A Formula of Agreement (1997)As churches of the Reformation the ELCA, the Presbyterian Church (USA), the Reformed Church in America, and the United Church of Christ entered into full communion in 1997. After 32 years of dialogue – and in light of identified doctrinal differences and consensus – these churches worked together to form a foundational document titled, “A Formula of Agreement.” The work of reception is carried forward by the Lutheran-Reformed Coordinating Committee.
The agreement declared these four churches together in full communion on the basis of a common calling, a desire to bear visible witness to the unity of the church and a need to engage together in God’s mission. These four churches pledge themselves to living together under the gospel in a trusting relationship in which respect and love for the other will have a chance to grow and flourish.
Among other things, the agreement means that the four churches:
- fully accept each other as rightly preaching the gospel
- encourage the mutual sharing of the Lord’s Supper among members
- recognize each other’s ordained ministers and ministries, and
- commit themselves to the ongoing process of further understanding in a common expression of evangelism, witness and service.
Called to Common Mission (1999)In 1999, the ELCA entered into full communion with The Episcopal Church. “Called to Common Mission: A Lutheran Proposal for a Revision of the Concordat of Agreement” is the document that describes that relationship. The Episcopal Church took its final action on this relationship at its 2000 General Convention in Denver. The work of reception is carried forward by the Lutheran-Episcopal Coordinating Committee.
In the introduction to “Called to Common Mission” there is an important statement about the spirit of this agreement. “Our churches have discovered afresh our unity in the gospel and our commitment to the mission to which God calls the church of Jesus Christ in every generation. … Our search for a fuller expression of visible unity is for the sake of living and sharing the gospel. Unity and mission are at the heart of the church’s life, reflecting an obedient response to the call of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
As a guide for understanding the full communion agreement, a commentary was developed. It provides helpful information on the text and agreement for “Called to Common Mission.”
Following Our Shepherd to Full Communion (1999)In 1999, the ELCA entered into full communion with the Moravian Church as it was described in the document, “Following Our Shepherd to Full Communion.” The Southern and Northern Provinces of the Moravian Church in America also approved this document. In 2007, the ELCA extended a full communion invitation to the Alaska Province of the Moravian Church in America. The invitation was not accepted by this Province. The work of reception is carried forward by the Lutheran-Moravian Coordinating Committee.
Lutheran churches and Moravian Provinces worldwide have for decades been in virtual full communion, including the interchangeability of ordained clergy and Eucharistic hospitality. Moravians and Lutherans regard themselves as distinct members of a single flock who are following their Shepherd in mission and ministry. Themes of “the Good Shepherd,” of following Jesus, and of fellowship through discipleship were at the forefront of the Lutheran–Moravian Dialogue leading up to the full communion agreement.
Confessing Our Faith Together (2009)In 2009, the ELCA entered into full communion with the United Methodist Church. The United Methodist Church General Conference had approved the agreement in 2008. “Confessing Our Faith Together” is the full communion agreement with the United Methodist Church. This marked the first time that the ELCA had moved into a full communion relationship with a church that had a membership larger than that of the ELCA. The work of reception is carried forward by the ELCA-United Methodist Church Coordinating Committee.
U.S. Lutherans and United Methodists began official dialogue in 1977. About four years later, this first round of dialogues had produced a common statement between the denominations on the Christian sacrament of Baptism, which affirmed the validity of baptism administered in accord with Scripture in our churches. From 1985 to 1987, a second round of dialogues concluded with a common statement on the role of bishops in both church bodies. A third round of dialogues began in 2001, resulting in a proposal for Interim Eucharistic Sharing between the two churches at a 2004 meeting – the final step before the adoption of the full communion agreement by both churches.