ELCA Presiding Bishop Stresses Baptism at Unity Event

 — May 1, 19971 mai 1997

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (ELCA) — “Grand Forks is inundated, and the one thing they can’t get is water,” the Rev. H. George Anderson told the National Workshop for Christian Unity here. “Conflicts seem to flood our church. We are awash in raw sewage and debris, amid dangerous currents, and we need the pure water of Baptism.”

Anderson is presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). There are always divisions, but the church is healthy when it is able to debate issues from within, Anderson said. “It is a blessing that we continue to argue face-to-face in our assemblies,” he said.

The annual workshop brought together almost 500 participants from 16 U.S. denominations April 21-24 under the theme, “Be Reconciled to God.”

The water of Baptism is what all Christians share, Anderson said. “Each of us in this room has come out of that same limitless sea, no matter where or when we were baptized. Different hands brought us to the water — hands of our human families, and different hands brought the water to us — our denominational family — but it was not the hands, it was the water that made us Christians,” he said.

Water finds its own level, Anderson said. “No part of its surface is closer to God than another. Its natural state is oneness,” he said. “Perhaps this will help us see one another as we really are — children of the same spiritual mother.”

Anderson urged workshop participants to view the church “as a conduit, an aqueduct bringing the reconciling power of God to a thirsty world.” He said, “Our world is sorely in need of that reconciliation.” He cited widening racial, economic and social gaps.

“Into this thirsty world, God has laid the church,” Anderson said. “If we are to be that conduit, that aqueduct, we must be connected to one another; we must be able to do ministry not only with each other, but through each other,” he said.

In August the ELCA Churchwide Assembly will vote on establishing “full communion” with the Episcopal Church, through a document called “The Concordat of Agreement,” and with three churches of the Reformed tradition — the Presbyterian Church USA, Reformed Church in America and United Church of Christ — through the “Formula of Agreement.” It will also vote to declare certain 16th century condemnations of the Roman Catholic Church no longer apply.

Anderson found the workshop’s theme, Be Reconciled to God, “intriguing, because it is precisely our efforts to be faithful to God that make us so skittish about major ecumenical projects.” He said, “In our loyalty to our understanding of God’s will, we hesitate to make any moves that could be seen as a departure from the truth.”

Anderson asked, “Can our reconciliation with God lead us to see our own narrowness? Can reconciliation with God include a new appreciation for our common birth in Baptism and our common responsibility for carrying water to a thirsty world? I pray that it will be so.”

At a seminar with Anderson focusing on the ELCA’s 1997 ecumenical proposals the Rev. Michael Kinnamon said, “The Concordat and Formula of Agreement should be of central concern to all Christians in this country, not just the members of these five churches.” Kinnamon, a member of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), is dean of Lexington Theological Seminary in Kentucky.

Kinnamon expressed hope “that both sets of relationships would consider identifying a mission priority to share, to mark and shape the new relationship.”

Both documents, Kinnamon said, insist upon an appreciation for genuine diversity and concern for the truth of the gospel. He called it “a theological mistake to think of unity as synonymous with agreement.”

Kinnamon said, “It is our inherent unity in Christ that is determinative. Christ has made us his own, and Christ is not divided.”

Kinnamon challenged participants to see ecumenism as “essentially a renewal movement.” He said, “The perspective here is neither that Christians should `get along,’ glossing over differences, nor that all differences must be fully resolved, rather that Christians need one another for the sake of their uniqueness.”

Kinnamon said, “The very language of communion helps remind us that unity is not a state we achieve but a dynamic relational reality.” A partnership, he said, helps churches focus less on what they have been and more on what they can become.

The Workshop on Christian Unity was also the setting for an annual meeting of the Lutheran Ecumenical Representatives Network (LERN). In joint meetings with counterparts from the Episcopal Church and the churches of the Reformed tradition, LERN members discussed the upcoming votes and ways to increase understanding among clergy and laity at the grass roots.

Darlis Swan, associate director of the ELCA’s Department for Ecumenical Affairs, said, “At this event people received information that will help them interpret the content of the proposals. Their imaginations have been sparked to think about joint mission efforts that can be brought about by approval of the proposals.”

Posted: May 1, 1997 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=4663
Categories: ELCA News
Transmis : 1 mai 1997 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=4663
Catégorie : ELCA News

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