ELCA Leaders Stress Concordat Clarity

 — Jan. 8, 19988 janv. 1998

CHICAGO (ELCA) — Church leaders stressed clarity and candor in their advice to the teams charged with drafting a revised proposal for full communion between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Episcopal Church. An advisory panel of ELCA pastors and lay people, bishops and scholars met here Dec. 18-19, together with the ELCA and Episcopal writing teams.

The Rev. Thomas A. Prinz, Alexandria, Va., said he hopes “we can assist with the clarity needed to give this agreement a second time at bat.” In August the ELCA defeated the original “Concordat of Agreement,” which sought to establish full communion between the two churches, but rededicated the ELCA to work toward that relationship.

The writing team is to rework the document in time for the ELCA’s spring synod assemblies. But the discussion showed there is little consensus among factions in the ELCA supporting and opposing certain essential portions of the proposal.

The Rev. Joan A. Mau, Washington Island, Wis., said, “No one seemed to agree on what the text of the Concordat meant. To agree on a document we need to know what we’re talking about.”

“Don’t dumb it down,” urged Terry L. Bowes, Longmont, Colo. “Give it life and meaning — the way Jesus did in his teaching.”

Albert Quie, Minnetonka, Minn., said, “Lutheran folks are so divided over the historic episcopate. We need to find a point of unity within the ELCA and provide clarity of language that will lead to trust.”

Lutherans and Episcopalians agree on the doctrine of “apostolic succession,” an ongoing faithful proclamation of Christ; Episcopalians bring the “historic episcopate,” an unbroken succession of bishops as a sign of unity back to the earliest days of the Christian church.

The Rev. Mary Beth A. Peterson, Omaha, Neb., said the document should “state our missional goals clearly,” rather than assume they will be recognized.

The Rev. Ronald B. Warren, bishop of the ELCA’s Southeastern Synod based in Atlanta, said it should be “a missionary mandate” and added that the eight Episcopal bishops in his area “have the same concern.”

The Rev. Peter Rogness, bishop of the ELCA’s Greater Milwaukee Synod, said, “I hope we can reduce the size of a perceived toggle-switch that makes a loud click with the historic episcopate and a church run by bishops on one hand and a locally-run democratic church on the other.”

Rogness said, “Both churches acknowledge apostolic succession. Our understandings of oversight and authority are much the same. The proposal’s increased emphasis on clergy is not as massive as some in the ELCA think. It does not call for such a big shift, just an affirmation of both traditions.”

The Rev. Todd W. Nichol of Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., said, “There is a practical element to the situation. We are quite badly strained, quite deeply divided, perhaps even dangerously so. We Lutherans need to be tending to the unity of our household.”

Nichol, a professor of church history, is one of three members of the ELCA writing team. “Our task is to achieve a consensus as broad and deep as possible so as many ELCA members as possible can say ‘Yes.’ Ecumenism begins at home. Our ecumenical efforts need to take account of the fact that the ELCA is a young and tender church, only 10 years old,” he said.

“We need to practice honesty,” Nichol said. He added, “Both churches need to be absolutely clear with each other, so that each fully understands and agrees to the meanings and consequences attached by the other to words and gestures, documents, practices and ritual actions.”

Prinz said the issue is “not just a matter of Lutheran unity.” He said, “It is not primarily an interior issue, but a particular part of the call to unity in Christ. Lutheran unity alone will fall short of the larger goal.”

Dr. Michael Root urged against “changing the Concordat too much.” He said it should be “rational” and stressed the need for “clarity and a mission context.” Root, another member of the writing team, teaches at the Institute for Ecumenical Research at Strasbourg, France.

Root said the ELCA should “not try so hard for 85 percent of the vote if that means not producing something that will get 75 percent.” A decision will require a two-thirds vote at the ELCA’s Churchwide Assembly in 1999.

Greeting the group the Rev. H. George Anderson, presiding bishop of the ELCA, said he was “amazed and thrilled that everyone we asked was willing to serve.” He said the advisory panel was to “assess concerns, represent various regions of the church and points of view, and help the drafters see both possibilities and how issues rank in importance.”

The Concordat, he said, is an effort to come to reconciliation of our ministries through the historic episcopate. The drafters must bring to this the Lutheran context in the United States today, he said.

The ELCA writing team is made up of Nichol, Root and the Rev. Martin E. Marty, Chicago. Marty, who serves as moderator, called the discussion, “extremely valuable and moving.”

The ELCA group was joined by the writing team from The Episcopal Church: The Rev. J. Robert Wright, professor of history, General Theological Seminary, New York. the Rt. Rev. C. Christopher Epting, Bishop, Diocese of Iowa, and the Rev. William Norgren, retired ecumenical officer for The Episcopal Church.

Epting told the group about his work with Lutherans through Ecumenical Ministries of Iowa: “We are continuing to work together without breaking stride. We are encouraged by the ELCA’s vote to move forward.”

Posted: Jan. 8, 1998 • Permanent link: ecumenism.net/?p=4674
Categories: ELCA News
Transmis : 8 janv. 1998 • Lien permanente : ecumenism.net/?p=4674
Catégorie : ELCA News

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