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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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August 20, 2009

Something to sing about


Some of the enthusiasm clearly left the ELCA Churchwide Assembly Thursday, but the more than 1,000 voting members bounced back upon the approval of a full communion agreement with the United Methodist Church.

The 958-51 vote at the Minneapolis Convention Center met with a thunderous applause and rousing rendition of the Wesleyan hymn favorite "Oh, for a Thousand Tongues to Sing."

The accord brings to six the number of denominations with which the ELCA shares altar and pulpit fellowship. The others are the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Reformed Church of America, the United Church of Christ and the Moravian Church in North America.

The agreement was some 32 years in the making. The United Methodist Church's governing body approved the measure last year in an 869-19 vote.

One ELCA voting member opined that he knew what Lutherans would be bringing to joint potlucks and wanted to know what Methodists could contribute. Bishop Sally Dyck of Minnesota didn't skip a beat: "I think we have the same cookbooks."

The mood turned more somber when a video greeting from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops cautioned the assembly of taking actions that deviate from historic biblical interpretations. While not specifically mentioning the assembly's vote on a social statement on human sexuality, the intent of Archbishop Wilton Gregory of Atlanta was clear.

On Wednesday the highest governing body of the ELCA approved the social statement that, among many other things, addresses committed relationships by gays and lesbians. Another controversial measure, to open the roster of the ELCA to gays and lesbians, will likely be considered Friday.

Lutheran CORE, an umbrella organization of traditionalist and conservative Lutherans, announced Thursday it would host a "convocation" Sept. 25-26 in Indianapolis to discuss implications of decisions by the assembly and "what the future might hold for" those upset with the actions.

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