A UMNS photo by Mike DuBose
May 9, 2005
By Tim Tanton*
(UMNS)—The top clergy leaders of the United Methodist Church have
approved interim agreements for sharing the Eucharist with two other
mainline denominations—the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America.
The approval came May 5, during the United Methodist Council of Bishops’ weeklong spring meeting in Arlington, Va.
agreements, if approved later this year by the Lutheran and
Episcopalian lawmaking assemblies, would result in those churches and
the United Methodist Church sharing worship, particularly communion,
studying with one another and being involved in mission together. The
United Methodist Church is entering into separate agreements with each
of the denominations.
will be entering those agreements within a year,” said Bishop William
B. Oden, ecumenical officer of the United Methodist council. Oden has
been involved in dialogues between the United Methodist Church and the
Bishop William B. Oden
“This is highly
significant,” he said. This would be the first time the United Methodist
Church has had such a shared communion with any group outside the
Methodist tradition—the African Methodist Episcopal, African Methodist
Episcopal Zion and Christian Methodist Episcopal churches.
agreements are interim steps toward full communion, in which the United
Methodist Church and each of the other denominations recognize the
authenticity of each other’s ministries and agree that their ministries
plan is for us to enter into full communion with the Lutherans at the
General Conference of 2008 and with the Episcopalians at the General
Conference of 2012,” Oden said.
and fellowship will occur in the interim. Oden noted that 15 members of
the Council of Bishops and 15 members of the Episcopal Church’s House
of Bishops will go on retreat together Oct. 3-4 in Chicago.
interim shared communion agreements authorize and urge United Methodist
congregations “to worship and to be in study and mission with our two
sister denominations,” Oden said.
Bishop Peter D. Weaver
“This is a
historic time of being the body of Christ and connecting the gifts of
various parts of the body so that the work and witness of Christ can be
more effective and powerful in our communities,” said Bishop Peter
Weaver, president of the council and leader of the denomination’s Boston
communion table is the fundamental place for expressing that United
Methodists, Episcopalians and Lutherans are all part of the body of
Christ, he said. “Our oneness is in Christ. So these agreements are not
just about sharing communion with each other; they’re about our
recognizing that we are a part of one body of Christ and thus one
mission for Christ in this world.”
agreements are “a major point in the pathway to full communion, in
which we recognize the authenticity and apostolicity of each other’s
ministry,” Oden said.
“This is not a movement toward church union, but affirms each denomination’s uniqueness while we worship and work together.”
other ecumenical action, the council approved of the denomination
becoming a provisional member in dialogue with other faith traditions
through Christian Churches Together. The dialogue will be inaugurated
during a June 1-3 meeting in Los Altos, Calif.
*Tanton is managing editor for United Methodist News Service.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn. (615) 742-5470 or email@example.com.