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condemned each other, to reaffirm our mutual baptism, and to encourage the sharing of the Lord’s Supper among our members.” For many who participated, the sharing in the


eucharist and the recognition of being united in baptism were the most significant and moving aspects of the service. “Bringing heads of communion and


representatives from various communions into the same room, gathered around the same table, breaking bread and experiencing the eucharist is the biggest evidence of God’s work among us today,” said Karen Georgia Thompson, UCC minister for ecumenical and interfaith relations. SanDawna Ashley, assistant stated clerk and


representative for the PCUSA, shared similar sentiments: “As we shared communion and sprinkled the waters of baptism on those gathered in worship, I saw an image of the body of Christ [and] less denominational differences. We joined together as sisters and brothers committed to each other by a pledge to honor our various faith traditions while remaining in partnership with one another.” Besides these components of worship, attendees


also joined together to proclaim unity through prayer, litany and song.


bases of unity behind statements of differences, the new concept insists that, while remaining differences must be acknowledged, even to the extent of their irreconcilability, it is the inherent unity in Christ that is determinative.”


“When the world divides, we as a church say we are not divided.”


Lohre explained how this framework impacts


partners both individually and collectively: “When churches are held together by this framework, we are able to maintain our distinct and unique Lutheran identity that is gracious but also unapologetically Lutheran. And we are able to claim other denominations in their own distinct and unique forms without seeking the lowest common denominator or abandoning core doctrinal convictions as churches. “This is a model for full communion that doesn’t


require losing who you are as you come into close relationship with the other.” This unity has sometimes been put to the test.


In 2009 the RCA, within the framework of the Formula of Agreement, admonished the ELCA as a result of the Churchwide Assembly’s actions regarding human sexuality. “This led to theological dialogue on Scripture


and discernment among our four churches,” Lohre said. “Together we produced a theological report, which affirmed that these differences were not church-dividing. This was one of the greatest examples of mutual admonition and affirmation and how the agreement held up under significant difference.”


Leaders of the four denominations meet in March: John Dorhauer, United Church of Christ general minister and president (left); Tom De Vries, general secretary of the Reformed Church in America; J. Herbert Nelson, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) stated clerk; and Elizabeth Eaton, ELCA presiding bishop.


Mutual affirmation and admonition The Formula of Agreement is held together by a framework of mutual affirmation and admonition, allowing for unity in diversity rather than uniformity. As the agreement states: “Whereas conventional modes of thought have hidden the


Making tangible the agreement Lohre and other denominational representatives also reflected on the inherent potential the agree- ment holds as a significant countercultural act. “During the service, we talked about how


countercultural it is in a deeply divided society to have a commitment to one another that is bound by this framework—to say we are not divided,” she said. “It is true in this particular time and climate but also true in any time and place. When the world divides, we as a church say we are not divided.” Ashley added, “Being able to stay in relationship


while respecting and honoring difference is a lesson for the world today.” Besides sharing and recognizing the sacraments, the four churches have made strides in the last 20


RELIGIOUS NEWS & SOCIAL ISSUES • LIVINGLUTHERAN.ORG 33


Photos: Anthony Moujaes


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