Full Communion Partners: Exchange of Clergy
By Rev. Mary M. Finklea
I hope you have heard about some of the fruit of decades, and even centuries, of ecumenical endeavors in the church. Dialogue continues in many areas with many partners. We, as ELCA Lutherans, continue as leaders in the ecumenical arena.
We are grateful for full communion partnerships with Presbyterian Church (USA), Reformed Church in America, United Church of Christ, The Episcopal Church, The Moravian Church, and The United Methodist Church. This includes pulpit and table fellowship with these partners. Many of us already sense the open table fellowship, and feel at home communing in a neighboring parish, and have no qualms counseling parishioners who are visiting, for example, family members in other settings. Yet, depending on the context, the clergy exchange is more likely less visible. Unless you happened to have a Episcopalian clergy called to serve a Lutheran congregation or something like that, you, or those in your congregation, might not have ever experienced this aspect of a full communion relationship.
It is important to note there are provisions for this type of activity. Each full communion partnership has somewhere in their documents an encouragement to provide for the orderly exchange of ministry. The key word is “orderly”. There are proper procedures for you to follow if you as a rostered leader are open to being called to serve in another denomination or you as a congregation feel open to calling a rostered leader from another full communion partner. Ministers open to service in another church body should 1) consult with their own judicatory leadership concerning availability and suitability for service, 2) use the ministerial profile or mobility forms of the sending church body, and 3) with permission of the bishop and synod staff, contact a regional staff person of the full communion church in the region or area one wishes to serve and follow that church’s procedure, and refrain from contacting a congregation directly unless instructed to do so.
Contact synod staff with questions and check out www.elca.org/ecumenical for guidance and encouragement.
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ELCA South Carolina Synod
1003 Richland Street
Columbia, SC 29201