Title: United Methodist Church Adopts Full Communion Proposal with ELCA ELCA NEWS SERVICE
April 30, 2008
United Methodist Church Adopts Full Communion Proposal with ELCA 08-054-JB
FORT WORTH, Texas (ELCA) -- By a vote of 864-19, the General Conference of the United Methodist Church (UMC) adopted an implementing resolution April 28 that will establish full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). Full communion will be fully realized by both churches should the same proposal be adopted at the next ELCA Churchwide Assembly, which meets Aug. 17-23, 2009, in Minneapolis.
The UMC General Conference, meeting here April 23-May 2, is the Methodist's chief legislative body and meets every four years. The ELCA Churchwide Assembly is the ELCA's chief legislative authority, meeting every two years.
The ELCA and UMC have been in formal theological dialogue since 1977, which led to beginning a relationship of "Interim Eucharistic Sharing" in 2005. That relationship called for members to pray for and support each other, to study Scripture together and to learn about each other's traditions in anticipation of achieving full communion.
Full communion means the churches will work for visible unity in Jesus Christ, recognize each other's ministries, work together on a variety of ministry initiatives, and, under certain circumstances, provide for the interchangeability of ordained clergy.
April 28 was "a banner day" because of the UMC General Conference vote on full communion, said the Rev. William Oden, ecumenical officer, UMC Council of Bishops, at an April 29 news conference. "This has been a long time coming. A lot of careful work has been done," he said. Oden emphasized that the proposal is a relationship between the two church bodies and not a "church union."
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, Chicago, said he eagerly awaits the ELCA Churchwide Assembly vote in 2009 and hopes that it, too, will be a strong affirmation of full communion with the UMC. Hanson also preached at an April 29 worship service at the UMC General Conference.
"This is about revival of two church bodies that are deeply committed to re-presenting themselves in a pluralistic, dynamic changing culture for the sake of mission," Hanson said.
The two church bodies must consider what they can do together as full communion partners that was not possible before, Hanson said. He suggested possible cooperative ministries in campus ministry, global mission, advocacy for justice and peace, to name only a few. He also agreed with Oden's assertion that full communion cannot be successful if it is considered to be a "top down" action. Full communion should be a relationship in which mission initiatives should "bubble up" in the two churches, Hanson said.
"I always think of full communion as merely a step along the way toward a new, possible future because of the relationship," Hanson said. "That new, possible future is the for the sake of the world. It's for the sake of mission. Full communion calls for ecumenical, missional imagination."
Full communion also gives "formal expression" to what is happening in both churches already, said the Rev. Greg Palmer, president, UMC Council of Bishops. "In one way we're leading, and in another way, we're following. We are catching up with people on the ground who are doing things in partnership, in mission and in ministry," he said.
Christians "must find meaningful, significant and substantive ways of honoring the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in one another and together, living that before the world. We must live before the world what God intends for the world," Palmer added.
Assuming the full communion proposal is adopted by the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in 2009, a coordinating council with representatives of both churches will be appointed, said the Rev. Donald J. McCoid, executive, ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations, Chicago. That council will coordinate how the two churches will plan for mission together and consider practical matters such as interchangeability of ordained ministers, he said.
The ELCA's five full communion partners are the Episcopal Church, the Moravian Church in America, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Reformed Church in America and United Church of Christ.
While the ELCA has successful cooperative ministries with its full communion partners, it must improve how it receives and implements full communion agreements, McCoid said. "We need to do better with how we are able to be intentional (in) sharing ministry. Grassroots sharing is really very critical, and I'll just echo that again and again and again. The best way we can do that is by giving people permission and encouragement."
If adopted by both churches, this will be the UMC's first full communion agreement outside of the Methodist tradition.
The ELCA is one of 140 churches in the Lutheran World Federation and is the third-largest Lutheran church in the world with 4.8 million members. The United Methodist Church is a worldwide church with nearly 8 million members in the United States.
Audio of comments made at the April 29 news conference in Fort Worth: The Rev. William Oden http://media.ELCA.org/audionews/080429a.mp3 The Rev. Mark S. Hanson http://media.ELCA.org/audionews/080429b.mp3 The Rev. Greg Palmer http://media.ELCA.org/audionews/080429c.mp3 The Rev. Donald J. McCoid http://media.ELCA.org/audionews/080429d.mp3
Information about the Lutheran-United Methodist Dialogue is at http://tinyurl.com/5wrzdh on the ELCA Web site.
Information about the UMC General Conference is at http://tinyurl.com/2z73h3 on the Web.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or email@example.com http://www.elca.org/news ELCA News Blog: http://www.elca.org/news/blog