Concordat of Agreement Between the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Although the Concordat of Agreement passed the 1999 Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) Churchwide Assembly, there was still a solid bloc of Lutherans who refused to receive its theology. This study examines the decision-making process which led to the failure of the Concordat at the 1997 ELCA Churchwide Assembly for the deeper causes of the ongoing non-reception. Using insights from several theological disciplines (canon law, ecclesiology, ecumenism, and sacramental theology), as well as organizational behavior and management, it analyzes the verbatim transcripts of the 1997 assembly. The data gained from this research identifies and analyzes both the method of bilateral dialogue and the content of the theological propositions regarding historic episcopacy and three-fold ministry which form the causes of the non-reception of the Concordat. The findings identify a flaw in the method used in the ELCA bilateral dialogues – the lack of inter-governance to balance the intercommunion. This insight challenges other bilateral dialogues to examine their method as well. Also, by reviewing these findings from the standpoint of ecclesiology, it is able to generalize how the flaws could affect the communion at the global level.


“Father Baima came to research studies after sixteen years experience in one of the most active ecumenical offices in the Catholic Church. Much of his time was spent in dialogue with the Lutheran community in Chicago. Because of this, his scholarship, while lacking nothing in rigor, has a decidedly practical bent….By employing the methods of management science to the decision processes of the ELCA, Father Baima shows that while organizational behavior is a real factor in an ecclesial community’s internal processes, we cannot approach ecumenism as if it were merely a negotiation…The interplay in his book of fundamental theology, ecclesiology, sacramental theology and organizational dynamics illustrates the complexity of the ecumenical undertaking…. I believe his work can be of valuable assistance to many engaged in ecumenical dialogue at this time who are concerned about the logic and consistency of some of the agreements reached between churches, as for example by Lutheran churches with Anglicans on one hand and Reformed on the other.” – Edward Cardinal Cassidy, President Emeritus, Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity

Table of Contents

Table of Contents (main headings):
Preface; Introductions
1. Problem of Awareness: Lutheran-Episcopal Dialogue; Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry as agenda-defining document; historical point of division; Possible Reactions to a Concordat failure – Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran, other bilateral and multi-lateral dialogues, Intra-Lutheran issues; Problem awareness
2. Problem Priority: Definitions and theological notions of Full Communion; the Reformed/Lutheran Formula of agreement; Action that cannot be delayed; Embarrassment; Awareness of internal division; Missouri Synod as a component of the context
3. Problem Dimensions: Theological presentations at the Churchwide Assembly; Theologian’s presentation against the Concordat; Theological objections; Corporate culture objections; Theological presentation in favor of the Concordat; Interventions from the Floor; Notion of hierarchy; Imprecision; Lack of unanimity among Lutheran drafters; Constitutional agreement; Confessional conformity; Divisiveness; Lay ministry and the priesthood of al believers; Unitary ordination; Role of bishops and historical episcopate; Mutual giving; Scandal at rejection; Mission; Problems of ecumenical sources, sacramental theology, and decision-making
4. Characteristic Distinctions: Between the ecumenical statement and the statement on ministry; Aspects of episkope and the role of bishops; Three-fold ministry; Historical succession; Internal issues vs. external relations; Evangelical Catholic vs. Reformation; Predecessor body issues and the ELCA; Ministry and governance; Bishops and Deacons; Confessional identity vs. ecumenical theology; Lutheran theological tradition and American cultural context
5. Changes in the Characteristic Distinctions: Changes in the structures of decision-making; Changes within the Churchwide Assembly; Changes in the understanding of ministry; Changes in the ELCA’s position in American culture
6. Cause Formation: Insights from management science and organizational behavior studies; Cause of the problem of decision-making
7. Methodological Reflections: Reflection; Recommendations to the ELCA; Recommendations to the bilateral dialogues
Conclusion: Theological Reflections: Ongoing problem of the Concordat; Percentage agreement from LED to Churchwide Assembly 1999; Durability of dissent; Danger to the communion of the ELCA; Fallout to the bilateral dialogues and the ecumenical movement; Getting at the cause of the problem by a study of the decision; Contribution of this study; Organizational systems analysis; Theological reflection on the causes; Ecumenical factors in the ongoing non-reception of the Concordat; Scripture and tradition; Sacramental theology; Unitary ordination; A new hypothesis; Ecclesiology; Recommendations and Conclusion
Bibliography; Index

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