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This page revised 18 Apr 05



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Called to Common Mission

common mission 3btGathering at the font, ECUSA presiding bishop Frank Griswold (far right) shares with ELCA's presiding bishop H. George Anderson (far left) in leading the baptismal covenant at the Epiphany service inaugurating full communion between Episcopalians and Lutherans.

Lutherans and Episcopalians inaugurate full communion in Epiphany Service at National Cathedral

by James E. Solheim

January 8, 2001 (ENS) In a long, complex, and glorious Epiphany service that blended powerful elements from both Anglican and Lutheran traditions, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Episcopal Church (ECUSA) celebrated a new relationship of full communion at Washington's National Cathedral on January 6. As the world-famous St. Olaf Choir offered a stunning musical introduction to the event, several processions involving almost a thousand participants moved into place. The processions included representatives from all 65 ELCA synods and nearly three-quarters of the Episcopal dioceses in the United States, as well as church officers and staff members, and ecumenical and international guests.

The voices of the 3,500-member congregation swelled in the opening hymn as liturgical leaders moved to a baptismal font in the center of the church. "God is here, as we your people meet to offer praise and prayer, may we find in fuller measure what it is in Christ we share," they sang. "Lord of all, of church and kingdom, in an age of change and doubt, keep us faithful to the gospel, help us to work your purpose out."

Drawing on a sacrament that stands at the core of the theology of both churches, members of the congregation renewed their baptismal vows and received in response a generous sprinkling of water from the huge font "as a sign and reminder of our baptism into the risen life of the Risen Christ."

The ground of communion

In his sermon, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold quoted 16th century reformer Martin Luther, who said that, in the communion of saints formed by baptism, "we are all brothers and sisters so closely united that a closer relationship cannot be conceived, no other society is so deeply rooted, so closely knit."

"How right it is that, as we come together to affirm our call to common mission as two households of faith within the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, we do so within the context of Eucharist," Griswold said, because in that sacrament "all self-seeking love is rooted out," according to Luther. It has been too easy for some to "emphasize our singularities in order to define ourselves over against one another, thereby feeding our ecclesiastical self-love."

On this occasion, Griswold added, "the Eucharist in conjunction with the renewal of our baptismal identity is not just an adjunct-an appropriate ceremonial addition to our call to common mission-but rather is the ground of the communion we share. The Eucharist both summons us and sustains us as we face the future in all its challenge and complexity as well as its possibility."

Griswold ended his sermon by expressing his hope and prayer that full communion "will lead to ever-widening and deepening relationships of shared life and mission with other churches of the Reformation, as well as the Church of Rome and the churches of the East. In the meantime, "we must leave home and follow the star. To be sure there is room in our saddlebags for the Augsburg Confession and the Book of Common Prayer, but a great deal will have to be left behind-particularly attitudes and self-perceptions which keep us from joyfully welcoming one another as brothers and sisters in the communion of the Holy Spirit, and from opening ourselves to the gifts of grace and truth to be found in one another's church."

The two churches must leave room for some surprises along the way, urged Griswold. "The divine imagination exceeds all our efforts to comprehend and contain it, and what use God will ultimately make of our ecclesiastical arrangements or where they will take us. or require of us in the days ahead, may surprise us all."

After prayers spoken in several languages and led by those who represented the wide diversity of both churches, ELCA Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson presided at the Eucharist.

A stage along the journey

In a news conference held the day before the service, Griswold and Anderson cautioned that the agreement is only a step in a much longer process. "Entering into full communion is a stage along the way that has already been established," said Griswold, noting that "a great deal has been done between our two churches both nationally and locally," and that the Epiphany liturgy "simply marks a stage in a relationship that has already begun, the formal liturgical recognition and beginning of a long process of growing together, sharing together, and trying to respond out of our two traditions together to God's call to minister to a broken world."

Anderson admitted that there continues to be opposition to full communion with ECUSA among some Lutherans, and "that is one of the things that I'm hoping we can address, first by demonstrating that the process of full communion and what it means will not bring some of the fearful consequences that some of our folks are assuming, and secondly, that we can work with them to try to make this relationship one that they also will see as God-pleasing, and ultimately for the good of the whole church of Christ."

"Communion is an organic relationship," Griswold remarked. "It's not a document, nor is it a set of legislative criteria, although documents and legislative criteria do enter into it along the way. My hope and prayer would be that any fears or anxieties that presently exist in either of our communities would be resolved over time through the living of the relationship."

