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ELCA approves historic agreement with Roman Catholic Church

ELCA approves historic agreement with Roman Catholic Church

UPDATE: Go here for the executive summary or to download the whole document; “Declaration on the Way”


press release from the ELCA


8/10/2016 10:45:00 PM

NEW ORLEANS (Aug.10, 2016) – The 2016 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly took several significant steps Wednesday moving forward the mission of this church as a church for the sake of the world.

By a vote of 931 to 9, the assembly overwhelmingly accepted the “Declaration on the Way,” a unique ecumenical document that marks a path toward greater unity between Catholics and Lutherans. Following the vote, an emotional assembly stood to applaud the momentous decision.

At the heart of the document are 32 “Statements of Agreement” that state where Lutherans and Catholics do not have church-dividing differences on topics about church, ministry and the Eucharist. More tentatively, the document also explores differences that remain.

“Dear sisters and brothers, let us pause to honor this historic moment,” said ELCA Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton addressing the assembly following the vote. “Though we have not yet arrived, we have claimed that we are, in fact, on the way to unity. After 500 years of division and 50 years of dialogue, this action must be understood in the context of other significant agreements we have reached, most notably the ‘Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification’ in 1999.”

“This ‘Declaration on the Way’ helps us to realize more fully our unity in Christ with our Catholic partners, but it also serves to embolden our commitment to unity with all Christians,” said Eaton.

To honor the occasion, Eaton presented a gift of communion ware made especially for the assembly to Bishop Denis J. Madden, auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and co-chair of the ‘Declaration on the Way’ task force. ELCA Presiding Bishop Emeritus Mark Hanson served as co-chair from the ELCA. The task force had gathered and presented to the church agreements reached in dialogues between Lutherans and Catholics.

“I feel so privileged and so grateful to have spent these few days with you. Speaking with you, sharing time with you, and praying with you,” Madden said. “I thank you for allowing me and my colleagues to join you in the Eucharist celebrations which have been a great joy and always a remembrance that soon we will be celebrating these together as one body.”

The assembly expressed gratitude for the pioneering ecumenical text and commended the declaration (together with other ecumenical texts) as a resource “for the common life of the church as we approach 2017 and beyond.” Concerning the  Statement of Agreements, the assembly’s action to receive the 32 common affirmations “recognized that there are no longer church dividing issues’  between Lutherans and Catholics with respect to these statements.


​The assembly – the highest legislative authority of the ELCA – is meeting at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans. Meeting under the theme “Freed and Renewed in Christ: 500 Years of God’s Grace in Action,” the assembly’s business will include preparations for observing the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.  The ELCA is in full communion with the Episcopal Church.


image: ELCA Presiding Bishop Eaton meeting with Pope Francis last year


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Teresa M

Please follow the comment policy and post future comments using your first & last names. – ed

I am looking for the New Jerusalem with the 12 pearly gates with the names of the 12 tribes of Israel. ….

Philip B. Spivey

I’m not versed in the intricacies of this agreement, but anything that brings the Body of Christ closer together—among equals—seems like a good idea.

Somehow this is fitting, and ironic, for TEC. Is there an equivalent document of understanding for the Anglican Communion? If not, why not? It’s time we acknowledged our internal commonalities and differences and moved forward. Would that be more radical than a memorandum of understanding with Rome? Perhaps.

Jean Lall

Philip, here is a link to an Anglican Communion page that will give you a good bit of information on that topic: .

Br. Cullin R. Schooley n/OSB

Not cranky, just realistic. The only way the RC is going to be in full communion with Lutherans, Anglicans or any other denomination is if we accept the primacy of the pope. I doubt that will happen anytime soon.

Fr. Will McQueen

No, the only way communion with Rome happens is when women priests are abolished and TEC returns to the Gospel. And we all know that’s never going to happen.

David Allen

the ELCA is still evangelical in adherence to the written text.

The ELCA is a full communion partner with TEC, they are similar to TEC in most things, including women clergy and the written text.

JC Fisher

“And we all know that’s never going to happen.”

Well, since ALL priests (inc those who happen to be women) are “priests forever”, I’ll agree w/ the above as far as your (rather violently stated IMO) “women priests are abolished”.

All the rest of your claims, TBTG, Not.

Robert Myers

Notice, please, that the agreement is with the ELCA, not TEC. Just among other things, the ELCA is still evangelical in adherence to the written text. TEC is I don’t know what. I keep being told “We’re not sola scriptura.” Could be a problem between the ELCA and the Vatican, too, but I don’t think so. Just different ways of viewing what adherence to scripture means.

Marshall Scott

I’m rather with Br. Cullin on this. I agree that we will see that, but I don’t expect return to communion in my lifetime. Many of us have a position on the primacy of the See of Peter; but not the position shared with the Roman Catholic magisterium. More, a Pope will have to change Rome’s position on Anglican orders, something that Cardinal Ratzinger reaffirmed on behalf of the Holy See before he became Benedict.

I’m happy to affirm the agreements we can manage. I pray that “we all may be one.” I still understand that as proleptic and aspirational.

Rod Gillis

“I don’t expect return to communion in my lifetime. ” Probably realistic. However . “We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise-than when we’d first begun.” ( :

Robert Myers

Fidel Castro said that the US would meet with him when there was a black President of the United States and a Pope from South America. It has come to pass.

Carole Magary

I’m confused as to where is the Catholic Church on this? I could not find names of The Pope, Catholic Bishops names. Where could this be found?

Tim Kruse

Below is from the title page of the document. I cannot find anything on the net stating that Cardinal Koch has yet reflected upon it or taken any action.

“Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
The Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs affirmed the 32 Agreed Statements and commended the Declaraion on the Way to Cardinal Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, for further reflection and action. The
Declaration is not a Statement of the full body of Bishops of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.”

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