St. Paul Pioneer Press, 5 Aug 00

ELCA researches ordination options

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's church council has asked its legal and constitutional review committee to find a process that would allow bishops to authorize a pastor of the church to preside over the ordination of candidates for ministry.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America this summer entered into an agreement with the Episcopal Church to exchange clergy and welcome members of both churches to the sacrament of Holy Communion. 

Part of the Called to Common Mission ecumenical agreement asks that a combination of three bishops from the two denominations be present at every installation of a bishop. Only one bishop is required to ordain a candidate for ministry. 

But the ELCA is seeking a way to allow an ELCA pastor to preside over an ordination if unusual circumstances exist. The church council said the new process would be approved by the churchwide assembly and that each case of ``unusual circumstance'' would be carefully researched before approval was given.

The church council of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is trying to find ways for those pastors who are opposed to the Called to Common Mission agreement because of the historic episcopate (a belief that all bishops are spiritually connected to the apostles of the early church) to remain in the ELCA in spite of those disagreements. The previous ordination rule in the ELCA allowed parish pastors to preside over ordinations when a bishop was not available. But the historic episcopate agreement puts more importance on the role of bishops.

Some Lutheran pastors fear the historic episcopate agreement calls into question every ordination that was not presided over by a bishop in the historic episcopate.

But the Episcopal Church has stated publicly and formally that every Lutheran pastor's ordination is ``fully authentic.'' Still, the opposition, a group of Lutheran pastors called the Word Alone Network, which is headquartered at St. Andrew's Lutheran Church, Mahtomedi, Minn., believes the ecumenical agreement puts too much emphasis on the authority of bishops.