FORT WORTH (Texas) – Bishop Melvin Talbert felt “a song in my heart” when the United Methodist General Conference approved a full communion agreement with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA).
For Bishop William Oden, April 28 – the day the vote was taken – was a “banner day” for The United Methodist Church.
Both bishops were instrumental in shepherding the denomination to the vote. Bishop Oden is the Ecumenical Officer of the United Methodist Council of Bishops and Bishop Talbert was co-Chairman of the most recent United Methodist-ELCA dialogue team with ELCA Bishop Allan Bjornberg of Denver. The dialogue was facilitated by the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Inter-Religious Concerns.
As part of the General Conference’s traditional Ecumenical Day, observed on April 29, ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson preached at the morning worship, and a number of ecumenical guests from other denominations, faith groups and organisations were introduced.
Participants at a press conference on the full communion agreement pointed out that the new relationship is not a merger of the two denominations, but recognition of each other’s ministry and mission. It recognises that each has “the one, holy, catholic and apostolic faith” expressed in the Scriptures and confessed in historic creeds and the core teachings of each denomination.
Under full communion, the two churches also recognise the authenticity of each other’s baptism and eucharist and the full interchangeability of all ordained ministers.
Bishop Hanson hopes the arrangement will foster an “ecumenical imagination”, with a focus on how to do things together rather than separately. “I don’t think we’ve begun to imagine what the Holy Spirit might do through this deepened relationship,” he said.
Bishop Talbert noted that United Methodists do not often use the words “full communion” because “our table has always been open” to those who profess a belief in Christ.
“It’s not merger,” he added about the agreement. “It means we are open to receiving and accepting and acknowledging each other’s ministries.” The Rev Donald McCoid is an ELCA executive for Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Relations, but his grandfather was a Methodist lay preacher. “This was a reunion for me,” he said about the agreement.
Bishop Gregory Palmer, President of the Council of Bishops, noted that many United Methodists and Lutherans have working relationships at the local level. “We’ll be giving, in some sense, a formal expression to what is happening on the ground already,” he said.
The ELCA will vote on the full communion agreement with United Methodists at its assembly in August 2009. – United Methodist News Service. Linda Bloom is a United Methodist News Service writer based in New York.
United Methodists formally admit Côte d’Ivoire
FORT WORTH (Texas) – The United Methodist Church in Côte d’Ivoire, the largest regional conference of the worldwide denomination with almost 700,000 members, has received its full rights and responsibilities.
The move came on April 27 at the 2008 United Methodist Church General Conference, which meets every four years to conduct the business of the church.
Four years ago, the Methodist Protestant Church of Côte d’Ivoire, an autonomous church, was admitted to the United Methodist fold, but the Judicial Council later ruled that the decision of the 2004 General Conference was incomplete.
In practical terms, the 2004 General Conference short-circuited the process for admission outlined in the United Methodist Book of Discipline. The church’s highest court ruled in 2006 that the disciplinary process required that the 2008 General Conference confirm the action.
Bishop Benjamin Boni, leader of the Côte d’Ivoire Annual (regional) Conference, said: “We are today fully united in the church, and members in Côte d’Ivoire share together fully with others in The United Methodist Church.” – United Methodist News Service.
Malawi district now a missionary conference
FORT WORTH (Texas) – A United Methodist district in the African country of Malawi was elevated to the standing of a “missionary conference” by the denomination’s 2008 General Conference. Some 990 delegates to the assembly supported the measure by a 92-per cent vote.
“It opens up Malawi for church agencies to empower the local people,” said Bishop Eben Nhiwatiwa, leader of the Zimbabwe Episcopal Area and the now missionary conference in Malawi.
The United Methodist Board of Global Ministries endorsed the petition to create the missionary conference. – United Methodist News Service.