Unity in diversity

The 20th anniversary of the Formula of Agreement

By Jill Dierberg Clark

The four member churches of the Formula of Agreement shared the eucharist at their 20th anniversary service March 26. “Let Us Break Bread Together” was the anthem

that resounded loudly and clearly on March 26, as four Christian denominations worshiped and shared the eucharist at the United Church of Christ (UCC) Center in Cleveland. The churches had gathered to celebrate the 20th anniversary of signing the Formula of Agreement, which declares “full communion” exists between the ELCA and three Reformed bodies—the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) (PCUSA), the Reformed Church in America (RCA) and the UCC. In a service of praise, thanksgiving,

repentance, forgiveness and recommitment, heads of communion, local judicatory leaders, ecumenical officers, and local clergy and lay leaders participated in the celebration, which mirrored the service shared between these four churches at the signing of the agreement in 1997. The event was held in conjunction with a

meeting between the heads of communion, where they explored the next chapter of the churches’ lives together as full communion partners. For the ELCA especially, the agreement

signifies a groundbreaking step for its ecumenical commitments. “The Formula of Agreement is the

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ELCA’s first full communion partnership,” said Kathryn Lohre, assistant to the ELCA presiding bishop and executive for ecumenical and inter- religious relations. “It is the result of decades of prior Lutheran-Reformed dialogue.” The ELCA currently has three other full

communion agreements, with the Episcopal Church, the Moravian Church in America and the United Methodist Church.

What is full communion?

A full communion agreement is a way for denomi- nations to affirm each other as members of the same baptized body of Christ. It allows churches to recognize each other’s sacraments and affirm their various ministries. It also allows for recognizing the ordination of ministers, which has led to the sharing of clergy between denominations. During the anniversary service, participant

churches declared once again the purpose and intent of the agreement, recognizing and affirming both word and sacrament, but also remembering the need for repentance and reconciliation. The ELCA’s part in the declaration of purpose stated: “We gather to repent of the ways we have

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