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Lutherans seek to revise new unity pact with Episcopal Church

Posted: Friday, April 13, 2001

CHICAGO (AP) -- Despite warnings from the head of the Episcopal Church, leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America want to revise a provision in the unity pact between the two churches that went into effect this year.

The Lutherans' Church Council adopted a bylaw concerning ordination, and it will go to the Lutherans' August convention for approval.

The bylaw would allow clergy other than bishops to ordain ''for pastoral reasons in unusual circumstances.'' That modifies an agreed-on requirement in the unity pact that all clergy be ordained by bishops in a line of Episcopal-style historic succession traced back to Jesus' apostles.

The bishops-only rule was a sticking point in the accord of close unity -- but not organizational merger -- that the Lutherans approved in 1999 and the Episcopalians last year. Two weeks ago the 80,000-member Word Alone Network of New Brighton, Minn., formed a ''post-denominational'' protest group for Lutheran congregations that reject the pact.

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold wrote Lutheran officials March 20 that the revision proposal caused ''serious concern'' in his church and could be seen as ''unilateral alteration'' of an already settled agreement.

The Rev. Fred Opalinski of Latrobe, Pa., told the council Episcopalians would deem it a ''bait and switch'' tactic.

Together the two denominations have 7.5 million members in 18,241 local congregations.

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On the Net:

Text of Lutheran proposal: http://www.elca.org/os/churchcouncil/actions.html

End Adv for Release Friday, April 13



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