Big news from Canada: There will be no members, attenders, or givers in the Anglican Church of Canada by approximately 2040. The Anglican Church of Canada is declining faster than any other Anglican Province other than The Episcopal Church, which has an even greater rate of decline.
The decline of these churches matters for ELCA Lutherans because the ELCA voted in 1999 to change its constitution to require the threefold sacramental priesthood of The Episcopal Church. The process of building an Episcopal priesthood within the ELCA is not yet complete, although it continues apace.
A big step was taken in August 2019 in the vote of the Churchwide Assembly to ordain deacons, as is required by The Episcopal Church. Now the ELCA has three ranks of clergy: bishops, priests, and deacons – the threefold hierarchy of clergy, although not yet fully formed.
More changes need to happen, especially bishops-for-life (once elected bishops never stand for reelection) and prohibitions against lay presidency, that is, forbidding laity from ever presiding at communion in emergency situations.
How will ELCA leaders get bishops-for-life? Perhaps another task force to “study” the issue, like the ELCA “studied” having ordained deacons. After a few years of “deliberation,” the task force will conclude that the ELCA needs bishops-for-life. Voilà!
ELCA leaders are boiling the frog slowly. They haven’t yet told their people that ELCA seminarians will need first to be ordained as deacons before they are ordained as pastors. Episcopalians, Roman Catholics, and the Eastern Orthodox require this sequence.
Perhaps there will be yet another task force to “study” the issue. More likely, one day in a press release on the ELCA’s works of social justice, there will be a sentence like this: “We think it’s a good idea if ELCA seminarians are ordained as deacons before they are ordained as pastors.”
Despite all the money and machinations, full communion between The Episcopal Church and the ELCA will never be a full merger, because The Episcopal Church has a better pension plan than the ELCA, and Episcopalians will never share that!