The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Episcopal Church may not agree about bishops or about moral standards for homosexuals, but they could be in "full communion" within a year.
Meeting in Denver for a week in August, ELCA's biennial Churchwide Assembly approved a unity proposal, "Called to Common Mission" (CCM), by 716 to 317—comfortably above the required two-thirds majority.
If approved by the Episcopal Church's triennial General Convention next year, CCM would unite ELCA's 5.2 million members with 2.4 million Episcopalians. Full communion would not be a merger, but it would enable the denominations to share clergy, celebrate Communion together, and work in more visible unity.
The previous Churchwide Assembly rejected the original full-communion proposal, the Concordat of Agreement, by a mere six votes two years ago (CT, Oct. 6, 1997, p. 81). CCM is a revision of the Concordat coming out of ecumenical talks that were revived last year (CT, July 13, 1998, p. 13).
Among Lutherans, CCM opposition focused on the ministry of bishops. Both denominations affirm the concept of apostolic succession as the authentic transmission of Christian faith through the ages. Many Episcopalians go further, saying they can trace the consecrations of bishops back to the original apostles and insisting that such lineage is essential to apostolic succession. During the sixteenth century, that link was severed for Lutherans (except in Sweden) because few Roman Catholic bishops joined the Protestant Reformation.
A VIGOROUS DEBATE: Voting members approved four different amendments to CCM, all by margins of 80 percent or greater. CCM opponent Mark Rydberg, one of more than fifty voting members to flock to microphones for the ...1
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