CCM 10 years out: ELCA hooked but not landed

January 2011 marks the tenth anniversary of Called to Common Mission (CCM), the Lutheran-Episcopal agreement for “full communion.” It’s been a non-event because the ELCA, although hooked, has not been landed.

What is CCM really about? One of its architects, the Rev. Canon J. Robert Wright, has said: “I think they [ELCA leaders] see us as possibly helping them recover the ancient catholic tradition[1] which they had prior to the Reformation.”[2]

Wright is right. Top ELCA leaders wanted the same sacramental episcopate as is found in the Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions, but they couldn’t openly sell it to their people. So by hook and by crook they got their way:

  • ELCA leaders overrode the 1993 Churchwide Assembly. The ELCA’s study of ministry in the early 1990’s proposed a three-fold structure like the Episcopal Church, but the 1993 ELCA Assembly instead adopted diaconal ministers as lay-rostered associates of ministry.After the Assembly the ELCA Church Council, overriding the will of the Assembly, voted (16-15!) to upgrade the status of diaconal ministers by consecrating[3] them into office rather than commissioning them as is done with other lay-rostered ministers.
  • ELCA leaders overrode the 1999 Churchwide Assembly. In March 1999 the ELCA bishops adopted a “proposal for revision” of CCM, called the Tucson Resolution, which claimed that CCM did not require the ELCA to “eventually adopt” the threefold office of ministry (bishops, priest, deacon) and did not require the ELCA to establish the office of deacon or ordain them.[4]

[1]Anglicans and Catholics agree that ordination into the Holy Orders of their respective churches effects an ontological change: “Both traditions affirm…the sacramental nature of ordination, as to which there is no significant difference between them” (The Final Report of the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission (Cincinnati: Forward Movement Press, 1982; Elucidation 3; emphasis added).

“The firm ontological basis of the ordained ministry has been central to our understanding of the church,” Archbishop of Canterbury, George L. Carey, October 1999 (emphasis added).

The Historic Episcopate is “necessary for salvation,” “binding on all who are baptized,” “unchangeable,” and “supplying a basis for reckoning a church to be a true church,” (In 1996 the Righter Trial Court, composed of eight bishops, issued a 7-1 decision that the Chicago Lambeth Quadrilateral constitutes the Core Doctrine of The Episcopal Church). Read about it here.

[2] J. Robert Wright, The Living Church, 2/23/2001, p.15 (emphasis added).

[3] As Joe Wagner, then Executive Director of the Division for Ministry, said: Diaconal ministers “are to fit between Associates in Ministry and pastoral ordained ministers” (emphasis added).

[4] Tucson Resolution A.1. “no requirement that [the ELCA] must eventually adopt the threefold order of ministry.” Also, A. 4. “no requirement [that the ELCA] establish the office of deacon, nor that they be ordained.” Read the Tucson Resolution here.