Many questions about the nature and implications of "Called to Common Mission" are addressed in the document, "'Called to Common Mission:’ Questions and Answers" printed in June 2000. The following questions have emerged since its publication. Other questions can be addressed by calling the ELCA Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations at 773/380-2610. Comments, questions, or concerns also can be forwarded to department staff members by e-mail.
Q: What is episcopal ordination?A: Though the term is little-used in ELCA contexts, "episcopal ordination" means "ordination by a bishop."
Q: Are ELCA seminarians required to be ordained by a bishop?A: Beginning January 1, 2001, the approved rite of ordination for use within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (in accordance with churchwide constitutional provision 10.31.) directs that synodical bishops shall preside at all services of ordination. Other pastors in attendance at the service participate in the laying-on-of-hands.
The bishop has been, in the ELCA and our predecessor church bodies, the person to authorize the ordination of clergy. The bishop now will regularly preside at the ordination of all candidates. There is no special "grace" imparted during the rite for the installation of a bishop that qualifies the bishop to ordain clergy; bishops assume the role of presiding minister as a sign that candidates for ordination are ordained for service in the whole church, not simply for a specific congregation.In response to several Synod Assemblies, the ELCA Church Council is examining a possible bylaw that would, in unusual circumstances, provide for the possibility of a synodical bishop’s authorization of an ordination by another ordained minister. This possible bylaw will be reviewed by the Church Council at its April 2001 meeting. At that meeting the council may decide to transmit the proposed bylaw to the 2001 Churchwide Assembly for consideration.
Q: Are candidates for Word and Sacrament ministry ordained into the historic episcopate?A: No. The term "historic episcopate" can be defined as the orderly transmission of the office of bishop (or overseer), with its roots in the time of the early church. It is a symbolic succession pointing back to the centrality of Christ and the teaching of the apostles. It also looks forward to the carrying out of the mission of the Gospel today.
Q: Is participation in the historic episcopate a violation of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession or other Reformation principles?A: Nothing more than the proper proclamation of the Gospel and the right celebration of the sacraments is necessary for the church to be the church (Augsburg Confession, Article 7). Lutherans have traditionally understood that matters of church governance are matters not essential to salvation (adiaphora), and therefore have exercised freedom to order themselves in whatever form best serves the Gospel in a given time and place. The Lutheran Reformers expressed a willingness to maintain, in an evangelical way, the office of oversight (bishops in succession).
The ELCA clearly acknowledges that the historic episcopate is not required for salvation and is not required for relationships of full communion. If accepting the historic episcopate was contrary to Lutheran teaching, then this church would have to declare that such churches as the Church of Sweden, the Church of Norway, the Church of Finland, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania, and the Lutheran Church of El Salvador are not authentic Lutheran Churches.Q: Are ELCA bishops now ordained into that office?A: Bishops of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are ordained ministers who have been elected to serve in the office of oversight. Bishops are installed, therefore, into this office, in the way a pastor is installed to any new call.
Q: Will the Queen of England have authority to name ELCA bishops?A: No. The ELCA governing documents clearly indicate that the presiding bishop is elected by the Churchwide Assembly and synodical bishops are elected by synodical assemblies. Only those ordained ministers on the clergy roster of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are eligible for election.
Q: Who will preside at rites of Affirmation of Baptism (Confirmation) for ELCA youth?A: Pastors of ELCA congregations will continue to preside at confirmations.
Q: Did The Episcopal Church adopt the same version of "Called to Common Mission" as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America?A: The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (in 1999) and the The Episcopal Church (in 2000) both adopted an identical version of "Called to Common Mission." The particular language used in The Episcopal Church’s resolution was shaped by that church’s legislative processes. The effect of the action was the same as that of the voting members of the 1999 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, namely, adoption of the text of "Called to Common Mission."
