MINNEAPOLIS – The hugs, the standing ovations, the singing of one another’s hymns at denominational gatherings are over.
But the celebration of an historic agreement on full communion is just beginning from local and regional United Methodist and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America bodies to the wider world where the body of Christ has another powerful symbol of unity.
Moments after the 2009 Churchwide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America overwhelmingly voted for the agreement on Aug 20, aﬃrming the action taken by the 2008 United Methodist General Conference, oﬃcials from both churches were making plans to appoint members of a commission to implement the pact.
The United Methodist-Lutheran agreement is significant on several fronts. It is the first full communion agreement approved by the United Methodist General Conference, the denomination’s top legislative body. It is the culmination of more than 30 years of deep conversation between the two denominations. And it could play a role in paving the way for future United Methodist agreements with other communions.
Full communion means that each church acknowledges the other as a partner in the Christian faith, recognises the authenticity of each other’s baptism and Eucharist, observes the validity of their respective ministries and is committed to working together towards greater unity.
Bishop Gregory Palmer, President of the United Methodist Council of Bishops and a member of the bilateral dialogue with the Episcopal Church, said that the new relationship with Lutherans most likely “will enrich that particular conversation”. An “interim Eucharist sharing agreement” exists between United Methodists and Episcopalians.
Some church leaders were already looking forward to sharing clergy in underserved areas, expanding joint mission work and strengthening seminary oﬀerings with the resources of their communion partners.
“The church is looking for expressions of full unity and celebrates everyone who takes a step in this direction,” said the Rev Betty Gamble, a staﬀ member of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns. “We have worked with other ecumenical partners, in other ecumenical settings, who we know are celebrating with us.”
Minnesota United Methodist Bishop Sally Dyck said she likes the idea that founders of the traditions, John and Charles Wesley, and Martin Luther, valued music so much that they made it part of their theology.
United Methodist and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America leaders expect by this month to appoint members of a joint commission to implement the agreement. The commission’s work includes joint planning for mission, developing worship materials to celebrate full communion and developing guidelines on sharing clergy.
While opportunities now exist for the interchange of ordained ministers, that is not an automatic process, Bishop Palmer pointed out. United Methodist bishops will not be required to appoint a Lutheran pastor, nor would Lutherans be required to put a United Methodist name on their list of pastors. – United Methodist News Service.
Linda Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
Russian Methodists celebrate centennial
NEW YORK – A “great cloud of witnesses” surrounded United Methodists in Russia as they celebrated the 100th anniversary of Methodism recently with festivities that included the announcement of the opening of a new centre in St Petersburg.
The anniversary was celebrated in an ecumenical service of worship. The occasion also marked the 120th year since Methodism arrived in what was then Czarist Russia, in the region that is today the Baltic countries.
“The St Petersburg observance brought to mind the image of a great crowd of witnesses – from the past and the present,” said the Rev James Athearn, a retired Virginia clergyman who attended as coordinator of the Russia Initiative of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.
The Minnesota Annual Conference contributed US$600,000 (S$870,000) last year towards the purchase and equipping of the St Petersburg Centre, which is centrally located in the city and accessible to United Methodist congregations in the region. The Minnesota Conference has a mission partnership with the Northwest Russian Annual Conference.
The centre serves as headquarters for the Annual Conference and the district, and worship and educational space for St Petersburg congregations. The first worship services were held last month. – United Methodist News Service.
NIV edition of Bible to be revised
COLORADO SPRINGS – The New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, the top-selling Bible in North America, will undergo its first revision in 25 years.
It will be revised to reflect changes in English usage and advances in biblical scholarship, according to the Committee on Bible Translation, the independent body of global biblical scholars solely responsible for the translation of the world’s most popular Bible.
The revision is scheduled to be published in 2011, the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible. The NIV’s sibling, Today’s New International Version (TNIV), was criticised for its gender-inclusive language, but the new NIV will have more natural language, its publishers said.
“We want to reach English speakers across the globe with a Bible that is accurate, accessible and that speaks to its readers in a language they can understand,” said Mr Keith Danby, global President of Biblica, which holds the NIV copyright. Once the revision is published, the TNIV will cease publication. – United Methodist News Service.
Oklahoma City University offers courses
OKLAHOMA – Oklahoma City University’s Wanda L. Bass School of Music is now promoting its undergraduate and graduate programmes in Sacred Music and Organ Performance.
The degrees are designed to prepare students for life-long work in church ministry as leaders in musical worship.
The Sacred Music curriculum is a well-rounded Church Music Degree with courses in the History of Worship, Hymnology, choral conducting, keyboard (organ or piano), music arranging for the church, and much more.
The Organ Performance curriculum focuses primarily on skills in music literature and performance with instruction in repertoire, improvisation, keyboard harmony, choral conducting, and other aspects.
For more information, visit http://www. okcu.edu/music/ or contact Dr Elizabeth Harrison at firstname.lastname@example.org