Griswold drew an analogy with the experience of the Episcopal Church concerning the ordination of women. "Over time and through the actual experience of the ministry of ordained women, a great deal of the anxiety simply faded away," he observed, "not because anyone was argued out of something, but we simply lived into a new consciousness. I think that's really the way we need to look at this relationship."

Asked if a full-scale merger was ever possible in the future between the two denominations, Griswold replied, "What remains to happen in the future, I would not begin to anticipate. All I know is that God is a God of surprises, and often our tidy little plans get smashed and transformed in ways well past our imagining." It helps, he said, that "we are both liturgical traditions, which means that we share a heritage that is quite similar. Therefore our capacity to find ourselves at home in one another's liturgies is almost immediate. Some of the ways in which we structure the internal life of the church offer some divergence, and that's precisely what Called to Common Mission seeks to provide for and in some ways overcome as we look to the future."

The agreement commits both churches to share mission strategy wherever possible and permits the interchangeability of clergy. It also envisions sharing the historic episcopate by including bishops of both churches in future consecrations and installations of bishops.

Let Jesus reign

At a dinner for ecumenical and international guests the night before the service, Anderson expressed appreciation for a presence that "reminds us that this occasion is embedded in a much wider movement."

The Rev. Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, said that despite whatever fears Lutherans and Anglicans may have had, "this event is a deeply spiritual one that boldly reaches out," harvesting the results of long and patient dialogue.

The Rev. John Peterson, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, said that the occasion was "one of those holy moments" in the life of the church. In keeping with the Epiphany theme, he said, "It is time to unwrap the swaddling clothes and let Jesus Christ reign in our lives."

The three-hour service ended with a return by the presiding bishops to the baptismal font where they intoned the Epiphany blessing. "May Almighty God, who led the Magi by the shining of a star to find the Christ, the Light from Light, lead you also, in your pilgrimage, to find the Lord. May God, who sent the Holy Spirit to rest upon the only-begotten at his baptism in the Jordan River, pour out that Spirit on you who have come to the waters of new birth."

--James Solheim is director of the Episcopal Church's Office of News and Information.


common mission 3ftELCA bishop H. George Anderson (left) presides at the Eucharist celebrating full communion with ECUSA as ELCA vice president Addie Butler (right)looks on.



Click on the following links for other news and background information concerning "Called to Common Mission."

Lutheran and Episcopal Churches will inaugurate full communion on January 6, 2001 - 12-6-01

Episcopal Church approves full communion with Evangelical Lutheran Church in America - 7-8-00

Evangelical Lutheran Church approves full communion with Episcopal Church - 4-14-00


The following ELCA links may be of interest:

Called to Common Mission - Official Text

Called to Common Mission - Commentary

Called to Common Mission - Questions and Answers

Characteristics of Full Communion

Called to Common Mission and the Episcopate

Guidelines and Worship Resources for the Celebration of Full Communion:

New Anglican - Lutheran Publication

Anglican-Lutheran Agreements,
Regional and International Agreements 1972-2002

16 March 2005 - The Anglican Communion Office is pleased to announce a joint publication with the Lutheran World Federation as part of the LWF Documentation Series. This is a comprehensive volume that contains the texts of all the major Anglican - Lutheran ecumenical agreements between 1972 and 2002, bringing them together in one place.

The book includes, amongst other papers, not only the international agreements such as the Cold Ash Report on Episcope, and the recent Growth in Communion report by the Anglican-Lutheran International Working Group, but also regional agreements such as Porvoo, Meissen, Called to Common Mission, Waterloo and Common Ground from Australia. Anglican - Lutheran relations across the globe have taken huge steps forward in the period covered by the book, leading to relations of "full communion" in North America, and significant progress elsewhere.


Anglican-Lutheran Agreements, Regional and International Agreements 1972-2002 will be of value and interest to all students of ecumenism, representing, as it does, the consolidation of thirty years of ecumenical progress and breakthrough.

The volume can be purchased on-line for UK £12.77 at


Alternatively, order forms can be obtained from Terrie Robinson at the Anglican Communion Office:

Tel +44 (0)207 313 3919
Fax +44 (0)207 313 3999

Lutheran and Episcopal Churches inaugurated full communion on January 6, 2001

by John Brooks and Jan Nunley

Dec 6, 2000 (ENS/ELCA) - The Episcopal Church in the U.S.A. (ECUSA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will inaugurate their new full communion relationship Jan. 6, 2001, in a service of Holy Eucharist at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. The celebration will be jointly led by the presiding bishops of both churches: the ELCA's H. George Anderson and ECUSA's Frank T. Griswold.

The cathedral's official name is the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. It is the seat of the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington and of the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church.

