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Called to Common Mission
(CCM) is the name of the ecumenical agreement designed to achieve "full communion" between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Episcopal Church in the USA. CCM was passed by the ELCA's Churchwide Assembly in August of 1999 and by the Episcopal Church's General Convention in July of 2000. Through CCM, the ELCA has already declared the Episcopal Church to be in "full communion" with itself. The Episcopal Church, however, has not yet reciprocated.

In order for the ELCA to become acceptable for "full communion" with the Episcopal Church, the ELCA must become an episcopalian church. That means that the ELCA will have to adopt an episcopalian-style ordination structure and practice. This structure and practice is called an "historic episcopate." An "historic episcopate" refers to bishops (episkopos in Greek) making new bishops in succession through prayer and physical touch (laying-on-of-hands). Episcopalians (Anglicans - originally from the Church of England) only consider clergy ordained by bishops in this way to have


ordinations equal to their own clergy.

CCM guides the ELCA on the path to becoming an episcopalian church. CCM does not, however, say exactly when the ELCA will be episcopalian enough for the Episcopal Church to declare the ELCA to be in "full communion" with itself.

In order for the ELCA membership to accept the idea of becoming episcopalian, CCM paragraph 11 effectively states that the Lutheran Reformers were episcopalian and that the Lutheran Confessions clearly state the Reformers' deep desire to have an Episcopalian- or Anglican-style church. CCM paragraph 11 reads:

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"Historic succession" refers to a tradition which goes back to the ancient church, in which bishops already in the succession install newly elected bishops with prayer and the laying-on-of-hands. At present The Episcopal Church has bishops in this historic succession, as do all the churches of the Anglican Communion, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America at present does not, although some member churches of the Lutheran World Federation do. The Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral of 1886/1888, the ecumenical policy of The Episcopal Church, refers to this tradition as "the historic episcopate." In the Lutheran Confessions, Article 14 of the Apology refers to this episcopal pattern by the phrase, "the ecclesiastical and canonical polity" which it is "our deep desire to maintain."

CCM paragraph 11, like CCM itself, contains many inaccuracies. The following points outline and summarize how the inaccuracies in CCM paragraph 11 form the basis for the grand the deception in CCM.

  • CCM paragraph 11 claims that Article 14 of the Apology to the Augsburg Confession refers to "historic succession" in the episcopal office when the Apology speaks of "the ecclesiastical and canonical polity" which it was the Reformers' "deep desire to maintain."
  • Research published in 1995 demonstrates that the notion of "episcopal succession" did not exist until around 1538-1540. Thus, it is historically impossible for the Reformers to have been referring to "episcopal succession" or to "historic succession" when Augsburg Confession (CA) and its Apology were written in 1530-1531.

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  • The Lutheran Confessions are, in fact, silent on the matter of "episcopal succession" or of "historic episcopacy" or of any such related concept. The Lutheran Reformers, however, were not silent on the matter. When the notion of "episcopal succession" was invented in 1538-1540, the Lutheran Reformers flatly rejected it.

    In 1539, Philip Melanchthon, the author of the CA and its Apology, stated,

    "This testimony is cited by one, so that it will be thought firstly what the church might be, and the spirit is separated from the carnal opinions, which imagine the church to be a state of bishops and bind it to the orderly succession of bishops, as the empires consist of the orderly succession of princes. But the church maintains itself differently. Actually, it is a union not bound to the orderly succession but to the Word of God."

    In 1541, Martin Luther declared,

    "In the church, the succession of bishops does not make a bishop, but the Lord alone is our bishop."

  • Professor Michael Root, a member of the ELCA's CCM drafting team and now also a faculty member at Trinity Lutheran Seminary in Columbus, Ohio, claims in correspondence to the Episcopal Church from June 2000 to have known of this research since its publication in 1995. This research obviously undermines CCM. Nevertheless, CCM was drafted apparently without reference to or regard for this research.
  • Furthermore, Professor Root himself stated in that same correspondence that Article 14 of the Apology does not, in fact, refer to "episcopal succession," and his qualifications to this admission involve scholarship recognized internationally to be without credibility.
  • As a result of CCM paragraph 11, the voting members of the ELCA's 1999 Churchwide Assembly were wrongly led to believe that the Lutheran Reformers referred to and thus supported or sanctioned "episcopal succession." In other words, the ELCA membership was led to believe that the Reformers were episcopalian and that they wanted an episcopalian-style church. From the above, such a claim is diametrically opposed to the Lutheran Reformers' position on the matter.

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  • Unbeknownst to many, the unity prescribed by Called to Common Mission is grounded not in the Lutheran Confessions but rather is derived from the English Parliament's 1662 Act of Uniformity (cf. CCM paragraph 16). By adopting CCM, the ELCA has pledged to conform its ordination structure and practice to the dictates of seventeenth-century, English episcopalian religious intolerance. The enforcement of this Act caused much persecution, suffering, and death. It is to be recalled that the Pilgrim Fathers (and mothers and children) came to the New World to escape this same religious intolerance and its violent consequences.

    Although no one today would expect the Episcopal Church to enforce its episcopalianism against the ELCA with physically violent measures, episcopalian religious intolerance nevertheless is the driving force behind CCM. In order to achieve "full communion" with the Episcopal Church, the ELCA must incorporate the principles of this religious intolerance into its constitution and into the heart of its ordination structure and practice. Such conditions for unity could not be more contrary to the intentions of the Lutheran Reformers or to the aspirations of many who settled America.

  • CCM's greatest sin, however, is theological. By quoting Bible passages out of context, contrary to their meanings, and other related verbal chicanery, CCM seeks to give the impression that the conditions for unity prescribed by CCM are the will of God. Misrepresenting the Lutheran Reformers, trickery with language, invented history, and conforming to the principles of seventeenth century, episcopalian religious intolerance may be the will of some god, but they are not the will of the one, true God revealed in Jesus Christ.

    By making historic episcopacy a necessary requirement for unity, CCM effectively states that Christ alone is not sufficient for unity between the ELCA and the Episcopal Church. If Christ alone is not sufficient for the life and unity of his church, then the divinity and lordship of Christ are called into question. As such, CCM violates the First Commandment (You shall have no other gods before me) and also the Second Commandment (You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain). The church in its common mission is called to address sin, not to revel in it.

  • In the strongest of terms, Martin Luther rejected all forms of deceit, fraud, and lying in the church. In fact, Luther states that such acts cannot arise in the church. Where and when the church engages in falsehood, it ceases to be the church. As Luther comments,

    "They must themselves admit, whether they like it or not, that the church of Christ neither lies nor deceives... Therefore the holy church cannot and may not lie or suffer false doctrine, but must teach nothing except what is holy and true, that is, God's word alone; and where it teaches a lie it is idolatrous and the whore-church of the devil" (LW 41: 214).

    Through CCM, the ELCA easily exceeds Luther's single lie criterion for being a church of ill repute. The ELCA may now be on its way toward visible unity with the Episcopal Church, but in so doing, according to Luther, the ELCA separates itself from Jesus Christ.

For a detailed and researched presentation of the points above, please click here.

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