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Side by side...

by Daniel Ostercamp (M.Th. student, Church History, Lauderdale, Minnesota)

Date Unknown

In section 24, Called to Common Mission insists that "each church promises to issue no official commentary on this text that has not been accepted by the joint commission as a legitimate interpretation thereof."

Nevertheless, during this time of preparation for the passage and implementation of CCM, the ELCA Conference of Bishops and the ECUSA House of Bishops have found it necessary to issue resolutions offering their own commentaries on the text.

How do these resolutions jive with each other? You can find the full text of both the ELCA Bishops' resolution and the ECUSA bishops' resolution elsewhere on this site. Here below are some helpful comparisons.

ELCA Bishop's Resolution (drafted by Western Iowa Synod Bishop Curtis Miller at a Bishops' fathering in Tucson, Arizona, Spring 1999

ECUSA Bishops' "Mind of the House" Resolution (adopted at Lake Arrowhead, California, April 2000)

Summary: A listing of various practices that are not included in CCM and a description of the amount of freedom the ELCA will have within the agreement.

Summary: Specific references to CCM demonstrate that some elements of the agreement, especially when interpreted in regard to catholic tradition, require scrupulous uniformity of practice.

Timing: March 8, 1999 -- Five months before the ELCA Churchwide Assembly.

Timing: April 3, 1999 -- Five days before the ELCA Church Council Meeting.

10. Future decisions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on matters of common concern will be made in consultation with churches with whom a relationship of full communion has been declared, but these decisions will not require their concurrence or approval;

11. Future Churchwide Assemblies of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America will be free to make whatever decisions they deem necessary after mutual consultation on matters related to full communion;

12. The joint commission [to which reference is made in "Called to Common Mission"] will have no authority over the appropriate decision-making bodies of the Evangelical Lutheran Church or the Episcopal Church;

1. The Episcopal Church agrees that each of the two churches has the right to interpret the same document according to its own standards, as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has already done for itself and referenced in CCM para. 3, so long as neither church contradicts the text of spirit of the document. In full communion, "churches become interdependent while remaining autonomous" (para. 2).

(The two bodies will be influenced by each other, but each has the freedom to make its own laws and interpretations. Perhaps these tow resolutions are an example of the type of interdependency that will be demonstrated in the future.)

Meanwhile, the "reference" contained in CCM para.3 is the ELCA Bishop's Resolution -- apparently the ECUSA bishops are satisfied that the ELCA bishops did not contradict the text or spirit of CCM.)

A. The Conference of Bishops understands that "Called to Common Mission" contains:

1. No requirement that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America must eventually adopt the three-fold order of ministry. Rather, "Called to Common Mission" recognizes that the present understanding of one ordained ministry in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, including both pastors and bishops, may continue in effect;

4. no requirement that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America establish the office of deacon, nor that they be ordained;

2. In common with all churches of the Anglican Communion, The Episcopal Church continues to maintain, as the Preface to the Ordination Rites makes clear (Book of Common Prayer, 510), that "three distinct orders of ordained ministers", namely, bishops, priests, and deacons are "characteristic of Christ's holy catholic church," and that "it has been, and is, the intention and purpose of this Church to maintain and continue these three orders."

3. The Episcopal Church's recognition of the full authenticity of the ministers ordained in the ELCA or its predecessor bodies (CCM para.15) is made in view of the voted intention of that church to enter the ministry of the historic episcopate (para.18.) According to catholic tradition of which The Episcopal Church is a part, the order of the historic episcopate properly includes within itself all three of these orders.

(This paragraph implies that without the historic episcopate, the ELCA is not part of catholic tradition --- and the ELCA will continue to be outside catholic tradition until the three-fold order is explicitly adopted.)

6. No requirement that the Ordinal (rules) of The Episcopal Church will apply to the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America;

4. In view of the firmly voted intention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America that "a bishop shall regularly preside and participate in the laying-on-of-hands at the ordination of all clergy" (para.20), it is necessary to state that according to the standard of The Episcopal Church and of the Anglican Communion and of catholic Christianity it is the rule (regula) that no exception to episcopal ordination can be allowed. Therefore if any ordination within the ELCA were to be carried out after full communion begins without an ELCA bishop presiding and participation in the laying-on-of-hands, it would not be acceptable for interchangeability and reciprocity in the Episcopal Church under para.16 of the CCM. In this regard The Episcopal Church welcomes the ELCA's explanation of para.20 recorded in the minutes of its 1999 Denver Churchwide Assembly that "The use of 'regularly' establishes the ELCA's intent to adhere to the same standard of ordination by a bishop as practiced by The Episcopal Church in the USA" and the word "regularly" does not imply the possibility of planned exceptions."

(It appears that there can only be one definition of "regularly", i.e. "always".)

7. The Episcopal Church accepts fully, and without reservation, present Lutheran pastors and bishops who are not in the historic episcopal succession;

3. following the adoption of "Called to Common Mission," if someone who has been received onto the roster of ordained ministers of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who was not ordained into the pastoral office in the historic episcopate is elected bishop and installed, he or she will be understood to be a bishop in the historic episcopate;

5. Although the ELCA may continue to receive onto its roster of ordained ministers, without reordination, pastors from other traditions, some of whom will not have been ordained by a bishop in the historic episcopate, only pastors ordained in the ELCA or its predecessor bodies will be considered for interchangeability with The Episcopal Church (para.16, 22). Pastors not ordained by a bishop in historic succession who transfer into the ELCA from other traditions after passage of CCM will not be regarded as interchangeable. Rostered ELCA pastors who were not ordained in the ELCA or its predecessor bodies will not be interchangeable under the provision of CCM.

(If a "present Lutheran pastor" happened to be ordained outside of "the ELCA or its predecessor bodies" would he or she be "interchangeable under the provision of CCM?" It appears that either the last two sentences are redundant, or that even pre-passage, some members of the ELCA clergy roster are destined for non-interchangeability. Also, does an ELCA pastor have to be considered interchangeable to be eligible for consecration as a bishop? The Mind of the House Resolution does not make clear whether someone ordained outside the ELCA but transferred onto its clergy roster would need an additional ceremony before receiving consecration as a bishop of the Church.)

4. Lay persons may continue to be licensed by the synodical bishop in unusual circumstances to administer the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion as is the present practice of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; 6. Although lay persons in the ELCA may continue to be licensed by its synodical bishops in unusual circumstances on rare occasions to preside at celebrations of the sacrament of Holy Communion for specified periods of time and only in a given location, it is well known that The Episcopal Church follows the consensus of catholic Christianity in not allowing or recognizing this practice, nor is it accepted or even mentioned in the text of the CCM (cf.para.16). (As before, the conclusion is that due to an aberrant practice, the ELCA has not been part of the consensus of catholic Christianity.)