The basis for the full communion relationship is contained in "Called to Common Mission" (CCM), a document adopted by both churches. The ELCA adopted CCM at its Churchwide Assembly in 1999. The Episcopal Church adopted CCM at its General Convention this past summer. The ELCA and Episcopal Church agreed to implement the relationship January 1, 2001.

Under CCM, the churches agreed to cooperate in a variety of ministries, and it allows for sharing of clergy under certain circumstances. It is not a merger of the churches.

The celebration service is expected to be about 90 minutes in length and may draw as many as 3,600 people, the cathedral's seating capacity. The event will begin with singing and processions at 10:30 a.m., followed by the service at 11 a.m.

First step forward

"Participants in the service have been carefully selected to represent the breadth of both our churches," said the Rev. David Perry, the Episcopal Church's deputy for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations. "Many of our ecumenical partners will be present, friends of both churches.

"For Episcopalians, this is really the first step forward in the realization of our unity in Christ," Perry added. "We haven't done anything like this before."

"With this worship event, this celebration of the fact of full communion, we bridge an ecumenical chasm between Anglicanism and Lutheranism," said the Rev. Daniel F. Martensen, director of the ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs. "The bridge has been under construction for nearly four decades; it spans not only two U.S.A. communions, but also continents. Our engagement in common mission of proclamation, witness and service is now strengthened."

Anglican participants in the service will include the Rev. John Peterson, secretary general of the Anglican Communion; the Rev. David Hamid, director of ecumenical affairs and relations in the Anglican Communion Office; Canon Jim Rosenthal, director of communications for the Anglican Consultative Council; Archbishop Michael G. Peers, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada; the Rev. Alyson Barnett-Cowan, director of Faith, Worship and Ministry for the Anglican Church of Canada; and the Rev. James Cowan, Anglican Church of Canada co-chair of the Joint Working Group on full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

Lutheran participants in the service will include the Rev. Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF); the Rev. Lowell G. Almen, ELCA secretary; the Rev. Theodore F. Schneider, bishop of the ELCA Metropolitan Washington, D.C. Synod; the Rev. Michael L. Cooper-White, president of the ELCA's Gettysburg Theological Seminary; Kristen E. Kvam, chair of the ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs advisory committee; Lily R. Wu, ELCA Church Council; and Jutta Anderson, wife of the presiding bishop.

The service will be broadcast with live audio and still photos from http://www.FaithAndValuesMedia.org on the Internet. There will be links to this site from the ELCA and Episcopal Church web sites.

Live video will be available via satellite for individuals with a satellite dish and for groups gathered at downlink sites. Satellite coordinates are C Band, Galaxy 11, transponder 8.

Anderson will preside over the Eucharistic liturgy. Griswold will preach and preside over the renewal of baptismal vows, which will be done early in the service.

"There is no more fitting way to launch our shared mission and ministry than by hearing Christ's promise and welcoming his presence in this Eucharistic service," Anderson said.

"The heart of our mission imperative comes from our grounding in the baptismal promises that we share," Griswold commented. "Born anew in the waters of baptism, we will discover God's mission unfolding in surprising and enriching ways."

A procession of processions

The service will begin with a series of four processions. Representatives of synods and dioceses of both churches will form one procession. Other processions will include international ecumenical guests, members of the full communion dialogue and writing teams, and staff from both churches. Invited guests include a number of governmental leaders.

The internationally known St. Olaf College Choir will sing during the processions and during the service. The Minnesota college is one of 28 ELCA colleges and universities.

Dr. Addie J. Butler, ELCA vice president, Philadelphia, and the Rev. Ernestina R. Campbell, an ordained Episcopal deacon from Trinity Cathedral, Sacramento, Calif., will be assisting ministers for the service.

Organists will include Martin D. Jean, who teaches at the School of Music and the Institute of Sacred Music, Yale University, New Haven, Conn.; John Ferguson, professor of organ and church music at St. Olaf; Douglas Major, National Cathedral organist and choirmaster; and Bruce Neswick and Eric W. Suter, cathedral organists. Cathedral choirs will sing during the service.

Each church has a limited number of tickets for the public, available through the ELCA's Department for Ecumenical Affairs and the Episcopal Church's Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations.

The newly formed Lutheran-Episcopal Joint Coordinating Committee will gather on the Monday following the celebration to work out the details of the emerging relationship.

The ELCA, based in Chicago, is a 5.15-million member church with nearly 11,000 congregations across the United States and Caribbean. It is organized into 65 synods, each headed by a bishop. The Episcopal Church, based in New York, has 2.4 million members in some 7,400 congregations. The church has 107 dioceses, each headed by a bishop.

