It's the most widely published religious document of the 20th century, but few Christians know about it. Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry was the product of 50 years of theological consensus-building about issues that have separated the churches.
William Lazareth, an ELCA theologian, oversaw drafting of the document while serving from 1990 to 1993 as director of the Commission on Faith and Order, a World Council of Churches unit.
More than 500,000 copies of the document have been published in 40 languages. The 40-page document is now in the hands of 300 communions in more than 100 countries that are part of the WCC. Its focus is on the theology Christians share rather than concentrating on the differences.
Lazareth said Episcopalians and ELCA Lutherans are trying to implement the document's recommendation with regard to the historic episcopate. They have cited it in the revised proposal that will be voted on at the 1999 ELCA assembly.
"We no longer talk about the succession, but the apostolic tradition is the category to describe all that the church of the apostles receive for carrying on the mission of Christ. And that centers on Scriptures, the creeds, the sacraments, deeds of serving love and the historic episcopate," he said.
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