Episcopal clergy and lay leadership approve agreement with Lutherans
PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Episcopalians and Evangelical Lutherans moved a step closer to a long-awaited alliance when Episcopalian clergy and their lay leadership approved a key agreement Friday.
``This is the major ecumenical event of this century,″ said the Rev. Richard Jeske, a Lutheran pastor from California who co-chaired the committee which drafted the agreement.
The agreement would establish ``full communion″ between the churches but not a merger. It would allow clergy from either church to lead services and to administer sacraments in both churches _ a popular prospect in small communities.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church, which has 5.2 million members, is expected to consider the measure at its August meeting in Philadelphia.
The next step for the Episcopal church, which claims 2.5 million members in the United States, would come with another vote at the next general convention in three years in Denver.
The approval from the Episcopalian church leaders represents the first major step in a lengthy legislative process started after 30 years of Episcopal-Lutheran discussion.
During their August meeting, Evangelical Lutherans also will vote on similar agreements with the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America, the United Church of Christ and the Reformed Church of America.
Leaders of those churches have already approved the agreement.