April 15, 2014
There are joys and there are challenges. Guess that summarizes ecumenism to a tee. For several years I have served on what is known as the Lutheran Moravian Coordinating Committee. It is only one of such committees that formed out of formal ecumenical partnerships that the ELCA church has agreed to and documented. We are in full-communion partner relationship with the United Methodist Church, Reformed Church, UCC, Presbyterian, Episcopal, and Moravian, and have an agreement for service with the AME Zion. These formal relationships carry many advantages - shared clergy and shared mission being a couple. It does not mean the churches have merged, yet have agreed there is more in common than what keeps us apart in regard to understanding of Holy Communion and Baptism. So, for example, clergy from one of these denominations can serve in either of the others.
Ecumenism became an interest of mine when I was in seminary and took my first class on the subject. It is my belief, as of many, that Christ never meant for the church to be fractured in so many ways. While I believe there is great value in being part of a formal denomination - accountability, collegiality, shared understanding and work, being some of them - there is also faithfulness to the gospel in being connected to people of other denominations. It can also be full of joy and challenge as folks try to understand each other’s polity and find ways to work together in meaningful service.
It also happens that sometimes I am in agreement more with those of other denominations than those within my own. This can happen in the work of the Lutheran Moravian Coordinating Committee. We share ideas, lift up places where joint ministry is happening, encourage it in additional places, etc.
Needless to say, I have colleagues in other denominations that I am thankful for on a daily basis. And some who I consider to be close friends. So Rachel (who serves in two of these denominations), Patty, Kathryn, Tracy, Kelly, Tammie, Kingsley, Bob, Chris, Bobby, and Tony, I am especially thankful today for our relationships in the ministry of our Lord and Savior.
PS. This is on my mind and heart today because we are preparing to have an annual meeting of the LMCC committee in May. It’s coming quickly and there is still much to do. Whew!