Q: In adopting "Called to Common Mission," did the ELCA accept the three-fold pattern of ministry?A: It is not true that the ELCA has accepted a three-tiered system of ministry. In "Called to Common Mission," paragraphs 14 and 15 clearly affirm the ELCA’s continuing pattern of ordained ministry. The one ministry of Word and Sacraments remains focused in the office of pastor. "Called to Common Mission" reads: "We agree that ordained ministers are called and set apart for the one ministry of Word and Sacrament, and that they do not cease thereby to share in the priesthood of all believers. They fulfill their particular ministries within the community of the faith and not apart from it" (paragraph 7). Bishops are pastors who serve a number of congregations in a geographical area. "Called to Common Mission" makes clear that the ELCA will not need to change its position to designate deacons or diaconal ministers as members of the clergy. "Called to Common Mission" states in paragraph 9: "The ordination of deacons, deaconesses, or diaconal ministers by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is not required by this Concordat." The reference to the sharing of ministry recognizes the continuation of a three-fold pattern in The Episcopal Church and the continuation of the existing pattern affirmed in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Q: Did the deputies voting at the 2000 General Convention of The Episcopal Church get to see the Tucson Resolution?A: The so-called Tucson Resolution of the ELCA Conference of Bishops was provided as information both to the deputies voting at the General Convention of The Episcopal Church and to the voting members of the 1999 Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA.
Q: Is the Tucson Resolution binding for implementation of "Called to Common Mission" in the ELCA?A: Yes. The Tucson Resolution is acknowledged by specific reference in the official text of "Called to Common Mission" as correctly interpreting the agreement for a full communion relationship between the ELCA and The Episcopal Church. In other words, it is binding by reference in the document itself. Most of the items listed in the Tucson Resolution are explicitly stated and addressed in the official text of "Called to Common Mission." Some items in the Tucson Resolution are addressed in the bylaws of the ELCA and, therefore, are binding upon this church under those bylaws.
Q: Why is the Mind of the House resolution of The Episcopal Church different from the Tucson Resolution in the ELCA?A: The Mind of the House resolution addresses implementation of "Called to Common Mission" in The Episcopal Church; the Conference of Bishops resolution ("Tucson") addresses implementation within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Each church body remains responsible for its internal governance and life.
Q: Why did the 2000 General Convention of The Episcopal Church adopt an implementing resolution that made reference to "Concordat of Agreement" and three-fold ordering of ELCA ministry?A: All amendments to the governing documents of The Episcopal Church require adoption by two consecutive General Conventions of that church. The amendments adopted by the 2000 General Convention, allowing for the implementation of a relationship of full communion with the ELCA, were first considered by the 1997 General Convention. The background information describing the intention of the amendments quoted and made reference to the 1997 "Concordat of Agreement." The actual amendments, however, made no such reference, and since no changes to the amendments were required by revisions in "Called to Common Mission," the 2000 General Convention determined that it could legitimately consider the action a "second reading" of those amendments.
In short, while the background information accompanying the amendments made reference to certain components of "Concordat of Agreement," the final text of "Called to Common Mission" alone describes the official relationship between our two churches. Provisions for an "ordained diaconate" and "bishops for life" were removed from the agreement during the drafting of "Called to Common Mission" and are not being implemented in the life of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
Q: Why is "full communion" with The Episcopal Church important?A: Why was a relationship of full communion established between the ELCA and The Episcopal Church? The basic answer is in order to increase the opportunities for mission and witness in our increasingly secular society. By allowing for the exchange of clergy between our two churches, one pastor or priest may serve congregations of both church bodies. In many rural areas and in many inner city situations, along with campus ministry sites and a variety of other situations, this new relationship is proving invaluable in increasing our opportunities for service to the world. The full range of such opportunities would not be possible without the exchangeability of clergy.
Q: Was there adequate time to study the proposal for full communion?A: The proposal to establish a relationship of full communion was developed after more than 30 years of dialogue, and after nearly 20 years of "interim eucharistic sharing." The agreement for "interim eucharistic sharing" was declared by the ELCA’s predecessor church bodies with The Episcopal Church in 1982. Fundamental to that declaration was the agreement in the doctrine of the faith that is summarized in paragraph five of "Called to Common Mission." Commitment was made by the predecessor church bodies of the ELCA in the "interim eucharistic sharing" agreement to address the matters in "Called to Common Mission" for establishment of the relationship of full communion.