ELCA Lutherans Explore Ecumenical Shared Congregations

 — Oct. 23, 199723 oct. 1997

CHICAGO (ELCA) — The Formula of Agreement approved at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Churchwide Assembly this summer presents a “unique and historical opportunity” for the expansion of mission outreach in the United States and Caribbean, according to a document called, “Ecumenical Shared Congregations.” The board of the ELCA’s Division for Outreach approved the document when it met here Oct. 10-12.

The purpose of the document is to “outline some principles that might guide ecumenical shared congregations and suggest policy and procedures that could be used to maximize the expansion of outreach.”

The Formula of Agreement with three churches of the Reformed tradition — the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Reformed Church in America, and the United Church of Christ — commits the churches to sharing in their mission work and to develop procedures whereby clergy in one denomination may serve a church in another denomination.

The move to full communion “opens the door for strategic planning for outreach.” The area of “ecumenical work has been given some new opportunities through the passage of the Formula of Agreement,” said the Rev. Richard A. Magnus, executive director, Division for Outreach. In his report to the board, Magnus said the document explores how the “passage of the ecumenical proposals” might affect the work of the Division for Outreach and how the division might “begin to establish guidelines and principles for broader ecumenical work.”

The vision of “Ecumenical Shared Congregations” is “the desire to live in unity and to minister in the community knowing that … congregations can be more effective in their ministry together than they can be separately.”

Two or more congregations with different denominational affiliations served by one pastor is an example of ecumenical shared congregations. The congregations remain essentially independent except for the shared clergy. Churches sharing some areas of ministry, such as youth work and care for the aging, is another example of ecumenical work at the congregational level.

“The strength of the document is that it recognizes the diversity of all the different ministries involved and attempts to strengthen them,” said Norman E. Briggs, board member, Chicago. “It is all new water for us … and it is unique that we are discussing these ecumenical ventures,” said Briggs.

“An ecumenical shared congregation is where many different traditions gather to worship together, sharing traditions from different worship services,” said board member, Dora Johnson, Washington, D.C. “The document is a courageous piece. It is easy to talk about ecumenism but when one begins to put it down on paper, it is not an easy process,” she said.

In other business, the board recommended that the Division for Outreach be designated as the lead unit in carrying out two of the ELCA’s “Initiatives for a New Century.” The seven initiatives are to be catalysts for the ELCA to deepen worship life, teach the faith, witness to God’s action in the world, strengthen one another in mission, help the children, connect with youth and young adults, and develop leaders for the next century.

The division “eagerly offered” to take responsibility for implementing the initiative, “Witness to God’s Action in the World,” to “strengthen those skills that help congregations ‘turn inside out’ in witness and service.” The division also voted to support the Initiative, “Develop Leaders for the Next Century,” to “encourage and support pastors and lay leaders in their service in the church and in their ministry in daily life” and to “understand what leadership will require in the 21st century.”

At its May 1996 meeting, the board voted to develop “outreach strategies to gay and lesbian people, especially in communities where there are large populations of homosexual persons, either with new ministries or through existing ELCA congregations.” Susan Thompson, ELCA director for newly organized congregations, reported to the board that a study team has now been formed to assist the division.

The study team will select six cities around the country with significant gay and lesbian communities. Interview teams will meet with leaders of congregations and gay and lesbian congregational members to discuss outreach options. Following the visits, the study team will develop strategies for outreach for consideration by the division board at its May 1998 meeting.

“When we’re talking about gay and lesbian individuals in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, we’re not talking about strangers; it is friends, cousins, parents, brother and sisters. This is foremost and we should keep this in our minds,” said Thompson.

The Rev. Julius Carroll, Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Oakland, Calif., was elected chairperson for the board.

Posted: Oct. 23, 1997 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=4671
Categories: ELCA News
Transmis : 23 oct. 1997 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=4671
Catégorie : ELCA News

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