Lutheran pastor and seminary professor Paul Berge says he is pleased that he ministered to all Protestants and not just Lutherans during his tour as a U.S. Air Force chaplain in the Vietnam War. "I am an ecumenist at heart," Berge says.
Berge, however, is one ecumenist who actively opposes the proposed concordat of agreement that would bring the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) into "full communion" with the Episcopal Church. Both denominations will vote on the concordat this summer.
Berge served as one of eight members on the Lutheran-Episcopal Dialogue, which held 14 meetings from 1983 to 1991. Berge, of Luther Seminary in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and Robert J. Goeser, of Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, California, wrote a dissenting report in 1991 when the dialogue group released the concordat for consideration by both denominations.
Berge and Goeser now stand in a less lonely place. Others opposing the concordat include some ELCA bishops, many pastors, and at least 50 seminarians.
RELINQUISHING TOO MUCH? Opponents within the ELCA are concerned that the concordat requires Lutherans to sacrifice too many aspects of Lutheran identity for the sake of full communion with Episcopalians.
Opponents say that the concordat will:
—Commit Lutherans to the threefold ministry of bishops, priests, and deacons as taught by Anglicanism.
—Change Lutheran theology of bishops by requiring that all future bishops be "consecrated/installed" by at least three Episcopal and three Lutheran bishops. Opponents object to Episcopalians' insistence on incorporating future Lutheran bishops into "apostolic succession" through such services.
—Require that all future ELCA pastors be ordained by at least one bishop. ...1