Ecumenical Relations: United States
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New Evangelical Lutheran Church presiding bishop installed ecumenically
Elizabeth Eaton, the new presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). was installed on October 5 at Rockefeller Chapel in Chicago. Her husband, an Episcopal priest, represented ecumenical and full communion guests as he participated in the liturgy. She promised to support the church's "work with global an ecumenical and partners." And among the representatives of ecumenical and global partners who laid hands on the kneeling Eaton and prayed, one after the other, was Robina Winbush of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), one of the ELCA's full communion partners. Present at the service was Sayyid Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Former presiding bishop Mark Hanson said Syeed's attendance was "a powerful witness in a culture and world where religious differences so often breed cultures of distrust." When Eaton was elected, she said, "The election of a woman . . . is a fulfillment of [Hanson's] ministry of making this church a welcoming place." Eaton now has faces the task of working to heal divisions that remain in the denomination.
Full communion agreements create a web of relationships in the U.S.
Marking full communion agreements—Called to Full Communion (the Waterloo Declaration) and Called to Common Mission—that took effect in both Canada and the U.S. ten years ago, the Episcopal/Anlican Churches and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) celebrated on both sides of the border on May 1, 2011. Some three months earlier, the ELCA and the two provinces of the Moravian Church in North America celebrated ten years of full communion. A document, One Flock, One Shepherd: Lutheran-Moravian Relations, promotes further conversation and relations between these parties. Days later, the Episcopal Church and the two provinces of the Moravian Church in North America formally inaugurated a full-communion relationship at a February 10 service in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the seat of the Moravian's Northern Province. A focus of the service was the Moravian bishops' laying hands on the Episcopal bishops who knelt before them, this action repeated with the Episcopal bishops laying hands on the Moravians. The actiion was accompanied by prayer. The full-communion document, Finding Our Delight in the Lord, was accepted by the Moravian provinces in 2010 and by the Episcopal general convention in 2009.
Celebrations of the full communion agreement of the ELCA with the United Methodist Church (UMC) continued throughout 2010 following a special event on Reformation Sunday 2009. Confessing Our Faith Together, the proposal for full communion between the ELCA and the UMC, leaves each free to "pursue additional full communion agreements as each deems appropriate."
The PC(USA) is in relationship with the ELCA through a Formula of Agreement, which established full communion between the ELCA and three Reformed churches—the PC(USA), the Reformed Church in America, and the United Church of Christ—in 1997. The PC(USA)
has adopted a covenant relationship with the Moravians (through the General Assembly in 2008 and by subsequent vote of the presbyteries) that is defined in the An Invitation to the Table. The document says its language was adapted from the Formula of Agreement.
The Episcopal Church is also in full communion with the Mar Thoma church of India, whose diocese in the U.S. is a member of the National Council of Churches.
United Methodists share the Eucharist with Episcopalians
In 2006 the Episcopal Church and the United Methodist Church entered a relationship of interim Eucharistic sharing with the hope the churches would grow together by sharing worship while continuing to study remaining issues.
Their growing unity is intended to provide for expanded witness and mission. Make Us One with Christ: A Study Guide was developed for congregations to use as part of the process. Both Methodists and Episcopalians have already shared the Eucharist with Lutherans.
Episcopalian-Moravian full communion coordinating committee begun
An Episcopalian-Moravian full communion coordinating committee has been established and begun with a meeting in January 2013. The committee is intended to assist in "joint planning for mission." Episcopal Church presiding bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori commented earlier that sadly many Episcopalians knew no Moravians. At a meeting at the Moravian Seminary in November 2009, participants talked about ways the relationship might play out in the parts of the country where both Episcopalians and Moravians are concentrated. Moravian Church membership is concentrated in North Carolina and the central and eastern parts of Pennsylvania, with a small presence in western Ohio.
The full communion relationship was inaugurated with a 2011 worship service in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The Episcopal Church's General Convention House of Bishops had passed a resolution calling for full communion in 2009. The following year, each of the Moravians' two entities voted on the proposal, Finding Our Delight in the Lord, with the the Northern Province approving nearly unanimously while votes were split in the Southern Province. Moravians in the U.S. are also in full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. See "The Ground of the Unity," a doctrinal statement by the Moravian Church internationally in 1995.
Unity is emphasized as Episcopal priest is ordained as a Catholic priest
Before Jurgen Liias received ordination for the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in April 2013, he had been an Episcopal priest for 40 years. He was a married man whose wife of 42 years gave the necessary letter of support in his application for ordination, though she herself is said to have not made a choice to convert. Liias is among the first wave of Episcopal priests in the U.S. who have responded to the invitation of Pope Benedict XVI to join the Catholic Church through a national structure in which much of the Anglican heritage can be maintained. Liis is attracted to the attempt to create unity after 500 years of separation since the Reformation. And the concelebrant at the ordination, Cardinal Sean O'Malley of Boston, emphasized the work of Christian unity in his remarks. After Liias' ordination, the ordinariate had 32 priests, 1630 people, and 37 communities in the U.S. and Canada. The functions of a bishop in the ordinariate are undertaken by Msgr. Jeffrey Steenson, a former Anglican bishop who is the ordinary.
