United Methodists, Lutherans to study draft document
The Rev. William Douglas Mills
Dec. 1, 2005
By Linda Bloom*
NEW YORK (UMNS) — Members of the United Methodist
Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America are being encouraged
to study a draft statement of full communion between the two
A study and discussion guide, which includes the
draft of “Confessing our Faith Together: A Statement toward Full
Communion by the ELCA-UMC Bilateral Dialogue,” is now available.
A joint Lutheran-United Methodist dialogue team
prepared the statement and resource guide and will review responses when
it meets in October 2006, according to the Rev. W. Douglas Mills, an
executive with the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and
“We hope that lots of people will read this,” he
said in a Nov. 29 interview. The commission hopes to identify and target
10 or more local churches that can partner with ELCA congregations to
consider the document, he said.
“It’s especially effective if congregations have
partnered to study it together ? but there’s no reason why an individual
can’t respond,” Mills added. State or regional ecumenical councils also
may want to use the study guide, he suggested.
An “interim Eucharistic sharing” agreement with the United Methodist
Church was overwhelmingly approved by ELCA representatives at a
churchwide assembly in August. The agreement also had been approved by
the United Methodist Council of Bishops in May.
The terms of the agreement foster “mutual prayer and mutual support,
study together of the Holy Scriptures as well as the histories and
theological traditions of both churches, and joint programs of
theological discussion, evangelical outreach and social ministry
The agreement also encourages joint services of Holy Communion
following guidelines established by both churches and looks forward to
“the future possibility of a relationship of full communion.”
In its introduction to the study guide, the joint dialogue team noted
the ties that Lutherans and United Methodists already share.
and United Methodists have been well acquainted with one another. Our
relationship, locally and nationally, has been forged through
friendships, family ties, congregations, ecumenical councils, colleges
and seminaries. We are, in countless places, partners in ministry.”
the last three decades, dialogue teams have explored the sacrament of
baptism (1977-79) and issues of episcopacy (1985-87). “Significant
convergence around these topics pointed toward a Third Round in order to
explore the two churches’ understandings of Eucharist.”
resumed in 2001, and team members unanimously voted in August 2004 to
submit a proposal for Interim Eucharistic Sharing for consideration by
have discovered a profound convergence in the witness of our two
churches,” said the team, led by ELCA Bishop Allan C. Bjornberg and
United Methodist Bishop Melvin G. Talbert. “The Lord’s Table, Baptism,
and Word are at the heart of our churches’ life, precious gifts and
fundamental means of grace. We hope that in the 71 paragraphs of ?Confessing Our Faith Together’ you will be able to trace our joyful journey of discovery.
have learned that ecumenical conversation means giving up the demand
that everyone speak only our language and use only our words,” the team
said. “We have also found that ecumenical conversation leads to deeper
understanding of our own faith tradition, while opening our eyes to the
unending riches of the Holy Spirit’s work in and through the whole
Although there is no specific timetable for
reaching full communion, Mills said it could be considered by the 2008
United Methodist General Conference.
For more information, contact Mills at firstname.lastname@example.org. The study and discussion guide also can be found online at http://tinyurl.com/ahfj8 on the ELCA Web site.