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Churches to revise plan for closer ties Officials of Episcopal, Lutheran organizations seek common ground


Officials of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America have begun moving to revise a sweeping proposal for closer ties with the Episcopal Church, the first such effort since that proposal for "full communion" between the two denominations was rejected by a national Lutheran body in August.

The proposal, the "Concordat of Agreement," does not call for a merger of the two churches but provides for each to recognize the other's sacraments and clergy and for collaboration in missionary work and major social service projects.

It would also allow a Lutheran and an Episcopal congregation to share a clergy member.

But many Lutherans who opposed it voiced concern about tying themselves to a church in which bishops play so large a role.

The Lutheran body's decision was one of the most closely watched in years concerning ecumenical relations among Protestants.

On Nov. 16, Lutheran officials said, the denomination's Church Council asked leaders of both churches to come up with a new version of the cooperative pact by April, before Lutheran synods, or regional bodies, meet.

The revised plan would be voted on by the Lutherans' biennial Churchwide Assembly, the denomination's top legislative body, in 1999, and by the Episcopalians' triennial General Convention in 2000.

Last week, church officials said, Lutheran Presiding Bishop H. George Anderson released a letter announcing the appointment of a three-member "drafting team" to revise the concordat.

It is headed by Martin E. Marty, professor of American religion at the University of Chicago, who will have help from three Episcopalians to be appointed by Episcopal Presiding Bishop Edmond L. Browning.

Lutheran officials said that the Lutherans on the panel would be assisted by an advisory committee, composed of supporters and critics of the original plan.

"What we're trying to do is keep as many people in the loop as possible here," said the Rev. Daniel F. Martensen, the Lutherans' director of ecumenical affairs. "I'm convinced it's pretty well-balanced."

The ealier plan, which had been approved by the Episcopal Church, was narrowly defeated by voting members at the Churchwide Assembly on Aug. 18.

Pub Date: 11/30/97

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