U.S. Catholic-Anglican dialogue is fruitful but more is needed locally
The Anglican-Roman Catholic Consultation in the U.S. (ARC-USA) has been meeting since the 1960s. It will draft an agreed statement in response to the international (ARCIC) "Seattle Document," Mary: Grace and Hope in Christ. It is also working on a Spanish language document to clarify the distinctions between the two churches and point to progress in their relationship. ARC-USA is viewed as an extremely fruitful dialogue but, in addition to formal dialogue, more needs to be done at the local level, said Keith Pecklers during New York City talks in early 2008.
Lutherans and Catholics discuss life after death
The U.S. Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue approved "The Hope of Eternal Life" in October 2010, bringing its eleventh round of dialogues to completion. The tone of the personal and pastoral dimensions of the document are intended to make it a resource for pastors and the laity. Dialogue co-chairs have been Catholic bishop Richard Sklba and Lutheran Lowell Almen (pictured). The dialogue's tenth round produced "The Church as Koinonia: Its Structures and Ministries." A significant earlier achievement remains the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, signed in October 1999.
Seventh-day Adventists converse with Presbyterians
Conversations between the Seventh-day Adventist Church (SDA) and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) began in 2006. When the two churches met in Louisville in mid-2007, their discussions showed agreement about the place of scripture as the only rule of faith and practice and on the role of law as a guide to Christian living, as well as on the Reformation teaching of salvation by grace alone. Significant differences remain about the role of apocalpytic in eschatology and the doctrine of election. Each's distinctives were the basis for talks in July 2008: the concern for social justice and divine sovereignty of Presbyterians, the emphases on health and on religious liberty of the Adventists. David Cortes-Fuentes (pictured), then teaching New Testament at San Francisco Theological Seminary, read one of the papers. The first step in a new formally authorized dialogue will be discussion of respective approaches to scripture, that is, hermeneutics. The PC(USA) will be represented by Sheldon Sorge, Eileen Lindner, Barbara Wheeler, and Cortes.
According to an earlier statement, the SDA "engages in conversation . . . but is not a member of the ecumenical movement." Nonetheless, the SDA internationally is regularly at the Conference of Secretaries of Christian World Communions (CWC); it held a dialogue in 2001 with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. Its other recent conversations have included a 2009 meeting with the Baptist World Alliance in which both affirmed deep concern about religious freedom.
GO TO: Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) bilateral relationships
Other churches' relationships
Christian Reformed Church repents the racism that marred its history
Christian Reformed Church expands its relations with ot
As part of a June 2007 celebratory worship marking its 150th anniversary, the Christian Reformed Church (CRC) offered a prayer of confession repenting the "racism that marred the church's history." It had split with the Reformed Church in America (RCA) in 1857. A month earlier, the CRC's Disaster Response Services and the RCA's World Service signed a partnership agreement intended to make them more effective in North American disaster situations. Many think the two churches are nearly the same in worship style and theology, though some say that, if they came together, there would be difficulties about their differing institutional expressions and struggles over homosexuality. Both are members of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. The CRC is a member of the National Association of Evangelicals and the RCA is a National Council of Churches member.
ELCA apologizes for 16th century Lutheran persecution of Anabaptists
In an action affecting their relationship with the Mennonite Church in the U.S., the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has expressed sorrow for the suffering of Anabaptists during 16th century religious disputes and repudiated statements of earlier reformers on the Anabaptists. To read a report from the ELCA-Mennonite Church USA liaison committee, download Right Remembering in Anabaptist-Lutheran Relations.
"Orthodox Church Today" study breaks stereotypes of ecumenical partners
Orthodox churches are in frequent ecumenical groupings with Protestants but remain stereotypically defined by many of them. The "Orthodox Church Today" study seeks to provide groundbreaking insights through being the first national survey-study of ordinary parishioners in the Greek Orthdoxo Archdiocese of America and the Orthodox Church in America. There are numerous references in the report to the inclusion of converts from other Christian communities within the Orthodox community. Section IX (p.125 and following) deals with "religious particularism, ecumenical attitudes and relation to the outisde non-Orthodox community." The study comes from the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute of the Graduate Theological Union.
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On the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) web site
Committee on Ecumenical Relations: information on this permanent General Assembly committee
The Department of Ecumenical and Agency Relationships, Office of the General Assembly: resources of the office
On this web site
General Assembly: ecumenical and interfaith business
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) ecumenical dialogues
Seeking Justice: ecumenical work on economic and ecological issues
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© 2006 Ecumenical & Interfaith Network - PCUSA