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Ecumenism Given Shot in the Arm
From Protestant Churches

As of August 1997, a series of ecumenical agreements have been approved by three major Reformed churches and Episcopal church that now allows them to share both pulpit and communion table with Lutherans.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church has approved pacts with the Reformed churches, laying more ground-work toward Christian unity and cooperation.

Rifts and ripples of disagreement among churches have been motion since the 16th century Reformation. Some are relating these historic pacts to the ecumenical atmosphere of Vatican Council II.

The signing of the pacts among the churches will bring about some historic changes. Each will recognize the validity of each other's clergy, permitting them to minister in each other's denomination. This would mean that small or rural churches of different denominations could ordain one pastor who could serve both churches.

Each denomination will recognize the validity of each other's baptisms, participate in the installation of each other's bishops, and encourage sharing of the Eucharist among all members.

As pastors know, there is already more cooperation among church members than among their leaders They feel comfortable in each other's churches when invited to weddings and potluck dinners. Many times while vacationing, it is more convenient to worship in a church that is not one's own specific denomination.

The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod has expressed concern over the signing of the pacts because of some basic doctrinal differences they feel are essential to the Lutheran faith. For example, they are hesitant to give the nod to the Anglican belief in apostolic succession because the church hierarchy is placed in a position of too much authority. Also, the Lutherans believe in the objective presence of Christ in the Eucharistic, while Reformed churches emphasize the presence of Christ in the assembly of believers gathered by the Holy Spirit.

Whatever happens, it is clear that ecumenism is still in the foreground, the language of faith is being further defined, and church leaders and members are ready to approach each other in peace and cooperation.

(taken from articles in the Cleveland Plain Dealer)