ELCA NEWS SERVICE
November 28, 2005
ELCA Presiding Bishop Releases Draft of Full Communion Statement with UMC
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- A working draft of a possible full-communion statement of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and United Methodist Church (UMC) is now available for discussion and comment by congregations of both traditions.
The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop, in his role as chief ecumenical officer for the ELCA, authorized release of the draft, "Confessing Our Faith Together: A Statement toward Full Communion by the ELCA-UMC Bilateral Dialogue" for study. Earlier this fall the draft was presented for review to the ELCA Conference of Bishops.
The Conference of Bishops is an advisory body of the church, consisting of the ELCA's 65 synod bishops, presiding bishop and secretary.
A congregational resource which includes the draft is now available, said Dr. Michael R. Trice, associate director, ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations. The resource, "Confessing Our Faith Together: A Study and Discussion Guide," encourages congregations of both traditions to assess the possibility of living into full communion, he said.
At the 2005 ELCA Churchwide Assembly, voting members adopted a proposal for "interim Eucharistic sharing" between the ELCA and UMC. Earlier in the year, the UMC Council of Bishops adopted the same proposal. Interim Eucharistic sharing is considered an intermediate step leading to full communion.
Should full communion be achieved, the two churches may exchange clergy to serve in congregations, share common mission goals and demonstrate "to the world in a concrete way the unity given to us in Christ through the gospel and sacraments," according to the draft text.
The Rev. Paul A. Schreck, associate for bilaterial dialogues, ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations, said the draft is being submitted to both churches as a discussion starter, and the dialogue team expects to use comments they receive to polish a final version.
There is "no timetable" for formal consideration of a full communion proposal by both churches, though formal responses to it should be sent to the ELCA by Dec. 31, 2006, Hanson said.
The document states that the dialogue team drafted "Confessing Our Faith Together" to "articulate the high level of convergence we experienced around the Triune God, our authoritative documents, salvation by grace through faith, the sacraments, the Church and its ministries, and the world and our common mission."
The dialogue team said the participants discovered that the two churches had much in common and much to recommend in the pursuit of full communion. Neither church ever "condemned" the other, the draft said.
"Distinctions between our two churches, whether matters of style, history or ethos, and even differences of theological expression, content and emphasis, need not be considered church-dividing," the draft said.
The dialogue team said a full-communion agreement "will succeed precisely as each church takes seriously its responsibility for mutual admonition and responsibility." The team called on local judicatories and congregations to begin the process of realizing what the proposed agreement will mean.
"Confessing Our Faith Together" also contains a draft of a possible implementing resolution for full communion.
"Confessing Our Faith Together: A Study and Discussion Guide," which includes the draft text, is at http://tinyurl.com/ahfj8 on the ELCA Web site.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org