ELCA tinkers with ecumenism

Jeopardizing a pact

Acting unilaterally, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has placed in jeopardy its relationship of “full communion” with the Episcopal Church. At its August biennial session in Indianapolis, the Lutheran body’s churchwide assembly narrowly approved a church bylaw that contravenes an element of “Called to Common Mission,” the ecumenical concord that was given final approval by the two denominations’ top governing bodies in 1999 and 2000. The new bylaw, which required a two-thirds majority for adoption, squeaked by, 683 to 330—an eight-vote margin.

The bylaw will allow an ELCA pastor, if authorized by a synod bishop, to ordain an approved pastoral candidate “for pastoral reasons in unusual circumstances.” Lutherans have historically allowed pastors to preside at ordinations when authorized by the candidate’s synod bishop. Episcopalians have never had such a practice.


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