United Methodists and Lutherans ink full communion pact
By Linda Bloom
But the celebration of an historic agreement on full communion is just beginning from local and regional United Methodist and
Moments after the 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America overwhelmingly voted for the agreement on Aug 20, affirming the action taken by the 2008 United Methodist General Conference, officials from both churches were making plans to appoint members of a commission to implement the pact.
The United Methodist-Lutheran agreement is significant on several fronts. It is the first full communion agreement approved by the United Methodist General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative body. It is the culmination of more than 30 years of deep conversation between the two denominations. And it could play a role in paving the way for future United Methodist agreements with other communions.
Full communion means that each church acknowledges the other as a partner in the Christian faith, recognises the authenticity of each other’s baptism and Eucharist, observes the validity of their respective ministries and is committed to working together towards greater unity.
Bishop Gregory Palmer, President of the United Methodist Council of Bishops and a member of the bilateral dialogue with the Episcopal Church, said that the new relationship with Lutherans most likely “will enrich that particular conversation”. An “interim Eucharist sharing agreement” exists between United Methodists and Episcopalians.
Some church leaders were already looking forward to sharing clergy in underserved areas, expanding joint mission work and strengthening seminary offerings with the resources of their communion partners.
“The church is looking for expressions of full unity and celebrates everyone who takes a step in this direction,” said the Rev Betty Gamble, a staff member of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns. “We have worked with other ecumenical partners, in other ecumenical settings, who we know are celebrating with us.”
Minnesota United Methodist Bishop Sally Dyck said she likes the idea that founders of the traditions, John and Charles Wesley, and Martin Luther, valued music so much that they made it part of their theology.
United Methodist and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America leaders expect by this month to appoint members of a joint commission to implement the agreement. The commission’s work includes joint planning for mission, developing worship materials to celebrate full communion and developing guidelines on sharing clergy.
While opportunities now exist for the interchange of ordained ministers, that is not an automatic process, Bishop Palmer pointed out. United Methodist bishops will not be required to appoint a Lutheran pastor, nor would Lutherans be required to put a United Methodist name on their list of pastors. – United Methodist News Service.
Linda Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in