Episcopal – Lutheran joint ministry: are we asking the right questions?

Episcopal – Lutheran joint ministry: are we asking the right questions?

By The Rev. Curt Norman

When St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Stephenville, Texas, began working the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America to bring ELCA worship to Stephenville, part of the deal was to send me, the rector, to new mission leadership training. I anticipated that I would be the sole Episcopalian at this Baltimore conference of Lutherans, wondering how many times I would sing A Mighty Fortress Is Our God. Yet when I arrived, I was surprised to see about a dozen other Episcopalians, and they were surprised to see me.

“Why are you here? No, why are you here?”

We are here because the Episcopal-Lutheran Concordat, recognizing the validity of Christ’s ministry in each body, is beginning to bud fruit. While some Episcopal congregations across the nation have joined up with ELCA folks out of necessity, and Lutherans with Episcopalians, laity and clergy are now becoming more intentional about joint ministry efforts.

The Rev. Tom Brackett, The Episcopal Church’s missioner for new church starts and missional initiatives, told those in attendance that it is time for the two denominations to stop talking about doing ministry together and actually start sharing resources and doing ministry together. He reflected on 2 Kings 7, in which four lepers were ambivalent about entering an Aramean camp for fear of being killed. When the lepers entered the camp, the tents inside the camp were empty; the perceived enemy was imaginary. Brackett urged mission developers to cast aside imaginary obstacles of joint ministry endeavors and ask the question: what are Episcopalians and Lutherans doing separately that we should do together?