—CCM: Not the right time

by The Living Church editorial board

June 18, 2000

From The Living Church, June 18, 2000, p. 13. The Living Church is a weekly Episcopal periodical.

Three years ago, when General Convention was voting on whether the Episcopal Church should become involved in full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), we were enthusiastically supportive. The Concordat of Agreement offered a promising arrangement to both churches to enter into an unprecedented relationship. That bond never came to be, for the Churchwide Assembly of the ELCA failed to approve it. Now General Convention has a new document to consider -- *Called to Common Mission* -- and the situation is reversed. This time the Lutherans already have adopted it, at their assembly last summer, and it is up to General Convention to decide whether the Episcopal Church should enter into full communion with the ELCA.

It is difficult to commend this resolution to the deputies and bishops who will be participating in the 73rd General Convention in Denver. For one thing, a sizable amount of opposition remains in the Lutheran church. It is estimated that perhaps a third of the Lutherans opposed *Called to Common Mission* (CCM), and the threat of schism hangs over the ELCA if the measure is adopted. At issue is acceptance of the historic episcopate by the Lutherans, a concern even to those in favor of the document. Asking the Episcopal Church to suspend its preface to the ordination rites (BCP, 510), since 1662 an expression of Anglican doctrine concerning ordination, in order to accommodate a body which is not entirely enthusiastic about it, would be an unwise move. The Lutherans' idea of the ordained ministry is considerably difficult from the historic threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons.

There are additional concerns. It would appear that CCM differs considerably from its 1997 predecessor in order to make the document more palatable to the ELCA. We also question the wisdom of foisting such a plan on a badly divided Episcopal Church and a still relatively new Lutheran body. Then there is the matter of the ELCA already having achieved full communion with three churches of the Reformed tradition, an accomplishment which certainly points Lutherans in a more Protestant direction.

The Episcopal Church has enjoyed a healthy, positive, deepening relationship with the ELCA ever since eucharistic sharing between the two churches was achieved some 20 years ago. Churches from the two traditions work well together, occupy the same buildings, even share clergy. Taking an additional step toward full communion now seems to be shaky at best.