Episcopal Life Convention Daily
Monday, 10 July 2000  

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Deputies pass Called to Common Mission

The Rev. Lowell Almen, ELCA Secretary, and the Rev. David Perry, ECUSA deputy for ecumenical relations, exchange stoles following the vote. photo/ DICK SNYDER 

The triumphal strains of Martin Luther's Reformation hymn "A mighty fortress is our God" followed the overwhelming passage of three resolutions in the House of Deputies cementing the accord Called to Common Mission with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

Called to Common Mission is a successor to the original Concordat of Agreement to establish full communion between ECUSA and Sing first verse for future shared ministry ELCA. The Episcopal Church approved that document at its 1997 General Convention, but the ELCA narrowly turned it down a few months later. CCM was approved by the ELCA earlier this year. After a short period of testimonies in which no opposition was voiced, only five deputations each in the lay and clergy orders opposed the main resolution adopting Called to Common Mission (A040). Thirteen deputations were divided. To finalize the agreement, two enabling resolutions also were passed.

The approval of Called to Common Mission brings to a close more than 30 years of discussion between the two denominations about mutual opportunities for ministry. "It is not a merger of our two churches," advised the Very Rev. Donald Brown, chair of the Committee on Ecumenical Relations. "Each church will retain its own liturgical, theological and organizational uniqueness and integrity."

"We're going shopping"

At a news conference following the vote, the Rev. Lowell Almen, ELCA secretary, offered to take the Rev. David Perry, the Episcopal Church's deputy for ecumenical relations, to the convention exhibit area to buy matching stoles. The gesture would commemorate the occasion, he said.

"Today marks the beginning of a marvelous new future for both of our churches," Almen said. "David, we're going shopping." He added that there will be an inaugural event marking the agreement on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6, 2001.

The agreement doesn't signify merger, according to representatives of both churches. "I think we've moved in the ecumenical movement generally from a concept of one superchurch to what we now call a "communion of communions," explained Bishop Christopher Epting (Iowa), a member of the document's drafting team. "The great coming church of the future will always have its own uniqueness. There will be different ways in which individual communions will exercise their worship and their common life. But we really are one church in the larger sense of that word."

Nor do arrangements of communion that the ELCA and ECUSA have with other churches automatically become reciprocal, said Almen, adding: "Ecumenism is not a virus that's caught by contact." Nevertheless, the decision has worldwide implications, according to theRev.Daniel Martensen, director of the ELCA's ecumenical office. "I'm thoroughly convinced that the Anglican Consultative Council and the Lutheran World Federation and other Christian world communions will be watching very closely to see how it unfolds here in North America," Martensen said.

Chinnis calls for respect

During the voting, House of Deputies President Pam Chinnis asked for the deputies to refrain from "outbursts" on one side of the issue or another, recalling a similar admonition by the Rev. John Coburn at the 1976 Convention vote on the ordination of women. "Let's do respect the feelings of those around us," Chinnis said.

With the words of Luther's hymn helpfully projected on the convention hall monitors, the Episcopalians and their Lutheran guests joined in song.

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