Information about the January 6 celebration in Washington, D.C., as well as the text of Called to Common Mission, is at http://www.elca.org/ea/ on the ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs Web page.

--John Brooks is director of ELCA News and Information. The Rev. Jan Nunley is deputy director of the Episcopal Church's Office of News and Information. 

Episcopal Church approves full communion with Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

By Jan Nunley

July 8. 2000 (ENS - Denver) Once more, as at the 72nd General Convention, the triumphant strains of Martin Luther's Reformation hymn "A mighty fortress is our God" followed a dramatic step toward closer relations with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America.

This time, overwhelming passage of three resolutions in the House of Deputies cemented an accord spelled out in the document "Called to Common Mission," which commits the two churches to a full sharing of mission and ministry. The measures earlier passed the House of Bishops.

"Called to Common Mission" is a successor to the original Concordat of Agreement to establish full communion between the two churches. The Episcopal Church approved that document at its last General Convention in 1997, but the ELCA later narrowly turned it down.

No opposition was voiced during the short period of testimony that preceded the vote by orders on the main resolution adopting "Called to Common Mission" (A040). In the vote, only 5 deputations each in the lay and clergy orders opposed that resolution. Thirteen deputations were divided. To finalize the agreement, two enabling resolutions also were required. The step of suspending the Episcopal ordinal to enable Lutheran pastors to function in Episcopal churches was opposed by only 11 votes, with 12 divided. Admission of Lutheran clergy according to the Episcopal Church's constitution was opposed by only 10 votes, with another 10 divided.

The approval of "Called to Common Mission" completes more than 30 years of discussion between the two denominations about mutual opportunities for ministry. "It is not a marriage or a merger of our two churches," advised the Very Rev. Donald Brown, chair of the Committee on Ecumenical Relations. "Each church will retain its own liturgical, theological, and organizational uniqueness and integrity.

"We Episcopalians will still be inspired by the liturgical genius of Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, and Lutherans will still proudly claim the theological insights of Martin Luther. But most importantly and significantly, both our churches will be living into the reality of Jesus' prayer in the 17th chapter of the Gospel of John that all his followers might be one," he said.

The Rev. Jane Gould (Massachusetts), Episcopal chaplain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has worked closely with ELCA chaplains for six years. She said that in her experience cooperation between the two denominations will not result in "Lutherpalians or Episcorans," but in a deeper understanding of what it is to be Episcopalian, Lutheran, "and even Christian."

During the voting, House of Deputies President Pam Chinnis remained mindful of opponents to the plan. She asked for the deputies to refrain from "outbursts" on one side of the issue or another, recalling a similar admonition by the Rev. John Coburn at the 1976 Convention vote on the ordination of women. "Let's do respect the feelings of those around us," Chinnis said.

Nevertheless, once the results were announced, the chaplain of the House led deputies in prayer for "this gift of action" on the Concordat and for "strengthening the patience and forbearance of those who experience a sense of loss in this decision." Representatives of the ELCA and the House of Bishops Ecumenical Committee were invited to the dais to address the House.

With the words of Luther's hymn helpfully projected on the convention hall monitors, the Episcopalians and their Lutheran guests joined in song.

--The Rev. Jan Nunley is director of communications for the Diocese of Rhode Island.

Lutherans reaffirm proposal
for full communion with Episcopal Church

14 April, 2000 (ENS) -- Despite some lingering resistance, the Church Council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) reaffirmed its commitment to full communion with the Episcopal Church, noting that it has caused "great hope and thankfulness" throughout the 5.2-million member church, "as well as deep concern and opposition."

At its April 7-9 meeting in Chicago, the council took three actions related to the implementation of the agreement, "Called to Common Mission,"(CCM) endorsed by the Churchwide Assembly at its meeting last summer. It established a timetable for implementation, it responded to a resolution from the Eastern North Dakota Synod opposing CCM, and dealt with constitutional issues.

"My basic concern is that this council not interfere with the action of the Churchwide Assembly," said Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson. He warned against efforts that would " abandon governing documents" of the church.

The council established January 1, 2001 as the implementation date for CCM, avoiding suggestions from opponents of the agreement for a delay until the Churchwide Assembly in 2001, giving the church time to reconsider constitutional issues. They argue that CCM requires Lutherans, contrary to the church's confessional documents and tradition, to join Episcopalians in consecrating bishops to the historic episcopate.

At its March meeting the Eastern North Dakota Synod overwhelmingly approved a resolution that it "supports the right of its constituent members, congregations, pastors and bishops to freely accept or reject local implementation" of the historic episcopate. The council responded by reminding the synod that ecumenical commitments and relationships are made by the whole church and "are not legislated on a synod-by-synod basis."

