The ELCA and the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) met Jan. 26-28, 2023, at the Disciples Ministry Center in Fullerton, Calif., to continue their ongoing bilateral dialogue.
The dialogue team studied together the World Council of Churches Faith and Order Commission’s theological convergent text, Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry (1984), led by Bishop Emeritus Donald J. McCoid, who served as assistant to the presiding bishop and executive for ecumenical and inter-religious relations of the ELCA.
The discussions focused on the shared understanding of baptism, eucharist and ministry and how they are biblically rooted and ecumenically influenced. The dialogue team spent time with the two heads of both communions, Presiding Bishop Elizabeth A. Eaton and General Minister and President Terri Hord Owens, to report the progress made in the course of dialogues for the last three years.
The Pacific Southwest Region of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) hosted the meeting. The gathering opened with the liturgy from the 2023 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, where Belva Brown Jordan, moderator of the General Assembly of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada, preached as a guest preacher. The meeting ended with a communion service.
The dialogue team was able to affirm their shared understanding and deepen their knowledge of each other at this meeting.
Bishop William Gafkjen, the Lutheran co-chair, reflected on this meeting as follows:
“This meeting was a Spirit-led big step forward in getting to know one another and each other’s tradition with depth and dimension.”
“This meeting was a Spirit-led big step forward in getting to know one another and each other’s tradition with depth and dimension. We were moved beyond knowledge of the people and movements that led to the establishment of our two traditions toward more intimate familiarity with and mutual honoring of the fullness and complexity of each church’s contemporary commitments, concerns, practices, and perspectives. This was a crucial and energizing turn on this path of finding new and fruitful ways to manifest the unity that is ours in Christ for the sake of our shared participation in God’s mission of hope, healing, and reconciliation in the world.”
Similarly, Robert Cornwall, the co-chair of the Disciples, shared the same sentiment in reflecting on this meeting:
“Seeking Christian unity has been our Disciples’ polar star. It is in that spirit that we have entered into the conversation with the ELCA. While there are areas of difference, as we might expect, in our recent conversation making use of the Baptism, Eucharist, and Ministry document, we have found many areas of affirmation and convergence that will provide a solid foundation for the journey ahead as we seek to more fully embody what it means to be the Body of Christ. Therefore, we are excited about what comes next.”
The two church bodies, which have a long-standing relationship and continue to work towards greater unity and cooperation in mission and ministry, will hold another meeting online this fall.
For more information about the ELCA-Disciples bilateral eialogue, please contact Kathryn Lohre, ELCA executive for ecumenical and inter-religious relations and theological discernment at Kathryn.Lohre (at) elca.org, or Paul Tché, president of the Christian Unity and Interfaith Ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), at cuim (at) disicples.org.