(Indianapolis, CUIM) The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) will resume a bilateral dialogue. The Disciples of Christ and the ELCA met for the first time in April 2004 with an initial series of papers exploring a common understanding of communion and baptism, under the theme of “the Role, Place, and Power of the Sacraments and the Confessions in Shaping Our Identities as Church.” A great deal of agreement was reached at this first meeting, and initially, the model of discourse was regarded to be the next step in this relationship. This initial dialogue round was an attempt to seek full communion between the two churches. However, subsequent rounds were delayed due to staffing transitions and changes in leadership.
The ELCA and the Disciples of Christ have been committed to the one ecumenical movement in North America and globally for decades. The two churches have cooperated through the World Council of Churches, the National Council of Churches, Christian Churches Together in the USA, and until 2019, Churches Uniting in Christ. The two denominations also participate together in several inter-religious dialogues, initiatives, and organizations.
The two churches agree that seeking unity is not the goal, as that has already been accomplished in Christ. Rather, we seek to manifest our unity so that “the world may believe” (John 17), and God’s kingdom of just peace may be experienced more fully by all people and creation. Our unity is for the sake of the world, not for ourselves. While both churches believe that the Church will be fully united with God in wholeness, we also affirm that we are called to live out oneness in Christ here and now.
The goal of this resumed dialogue is to define a new ecumenical relationship for common mission and ministry through mutual study of each other’s understanding of the mission and responsibility of the church. To inform the process, the churches will undertake a joint exploration of current collaborations and areas where deeper relations are desired. A meeting of heads of communion and senior ecumenical leadership from both churches is currently being planned for fall 2020.