Greenbelt Interfaith News
    U.S. Feature

    July 31, 1997

    Summer Conventions '97
    By Heather Elizabeth Peterson

    Unity and disunity are the themes of many denominational meetings this summer: unity through ecumenical agreements and disunity in denominations' views on homosexuality. Although many topics were scheduled to be discussed by American religious bodies this year, these two subjects are the hottest topics of the summer.

    Among the most important proposals being considered this summer are two ecumenical agreements. "A Formula of Agreement" would bind closer together four Protestant denominations: the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), the Reformed Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and the United Church of Christ. The agreement would allow the four denominations to withdraw historic condemnations of each other, recognize each other's ministries and baptisms, and encourage the sharing of communion.

    A "Concordat of Agreement" is also being considered by the ELCA and the Episcopal Church; it too would allow the participating churches to share ministers and sacraments (sacred rites). The negotiations for this agreement have been more delicate because the Episcopal Church has insisted for many years that any unity between Christian denominations must include the requirement that the three-fold ministry of deacons, priests, and bishops be upheld. Lutherans hold a somewhat different view of Christian ministry, and members of both denominations have expressed concern that the union would blur important denominational distinctions.

    Homosexuality remains a divisive issue in America's religious bodies; this summer the issue has caught the media's attention because of the Southern Baptist Convention's proposal to boycott Disney because of its policies on homosexuality. Other denominations are considering the subject of human sexuality as well, frequently in the context of same-sex unions or the ordination of homosexuals.

    Many other issues, however, remain to be considered, as demonstrated at the synod of the Christian Reformed Church.

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    ©1997 Heather Elizabeth Peterson