We have watched with great concern and sadness the bitter controversy that has continued in our church since the approval of Called to Common Mission," said the entire faculty of Lutheran Southern Seminary, Columbia, S.C., in an April 14 statement that criticized "planned exceptions" to the full communion proposal.
Some ELCA members oppose adoption of the historic episcopate--a succession of bishops reaching back to the early Christian church--as part of CCM. As a result, various groups have suggested making exceptions.
Yet planned exceptions, said the Southern faculty, "would undermine both full communion with the Episcopal Church and the communion we prize within the ELCA."
The faculty specifically criticized exceptions that waive the requirement for ordination by bishops if the ordinands agree never to participate in clergy exchanges with the Episcopal Church. This would "allow individual ordinands under some circumstances to decide whether or not they would be ordained by a bishop," the statement said. "In a consumer society that exalts individual choice, it almost seems an obvious course of action ... but this would be a destructive path for our church to take."
In their statement, faculty members expressed respect for "pastoral sensitivity toward those who are angry or uncertain about its meaning and implications." Although the text of CCM is "already sufficiently clear," the staff proposed that a "brief theological commentary on CCM" worded in "the plainest manner possible" be developed by the joint committee that would oversee the proposal's implementation.
The Episcopal Church will vote on CCM in July.
There are "deep fractures that this controversy has revealed in our own unity as a Lutheran church body," the faculty said. "These fault lines ... will not go away should CCM drop out of the picture altogether. They would simply re-emerge in some other guise at some other difficult juncture of our life together ... let us beware of easy fixes."
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