Sunday, February 26, 2012

ELCA-Episcopal Merger?

ELCA-Episcopal Merger?

When I read about the possibility of an ELCA/Episcopal Church USA merger, it struck me as extremely unlikely. I should not have been so quick to dismiss it.

The Full Communion Agreement between the two denominations caused quite a bit of strife in the ELCA just a few years ago. The compromise mandated that Lutheran churches incorporate the Historic Episcopate (Apostolic Succession) into their faith.

The protest movement against this extra-biblical addition to Lutheran theology became the Word Alone Movement, which became even more prominent in the Lutheran church when the ELCA went the way of the Episcopal Church and began ordaining practicing homosexuals.

Both the ELCA and the Episcopal Church have suffered divisons, and severe losses of members and finances, since these decisions. ELCA Bishop Hanson and Episcopal Bishop Jefferts-Shori (above) are generally like minded theologically and good friends. They appear to be seeking opportunities for more joint ventures.

Nowhere has the Episcopal Church suffered more as here in Pittsburgh, where the majority of the parishes left the diocese to join with the new Anglican Church in North America and their venerable Bishop, Robert Duncan. In the SW PA Synod ELCA, fifteen churches, out of 200, have left the ELCA for the North American Lutheran Church. The two struggling regional churches seem to be drawing closer together.

This year's the annual SW PA Synod Chrism Mass/Renewal of Ordination Vows will be a joint ELCA-Episcopal service. For us, it means changing some things that have been in place for at least the fourteen years I have served in this area. The day the service is held will change (from Maundy Thursday to Holy Monday) and the site will change (no longer St. Michael's in Springdale). The past several years I have not participated in the service for theological reasons. I wonder how this new collaboration will be received.

Posted by Pastor Eric

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