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 — February 12, 199912 février 1999
 

MAHTOMEDI, Minn. (ELCA) — While expressing support for a relationship of “full communion” between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and The Episcopal Church, almost 200 Lutherans gathered here at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church and resolved that the current Lutheran proposal, “Called to Common Mission,” is not the way to accomplish it.

Speakers addressed the audience before participants shared their views and drafted and approved a sample resolution for ELCA congregations and synod assemblies to send to the Churchwide Assembly next August in Denver. The Feb. 8-9 conference also began developing a strategy to educate Lutherans on the content of “Called to Common Mission” (CCM) and reasons for opposing it.

The sample resolution asks “that the 1999 Churchwide Assembly reject the document ‘Called to Common Mission,'” while reaffirming the Lutheran “commitment to continue to work together with our Episcopal neighbors in common faith and mission, gathering at the Lord’s Table and sharing in each other’s ministry.”

The resolution continued, “We acknowledge the ordination of Episcopal clergy, and welcome them to serve in ELCA parishes or pastoral positions, preaching and teaching in a manner that is consistent with the ELCA‘s ‘Confession of Faith.'”

The Rev. Roger C. Eigenfeld, St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church, opened the conference, “Upholding Lutheran Confessions,” by saying the ELCA has been flooded with speeches and materials about why CCM should be approved, but the purpose of the conference was to express opposite viewpoints.=20 “You will not hear both sides of the issue here,” he said.

A round of Lutheran-Episcopal dialogues that began in 1983 developed a proposal for full communion between the two churches, “The Concordat of Agreement,” and issued it in 1991. During that period, the American Lutheran Church (ALC) and the Lutheran Church in America (LCA) merged with the Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches to form the ELCA.

A convention of the Episcopal Church approved the Concordat in = 1997.=20 The ELCA assembly that year defeated the proposal by six votes and asked that the Concordat be revised, taking the assembly’s debate into account and clarifying the technical language of the dialogue.

“I am disappointed — first with the Concordat and now with the revision — that they make it necessary for us to adopt the historic episcopate,” said the Rev. Robert J. Marshall, Chicago, former LCA president.

Lutherans and Episcopalians agree on the doctrine of “apostolic succession,” an ongoing faithful proclamation of Christ; Episcopalians bring to the relationship the “historic episcopate,” a succession of bishops as a sign of unity back to the earliest days of the Christian church.

Marshall asked the conference if the historic episcopate is “not only essential but good and useful for the church,” and he supplied his answer: “No.”

“I am not in favor of the Concordat in its present form because it is not the best for ecumenism,” said Marshall. “One church would have to become like the other.”

Marshall said the full communion agreement the ELCA has with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Reformed Church in America and United Church of Christ is “the model for future full communion agreements.” It allows for recognition of each others’ ministries without the need to change structures or understandings of ministry, he said.

“The Episcopal refusal to accept us ‘as we are’ is at the center of our disagreement,” said the Rev. David W. Preus, Minneapolis, former ALC presiding bishop. The historic episcopate is not bad, he said, but Lutherans would not be considering it if it were not being required for full communion.

Preus said the Reformation of the Western Church in the 16th century was needed because the church was placing itself between God and “the priesthood of all believers.” Saying word and sacrament ministry can only be done by those ordained by certain bishops would limit the mission and ministry of the church not enhance it, he said. “God is not tied to any particular priesthood.”

Incorporating the historic episcopate would hinder the ELCA‘s ecumenical relationships with churches other than the Episcopal Church, Preus said.

“I affirm the closest possible relationships with our Episcopal brothers and sisters within the bounds of our integrity,” said the Rev. Lowell O. Erdahl, Roseville, Minn., former bishop of the ALC’s Southeastern Minnesota District and the ELCA‘s Saint Paul Area Synod.

“My problem with the Concordat and its current revision is not that it is too ecumenical but that it is not ecumenical enough,” said Erdahl.=20=

 

He called requiring the historic episcopate for full communion “an insult

to the unity that we have in Jesus Christ.”

Erdahl said Lutherans are considering the historic episcopate only “to be nice … to go along to get along.”

“Always keep in mind that this is not an ecumenical issue but a ministry and mission issue,” said the Rev. Michael Rogness, professor of homiletics, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn. While full communion and the mission of the church are often given as reasons for supporting CCM, he said those who oppose the proposal also favor full communion and mission.

“It is dishonest for us to say the historic episcopate will not change our theology or the way we do things,” said Rogness. “‘Called to Common Mission’ proposes a fundamentally different ministry than what the Augsburg Confession intends.” The Augsburg Confession is a 16th century summary of Lutheran doctrine which the ELCA accepts as “a true witness to the gospel.”

On the conference’s strategy, Rogness suggested participants focus on communicating with the ELCA Churchwide Assembly through resolutions from synod assemblies this spring.

“‘Called to Common Mission’ is the wrong way to the right thing,” said the Rev. Mark A. Granquist, assistant professor of religion, St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn. “We are not against declaring our Christian unity with other churches,” he said. “We are not against the Episcopal Church.”

“Jesus Christ declares that the Holy Spirit has already made us one … united with other Christians,” said Granquist. “Ecumenism is recognizing the unity that already exists.”

Granquist said an approach to ecumenism that seeks to blend ministry systems from different denominations is “a failed paradigm.” Advocates of the historic episcopate claim it will help Lutherans resist the corrosive acids of modernity, said Granquist. “It has not worked for the Episcopal Church, and it won’t work for us,” he said.

Those who oppose CCM have endured a lot of unfounded criticism, said Dr. James M. Kittelson, professor of church history, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn. “Just say no to this litany of shame and blame,” he said.

“We are told that our own lack of the historic episcopate is an accident of history,” said Kittelson. The historic episcopate of the Anglican Communion that U.S. Lutherans are being asked to adopt is an accident of 16th century European politics, he said, “a pious fraud at best.”

Kittelson said other churches that have the historic episcopate, such as the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, do not recognize the Anglican historic episcopate.

The Rev. Marc Kolden, academic dean, Luther Seminary, St. Paul, Minn., discussed the strategy the group might take toward getting its message before ELCA members, especially the ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

Kolden advised the group to have a substitute motion ready if CCM fails to win a two-thirds majority at the Churchwide Assembly. The substitute “would serve notice that ‘Called to Common Mission’ is in such trouble that it is a lose-lose proposition,” he said, and it could allow the assembly to vote against CCM without voting against the Episcopal Church.

Kolden urged conference participants to talk with others in their congregations. Lay people understand that ministry in the 21st century will require more flexibility not less, he said.

Posted: February 12, 1999 • Permanent link: ecu.net/?p=4684
Categories: ELCA News
Transmis : 12 février 1999 • Lien permanente : ecu.net/?p=4684
Catégorie : ELCA News


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