The United Methodist Church’s General Conference voted 864-19 to establish full communion with the ELCA at its April 23-May 2 meeting in Fort Worth, Texas.
In April the ELCA Church Council asked that a formal proposal for full communion with the UMC be presented at its November meeting. The council will consider whether to transmit that proposal to the 2009 ELCA Churchwide Assembly for approval. (See "ELCA Church Council affirms malaria work" for a Church Council report.)
Under full communion, the churches would work for visible unity in Jesus Christ, recognize each other’s ministries, collaborate on ministry initiatives and provide, in some cases, for interchange of clergy.
Saying the decision was a “long time coming,” William Oden, ecumenical officer of the UMC Council of Bishops, emphasized that the proposal is a relationship, not a “church union.”
ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson said full communion “calls for ecumenical, missional imagination.” The church bodies, he added, must consider what they can do together in such areas as campus ministry, global mission or advocacy for justice and peace.
Theological dialogue between Lutherans and United Methodists began in 1977. This led to interim eucharistic sharing with the ELCA in 2005, where members were called to pray for and support each other, study the Bible together and learn about each others’ traditions.
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