The council also offered guidance to other ELCA synods that may consider proposals similar to the one emerging from North Dakota. "While resolutions of a synod assembly seeking changes in this church's governing documents are in order, resolutions of a synod assembly pledging to support or undertake actions in violation of this church's governing documents are not in order," the council said. Synods should find other methods to "address their concerns and seek particular decisions." Council members said that it is appropriate for congregations and synods to express their opinions without advocating a violation of the church's governing documents.

The Rev. David Perry, the Episcopal Church's ecumenical officer, said that the tone of the meeting was "very positive" despite some very "tough" discussions. He said that "there is no sign that the Lutherans will abandon their decision." And it was clear, he added, that there is "genuine excitement" with the possibilities for mission the proposals envision.

"The hard work begins after we pass CCM," he warned, "because both churches will need to develop new skills at partnership and mutual accountability in our pursuit of mission together." While there has been an increasing level of cooperation, "we have been able to go only so far."

--by James Solheim and John Brooks

Prior report from ELCA:

Evangelical Lutheran Church approves full communion with Episcopal Church

April 14, 2000 - After 30 years of ecumenical dialogue, and having narrowly rejected the measure in 1997, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) approved a proposal for full communion with The Episcopal Church at its Churchwide Assembly held this August in Denver.

The proposal, "Called to Common Mission," was endorsed at the ELCA's assembly by a vote of 716 to 317, just 27 votes more than the two-thirds majority needed to approve the measure. Among other things, the proposal could make it possible for the ELCA and Episcopal Church to exchange clergy and commits them to work together on future mission and service projects.

In approving the proposal, the ELCA agreed to accept the "historic episcopate," the concept that those who ordain new pastors are from a line of bishops stretching back to the earliest days of the church.

On their side, Episcopalians have agreed to suspend a 17th century rule about who can be considered a priest and agreed to accept the ministries of all current ELCA pastors and bishops.

Next year the Episcopal General Convention will meet, also in Denver, to ratify the fellowship proposal. A similar document was approved by the Episcopalians, but the Lutherans rejected it by by a six-vote margin in 1997.

The matter of the historic episcopate had become the focal point of debate on the fellowship proposal. Debates prior to the assembly and at hearings revealed disagreement over this aspect of the proposal. While a number of Lutheran churches around the world have the historic episcopate, it has never been a part of American Lutheran church life, and numerous voting members of the assembly said they did not believe the church needed it.

"This is the wrong way to do the right thing," said Linda Danielson of the ELCA Southeastern Iowa Synod, who said she favored fellowship with Episcopalians, but not if the ELCA was required to adopt this understanding of the episcopate or office of bishop.

Others argued that full communion was necessary to strengthen the mission of the church. "We need partners who are across the street from us," said the Rev. Stephen Bouman, bishop of the ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod. "We need your help," he said to the assembly, adding "Give us our partners."

The ELCA was formed in 1987 by a merger of three Lutheran church bodies, some of whom had already experienced previous mergers, blending various strains of Lutheranism. Some suspect the document is a way of providing bishops with more authority in the church, though drafters assured the assembly that under the agreement this would not be the case.

Proponents argued that the measure enables the ELCA to be an ecumenical "bridge," because in 1997 the 5.2-million-member denomination also declared full communion with the Reformed Church in America, the United Church of Christ and the Presbyterian Church (USA). And this year -- just a few hours before the Episcopal decision -- endorsed full communion with the Moravian Church in America.

The Rev. Robert Isakson, bishop of the ELCA New England Synod, said Lutherans can be "sought out for what we bring to the ecumenical table." Since debate over the ministry and the role of bishops has frequently troubled ecumenical relations, Isakson said, "Lutherans are uniquely positioned to break this logjam."

Following the vote, the Rev. David Perry, ecumenical officer of the Episcopal Church, read a statement from Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank T. Griswold which said he received the decision "with rejoicing and thanksgiving." Griswold said "the promise of our deepening life together offers real hope for the broken world. The test of our full communion will be our faithfulness to the gospel in mission and witness, in prayer and fellowship at God's altar. We ask the Holy Spirit to lead us in the days ahead." -- ELCA News Service

The following ELCA links may be of interest:

Called to Common Mission - Official Text

Called to Common Mission - Commentary

Called to Common Mission - Questions and Answers

Characteristics of Full Communion

Called to Common Mission and the Episcopate

Guidelines and Worship Resources for the Celebration of Full Communion:


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