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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Bishops develop ecumenical checklist

Concerns about three ecumenical decisions facing the ELCA dominated the Nov. 14-19 meeting of the Conference of Bishops.

The 65 synodical bishops developed a list of issues for Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson to relay to the ecumenical partners.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Churchwide Assembly is scheduled to vote in 1997 on entering into full communion with the Episcopal Church and three churches of the Reformed tradition.

A third proposal with the Roman Catholic Church for lifting the mutual condemnations regarding justification by faith was supported by the bishops.

The bishops directed the following concerns to the ELCA:
1. Do the proposals serve the mission of the church?
2. What is the precise definition of "full communion"?
3. Will the ELCA accept pastors into ELCA pulpits who do not subscribe to the Augsburg Confession?

Issues related to the Episcopal Church include:
1. Will the Episcopal principle of bishops retaining their office for life affect the ELCA election process?
2. Can we reconcile the Episcopal church's three-fold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons with the ELCA understanding of one office of ordained ministry?

Regarding the Reformed churches, the bishops:
1. Want to vote separately on each of the three relationships.
2. Raised concerns about the congregational nature of the United Church of Christ.

The bishops asked that each proposal consider the concept of "availability of ordained ministers" for each other's pulpits rather than the proposed "interchangeability" of clergy.

Daniel Martensen, Department for Ecumenical Affairs, told the bishops that the final wording of the proposals could be delayed until fall.

In other actions, the bishops:
1. Elected Bishop Charles Maahs, Central States Synod, chair; and Bishop Peter Rogness, Greater Milwaukee Synod, vice chair.
2. Recommended delay of the social statement on economic life to the 1999 Churchwide Assembly.


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