ELCA, First Steps in a Long Ecumenical Journey

 — May 29, 199629 mai 1996

RICHMOND, Va. (ELCA) — “We all want to share communion, but maybe not with the church across town,” said Bishop Philip R. Cousin, First Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, told the 33rd annual National Workshop on Christian Unity here May 6-9. He used the theme, “Listen! I Stand at the Door and Knock,” to address racism in American Christianity and its being a barrier to ecumenism.

“The door that is most pronounced is the door of exclusiveness. … The door is closed and Jesus is on the outside knocking,” said Cousin. “We must be sensitive to that command to listen. We must be in a position to hear.”

As the “ecumenical century” comes to a close, millions of American Christians will be making important decisions about how they relate to one another. About 60 ecumenical representatives and other interested members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) were among the more than 400 who reviewed those proposals and insisted the decisions will only be the first steps in a long ecumenical journey.

A special plenary seminar examined three ecumenical proposals on which the ELCA will vote in 1997: to declare that 16th-century condemnations of the Roman Catholic Church on the doctrine of justification no longer apply; to establish full communion with the Episcopal Church; and to establish full communion with three Reformed churches — Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Reformed Church in America and United Church of Christ.

If all these proposals are accepted, Dr. Michael Root, an ELCA associate in ministry and director of the Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France, said, he’s afraid the churches will settle into a “status quo ecumenism.”

“If we find these proposals convincing — and I do — we must accept them and live in them and live out of them,” said Root. Christian unity cannot be defined as structural merger in the United States, he said, but the churches must recognize these as steps toward where the spirit is leading.

“Where are we going with the ecumenical movement?” asked Cousin, encouraging the mainline churches not to treat the traditionally African-American churches as ecclesiastical step- children. “Will there be equity in participation and decision- making?”

Cousin longed for a time when African-American theologians would be welcome in ecumenical conversations, rather than treated as theologians with “an agenda.” “Do we have something inherent in the traditional African-American church that you find valuable?” he asked.

Workshop participants discussed ways the ecumenical decisions could be implemented in Christian congregations.

“Out of necessity we’ve already crossed the lines,” said Marge Gross, an Episcopalian participant from Yankton, S.D. She said many congregations are already working with neighboring congregations to address specific ministry needs in their communities.

Many examples of such cooperations were examined during the workshops, with topics including an ecumenical response to hate violence, medical ethics and the history of youth in the ecumenical movement.

The National Workshop on Christian Unity is sponsored by the National Ecumenical Officers Association. The ELCA is one of several bodies involved, including: American Baptist Churches USA, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Episcopal Church, National Council of Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Roman and Eastern Catholic Churches, United Church of Christ and United Methodist Church.

For information contact: Ann Hafften, Dir., ELCA News Service, (312) 380-2958; Frank Imhoff, Assoc. Dir., (312) 380-2955; Lia Christiansen, Asst. Dir., (312) 380-2956

Posted: May 29, 1996 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=4651
Categories: ELCA NewsIn this article: ecumenism, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran
Transmis : 29 mai 1996 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=4651
Catégorie : ELCA NewsDans cet article : ecumenism, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Lutheran

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