My dear sisters and brothers, this afternoon we stand on the doorstep of a breathtaking ecumenical opportunity. But like a younger couple on the verge of becoming married, some last minutes jitters have emerged. We have a sense of excitement, yet some fear that in completely giving ourselves to another we will somehow lose our individuality.
I wish to address myself to two of those fears. The first concerns the constitutional issue of whether we are involved in a first or second reading of the constitution at this point. The Constitutions and Canons Committee reported favorably on this matter to the House of Bishops, and I believe we need to trust their wisdom, as well as the Bishops who yesterday digested this wisdom and passed the CCM.
The second concern is a deeper one, and it is raised by some of our catholic brothers and sisters in this church who are concerned that Lutherans do not “really” support the historic episcopate. Their concern focuses on the temporary suspension of the preface to the ordinal.
I remind this House of a key part of the CCM agreement: ONLY those Lutheran bishops not currently ordained in historic succession AT THE TIME OF THE CCM becoming effective, are not required to be so ordained. This is unprecedented in Anglican practice.
In this agreement, we are being asked temporarily to give up the need for historic succession in ordination, in order to join in full communion with our Lutheran brothers and sisters. Subsequent to approval of CCM, all new ELCA bishops must be ordained by at least three bishops who are in historic succession, and at least one Episcopal Bishop must be invited to participate in that ordination.
I believe we can find support for our temporary sacrifice in the unusual
story in Acts chapter 8. It concerns Philip’s ministry in Samaria, where, if you remember, people heard the good news of the gospel and
were baptized in the name of Jesus. Yet something was wrong, because the “Holy Spirit…had not yet fallen on any of them” (Acts 8:15).
Here were people baptized in Jesus’s name and yet God had withheld the Holy Spirit from them!
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