Episcopalian-Lutheran Merge Approved

ByJudith Kohler

D E N V E R, July 8, 2000 -- The nation’s Episcopal bishops approved analliance with the country’s largest Lutheran denomination Fridayunder which the two faiths would share clergy and recognize eachother’s sacraments.

The merger still needed approval from the other chamber of theEpiscopal Church’s bicameral Legislature, the House of Deputies,which includes lay people and clergy. The deputies took no actiontoday but the plan is on Saturday’s agenda.

The church’s 300-member House of Bishops, meeting at theEpiscopal General Convention, gave overwhelming approval to theplan for “full communion” with the Evangelical Lutheran Church inAmerica.

“It’s a big moment in terms of official church cooperation,”said the Rev. Lowell Almen, secretary of the Evangelical LutheranChurch of America.

The Rev. Lauren Stanley, an Episcopal priest from Arlington,Va., who has preached to Lutheran congregations, said: “What itfinally recognized is that we are one in the body of Christ.”

Alliance OverdueThe two churches, with a combined 7.5 million members, havediscussed an alliance for three decades. The 2.4 million-memberEpiscopal Church approved a similar plan in 1997, and Lutheransendorsed one last year.

The proposal approved Friday includes a compromise involving theEpiscopal ordination of bishops.

Episcopal bishops are installed by a laying-on of hands by threepredecessor bishops from a line believed to extend back to Christ’sapostles.

The alliance proposal would allow Lutheran clergy to serve in anEpiscopal church without going through an Episcopal ordination.

New Lutheran bishops, though, would have to be ordained thetraditional Episcopal way if they want to preach in an Episcopalchurch.