WordAlone - Still talkin' 'bout CCM?
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Still talkin' 'bout CCM?

By Dr. Gordon "Tim" Huffman (Trinity Lutheran Seminary, WordAlone Board member)

May 16, 2003

Why "Called to Common Mission" remains at center of our work in the WordAlone Network

  1. Called to Common Mission (CCM) is what drew us together, and what we all agree on. On all other matters there is a range of opinions and convictions.
  2. It continues to abridge freedom within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). The ordination exception is not yet “an option of equal standing.” So, students are still worried whether they are hurting their futures by requesting the “exception;” and the ELCA still does not acknowledge the right of bishops-elect to reject the “historic episcopate,” although 11 synods have affirmed that right for new bishops.
  3. It continues to bind synods, and to edge the ELCA toward total capitulation to the practice, and inevitably the theology, that is integral to the “historic episcopate.”
  4. CCM has begun to expose the authoritarian and intolerant character of the “historic episcopate.” No exceptions are acceptable to Episcopalians, because exceptions compromise the integrity of the closed sacramental system. The deductive reasoning reaffirmed in the pope’s Maundy Thursday encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia (no historic episcopate= no real bishops=no valid ordinations = no valid priests = no real sacraments) unites Anglicans and Roman Catholics in their understanding and practice of ministry. However, the Romans reject resolutely the Anglican claim to valid orders (ordinations).
    1. The resolution of the New York diocese of The Episcopal Church USA (ECUSA) asking the House of Bishops to reconsider CCM, based on their knowledge of only three exceptional ordinations (there are nearly three times that many now) shows an intolerance that should be instructive to Lutherans.
    2. The “re-ordination” of Lutheran pastors by ELCA bishops because the original ordination was “invalid” is an insult to every Lutheran pastor’s ordination, an outrage to Lutheran theology, and should cause the ELCA to consider withdrawing from CCM.
    3. The new study by the ELCA bishops of the widespread practice of “lay presidency” in the ELCA, prompted in part by concern about the opinion of Episcopalian bishops, is intended by some to further handcuff Lutheran practice with Anglican standards.
    4. These and similar attempts by Episcopalians to muscle the ELCA into absolute conformity with the requirements of Anglican ordination rubrics (directions)—“the preface to the ordinal” of the English Parliament’s Act of Uniformity of 1662, which Episcopalians expect to govern both ELCA and Anglican practice in “the future common pattern” of ordained ministry—are windows onto a Lutheran future in Anglican shackles.
  5. CCM continues to be used as a model and as an argument to get other Protestant church bodies in the U.S. to accept the Episcopalian requirements regarding the “historic episcopate” as a basis for “full communion.” If the Lutherans could accept this, goes the argument, so can you. The success of the argument depends on the successful implementation of CCM. Continuing problems in implementing CCM undermine the argument, and undermine the efforts to get other church bodies to follow the same primrose path.
  6. CCM continues to be used as a model and as an argument to get other Lutheran church bodies around the world to accept the Anglican requirements regarding the “historic episcopate” as a basis for “full communion.” If the Americans can accept this, goes the argument, so can you. Continuing problems in the implementation of CCM undermine the argument, and undermine efforts to get international Lutherans, especially those in the “younger churches” who sometimes look to the U.S. experience for guidance and support, to follow the same primrose path. In other words, continuing to shine the light on the negative effects of CCM is a constructive way to help other Protestants in America and other Lutherans around the world to retain their Christian freedom and to resist the imposition of the intolerant and brittle “historic episcopate.”
  7. CCM in its completed form, after the ELCA capitulates and agrees to ordain deacons, thus accepting the “three-fold ordering of ministry” which the House of Bishops of the ECUSA says is inherent in the so-called historic episcopate, is the essential step toward the real goal of this process: reunion with Rome under the papacy. One method for achieving this, now being discussed almost openly, would be for Lutherans to become an order (like the Jesuits) or a rite (like the Old Catholics) within the Roman church. An earlier suggestion to achieve the same end was printed in The Lutheran-Catholic Quest for Visible Unity: Harvesting Thirty Years of Dialogue, published in 1998 by the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Coordinating Committee, representing the ELCA and the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. Page 10 outlines the “Stages toward Unity.” After church leadership is “exercised in a coordinated manner…”

A transitional act would follow in which the two churches would recognize that “in the other church the church of Jesus Christ is actualized,” while at the same time pointing to a lack of fullness of the ordained ministry as a defectus, which, for the sake of church fellowship has jointly to be overcome….

Thereafter, a phase of common ministry would begin, leading to collegiality, including mutuality with the bishop of Rome. The critical transition which would seal Lutheran-Catholic relations would be the co-celebrated ordination of new pastoral ministers by bishops who already exercise local, collegial episcope.

Lutheran ministry would be acknowledged to have been “defective,” resulting in Roman Catholic ordination of Lutheran pastors and bishops to remove the defectus and give Lutherans the “fullness” of the ordained ministry.

CCM remains a live issue. It is being used to accomplish much more than just having “real” bishops in the ELCA. No group other than WordAlone can shine the spotlight on the continuing agenda unfolding from CCM. No other group can show that CCM is not working out as hoped, and no other group can hope to prompt change. Although many of us see many other problems to address in the ELCA, CCM remains our central concern, for the sake of the entire Christian church.