An interim agreement for eucharistic sharing between the ELCA and the United Methodist Church cleared another hurdle, with its May 5 approval by the United Methodist Council of Bishops.
At its April 9-11 meeting, the ELCA Church Council recommended that the 2005 Churchwide Assembly approve the agreement. If approved by the assembly, the agreement will allow the denominations’ congregations to share worship, communion, studies and mission work. If full communion is approved after that interim, Lutherans and Methodists could exchange clergy and recognize each other’s sacraments.
The bishops also approved an interim eucharistic sharing agreement with the Episcopal Church, with which the ELCA is already in full communion. Both agreements are the UMC’s first shared communion agreements with groups outside the Methodist tradition.
William B. Oden, ecumenical officer of the UMC bishops’ council, said the denomination hopes to approve full communion with the ELCA at its 2008 General Conference and with the Episcopalians in 2012. Oden said the interim agreements aren’t “a movement toward church union, but [an affirming of] each denomination’s uniqueness while we worship and work together.”
Peter Weaver, president of the bishop’s council, said the agreements would make the churches “more effective and powerful” across communities. “These agreements aren’t just about sharing with each other,” he said. “They’re about our recognizing that we are a part of one body of Christ and thus one mission for Christ in this world.”
The bishops also agreed to join Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A., an ecumenical body that for the first time brings together mainline Protestants, evangelicals, Roman Catholics, Orthodox and Pentecostals. The ELCA is a member of CCT.
To download the interim agreement (you’ll need Acrobat Reader, free from www.adobe.com), visit http://tinyurl.com/6axpw.
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