The stately Washington National Cathedral in the nation's capital was the site of a colorful celebration of "full communion" between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Episcopal Church on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany.

After decades of negotiation, the two churches have formed a new relationship for the 21st century.

Hundreds celebrated the implementation of the "Called to Common Mission" agreement, which will allow the two churches—with a combined membership of 7.7 million—to swap clergy and share in common mission projects.

The accord, ratified by Lutherans in 1999 and Episcopalians in 2000, stops far short of an outright merger but allows the two denominations from divergent historical backgrounds to weave their ministries together.

The accord has taken 40 years of dialogue to resolve and overcome sharp disagreement. The agreement will allow both churches to share precious resources in rural and urban areas.

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