Through the adoption of Following Our Shepherd to Full Communion, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the Northern and Southern Provinces of the Moravian Church in America (hereafter referred to as the Moravian Church or the Moravian Church in America 1 entered into a relationship of full communion. Among other things, full communion means that the two churches "recognize the full interchangeability and reciprocity of all ordained ministers of Word and Sacrament, subject to the constitutionally approved invitation for ministry in each other’s churches." 2
Interchangeability and reciprocity of ordained ministers, which will hereafter in this document be referred to as "orderly exchange," is to strengthen participation by both churches in the mission of God, and can be an important sign of our unity in Christ. This particular provision of full communion seeks to encourage the more effective use of our churches’ ordained leaders in order to enhance our shared ministry and mission. It encourages those in our churches who are responsible for the deployment of ordained ministers to draw on the available ministers of the other church body to meet mission needs.
Ordained ministers in one church may be invited or may express their desire to serve in the other church; they do not have a right to serve in the other church. We therefore speak of the "inviting church" (sometimes called the "receiving church") and the "sending church." The orderly exchange of ordained ministers is understood to be at the invitation of the receiving church and subject to that church’s polity and procedures.Following our Shepherd, with its commitment to full communion, exists to foster orderly exchange of ordained ministers for extended service in ministries in the other church body while those ministers remain ministerial members of their own church. It does not directly address the transfer of ministerial membership. When it does seem appropriate for a transfer of ministerial membership, such transfer will be authorized according to the polities of the two churches. Full communion may also encourage occasional service by ordained ministers in participating churches, but that service continues to be authorized according to the polities of each of the churches.
Means of implementing orderly exchange need not be identical in each participating church. The existing polity of each church continues to be respected. It is important, however, that provisions parallel each other as much as possible and that each church be familiar with and conversant about the provisions of the other. The two churches will need to continue conversations toward clarification of church policies in order to enhance the orderly exchange of ministers and to find ways to celebrate visibly our full communion relationship and the recognition of the ordained ministries of the two churches.
2 Following Our Shepherd to Full Communion: Report of the Lutheran-Moravian Dialogue with Recommendations for Full Communion in Worship, Fellowship and Mission (Chicago: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, 1998), p. 3. All references to ministers or ordained ministers herein refer to ordained ministers of Word and Sacrament in the two church bodies.