During their recent convention, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America adopted a full communion agreement with the United Methodist Church. According to the ELCA website, the church is also in full communion with the Reformed Church in America, United Church of Christ, and the Presbyterian Church USA, Moravian Church, and the Episcopal Church. The formal agreements mean that the denominations agree to “freely join worship and exchange members; engage in common decision-making on critical matters; and lift criticisms that may exist between the churches.”
As Gene Veith notes, this means a “Lutheran congregation in the ELCA could have a Methodist or a Presbyterian or a graduate from a UCC seminary as its pastor.”
The ELCA is saying that it agrees with and will no longer criticize Calvinists AND Arminians AND the social gospel AND pietists AND moralists AND congregationalists AND episcopalians AND liturgists AND anti-liturgists AND people who believe in sacraments AND people who don’t believe in sacraments. So what is left that is distinctively LUTHERAN in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America?
Good question. What is distinctly Lutheran about the ELCA or distinctly Methodist about the UMC or distinctly anything about these other mainline denominations? What does it mean for mainline Protestantism if they are willing to gloss over any and all theological, liturgical, or ecclesiological differences?