Lutherans Reject “Full Communion” with Episcopalians

 — Aug. 18, 199718 aoüt 1997

PHILADELPHIA (ELCA) — By a narrow margin the Evanglical Lutheran Church in America has rejected a proposal to enter into “full communion” with The Episcopal Church here Aug. 18. The proposal needed the support of two-thirds of the ELCA Churchwide Assembly for approval. It failed by a vote of 684 to 351 — six votes short of the 690 votes needed.

“An opportunity was created, and I regret that we have missed it,” said Presiding Bishop Edmond L. Browning of the Episcopal Church. “The commitment of the Episcopal Church to the ecumenical movement continues.”

The Rev. Daniel Martensen, director of the ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs, expressed “sadness that our church at this time has not demonstrated the conviction to move from talk to concrete actions.” He said the two-thirds vote was meant to avoid “what we are still going to struggle with … a serious division in our church.”

The vote also led Martensen to express resolve. “Our dialogue continues; our dedication to the ecumenical movement in all of its forms remains strong.”

“Life will go on in the local churches,” said the Rt. Rev. Edward W. Jones, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis, co-chair of the Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee. “Those close to the talks will be disappointed.”

Perhaps the main objection to the proposal voiced at the assembly was that it committed the Lutheran church to incorporate the “historic episcopate” of the Episcopal Church. Episcopal bishops trace their succession back to about the third century after Christ through the historic episcopate.

Most of the Lutherans speaking against the agreement expressed strong reservations with a Concordat of Agreement, the document that describes steps the two churches would take to implement full communion, and not with continued close relationships with the Episcopal Church.

“I speak against the Concordat not against Episcopalians,” said the Rev. Philip M. Larsen, Hoople, N.D. “I cannot support a document that tells us only bishops can ordain.”

“The Concordat adds one more things to the necessities of the church — the historic episcopate,” said the Rev. David A. Weeks, Marshall, Minn.

“This really does come down to an understanding of what constitutes the church,” said Tony Stoutenburg, Naselle, Wash. “I believe this undermines the mission of the church.”

“‘Full communion’ means affirming that in another church the gospel is proclaimed and the Sacraments appropriately administered,” the Rev. Walter R. Bouman, professor of systematic theology at Trinity Lutheran Seminary, Columbus, Ohio, told the assembly as he spoke in favor of the proposal. “It means that we can cooperate with each other fully, do mission together,” he said. “It means that we adopt agreements by which churches can exchange ministers.”

“The Episcopal Church required that bishops who participate in the ‘historic episcopate’ ordain all clergy,” said Bouman. “The Episcopal Church has bishops who share in this succession. The ELCA does not,” he said. “Lutherans don’t think the historic episcopate is necessary for ordained ministry.”

“Lutherans saw that they needed to take some action which would enable the Episcopal Church to recognize the historic episcopate in our bishops. Episcopalians saw that they needed to take some action that would recognize Lutheran ministry now,” Bouman said.

The General Convention of the Episcopal Church adopted the Concordat overwhelmingly when it met here in July. Among the provisions the Episcopalians agreed to accept immediately the validity of the ordinations of ELCA pastors.

“The Lutheran confessions state that Lutherans have no objection to the historic episcopate,” Bouman said. “Indeed some Lutheran churches throughout the world actually have bishops in historic succession.”

“The goal of ecumenism has never been ‘You must be like me,'” said the Rev. Michael Rogness, professor of homiletics at Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn. “The definition of the nature of ministry in the Concordat is clearly the threefold form” held by the Episcopal Church and not the ELCA, he said.

Rogness quoted the Concordat: “We agree that the threefold ministry of bishops, presbyters and deacons in historic succession will be the future pattern of the one ordained ministry.”

“It seems obvious to me that the Concordat sets in motion a trend which will invariably end up in full-fledged threefold ministry,” he said. Rogness said that would contradict actions of the 1991 ELCA Churchwide Assembly which decided there would be one office of ordained ministry — pastors — and bishops would be pastors elected to offices of oversight in the synods or churchwide.

Posted: Aug. 18, 1997 • Permanent link:
Categories: ELCA NewsIn this article: Christian unity, ecumenism, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, full communion, Lutheran
Transmis : 18 aoüt 1997 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : ELCA NewsDans cet article : Christian unity, ecumenism, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, full communion, Lutheran

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