Our churches have discovered afresh our unity in the gospel and our commitment to the mission to which God calls the church of Jesus Christ in every generation. Unity and mission are organically linked in the Body of Christ, the church. All baptized people are called to lives of faithful witness and service in the name of Jesus. Indeed, the baptized are nourished and sustained by Christ as encountered in Word and Sacrament. Our search for a fuller expression of visible unity is for the sake of living and sharing the gospel. Unity and mission are at the heart of the church's life, reflecting thereby an obedient response to the call of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Many years of thorough and conscientious dialogue have brought our churches to this moment. The history of how far our churches have already traveled together is significant. It guides us on a common path toward the unity for which Christ prayed.
The purpose of this Concordat of Agreement is to achieve full communion between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Episcopal Church. Our churches have set this goal in response to our Lord's prayer that all may be one. Our growing unity is urgently required so that our churches will be empowered to engage more fully and more faithfully the mission of God in the world.
I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me (John 17:20-21).
The Concordat is the latest stage in a long history of ecumenical dialogue between the two churches. Although the issues that gave rise to the Protestant Reformation in England and on the European continent were dissimilar is some respects, Anglicans and Lutherans have long recognized something of themselves in each other, and our churches have never issued condemnations against one another. Liturgical and sacramental worship has always figured largely in the identity and character of each tradition. Moreover, the architects of reformation, both in England and on the continent, were concerned to uphold the catholic faith. Thus it is no surprise that official ecumenical conversations between Lutherans and Anglicans date back to the late 19th century.
The first official conversation in this century involving Anglicans and Lutherans in the U.S.A. took place in December 1935, between The Episcopal Church and The Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church, a church with roots in Sweden. In 1969, the first of three rounds of Lutheran-Episcopal Dialogue began. Periodic reports were submitted to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and its predecessor bodies and to The Episcopal Church. Two final reports, Implications of the Gospel and "Toward Full Communion" and "Concordat of Agreement," were submitted in 1988 and 1991 respectively.
Lutheran-Episcopal Dialogue was coordinated through the Lutheran World Federation and the Anglican Consultative Council with the Anglican-Lutheran International Conversations, the European Regional Commission, and the other national and local dialogues. Consultations were held as well with other churches and traditions in dialogue with Lutherans and Anglicans.
In 1996, the Nordic and Baltic Lutheran and the British and Irish Anglican churches entered communion on the basis of agreement in The Porvoo Common Statement. Earlier, in 1988, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany and the Church of England agreed on steps to closer relations on the basis of The Meissen Declaration. Anglican and Lutheran churches in Canada, in Southern and Eastern Africa, and in Asia have initiated dialogue and begun to share in mission. These actions, and those that follow, help to prepare us and, indeed, other churches committed to the ecumenical movement, to move from our present separation into a relationship of full communion.