the new organization's
work. The nine CUIC church bodies are: The Episcopal Church,
Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ (USA), African
Methodist Episcopal Church (USA), African Methodist Episcopal Zion
Church (USA), Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Christian
Methodist Episcopal Church (USA), International Council of
Community Churches (USA), and United Methodist Church (USA).  They
include about 22 million US Christians.

In 2007, the CUIC churches plan to vote on entering into a
relationship of full communion--each church retaining its own
identity and structures, recognizing each other's ministries and
sacraments, and opening the possibility of inviting ministers to
serve in each other's churches.  They have also pledged to join in
a special mission to combat racism. The nine churches face issues
similar to but not identical to those the ELCA faced while
fashioning recent full-communion agreements, according to Rev.
Philip L. Hougen, bishop of the ELCA's Southeastern Iowa Synod.

In 1997, the ELCA adopted "A Formula of Agreement"--a
full-communion agreement with the Presbyterian Church (USA),
Reformed Church in America (USA) and United Church of Christ
(USA).	In 1999, the ELCA approved "Called to Common Mission"--an
agreement of full communion with the Episcopal Church.

After review of the ELCA's agreements, members of the CUIC
ministry task force said they were encouraged by the possibility
that their ministries might reconcile, but had not yet found the
key, according to Rev. Mark N. Wilhelm, ELCA Division for Ministry
associate director for theological education, the ELCA
representative at the meeting as well as Hougen.

The Lutheran agreements of full communion raised an element of
hope for the CUIC ministry task force in how they implemented the
availability of ministers between churches, Wilhelm said.  "If the
minister from one church body goes to another, that minister will
function according to the practices of the receiving church body,"
he said. That means the CUIC churches can acknowledge a variety of
ministries, but a member church would determine if it were
appropriate for a specific minister to serve within that
denomination, Wilhelm said. "It is the receiving body that
determines whether a person shall be called to ministry and how a
person shall conduct that ministry," he said.  "That seemed to be
a breakthrough for them."

A "parallel conversation" between Episcopalians and Presbyterians
is significant for the CUIC ministry task force, Hougen said,
"because their orderings of ministry seem to be among those that
are the most difficult to reconcile."  Since the ELCA has
full-communion agreements with both churches, "we have agreed to
mutual availability of ministries across those denominational
lines," he said.

(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the
Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now
has 136 member churches in 76 countries representing over 61.7
million of the 65.4 million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on
behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as
ecumenical relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human
rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and

development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva,

[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is LWF's information
service.Unless specifically noted, material presented does not
represent positions or opinions of the LWF or of its various
units. Where the dateline of an article contains the notation
(LWI), the material may be freely reproduced with acknowledgment.]

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