Milestones on the Road

The Church Commons is focused on ground-level, local community, grassroots Christianity. Still it is good to remember what has been accomplished at institutional levels above us. There has been a great deal of coming together at these levels that most of us are not even aware of, that hasn't yet filtered down to us. Perhaps if we had a greater appreciation of the kinds of accords of which our faith families have been a part, we might be able to appreciate more fully the unity that indeed is ours right now.

Accords

Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification

On October 31, 1999, the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation signed a joint declaration on the issue which, from a doctrinal standpoint, was center stage at the launching of the Protestant Reformation: justification. Among other things, the declaration states that the Roman Catholic Church and the Lutheran Churches represented by the Lutheran World Federation have lifted their mutual decrees of excommunication and are "open to each other."

The declaration had been previously approved by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) in 1997; in 2006, the World Methodist Council voted unanimously for its adoption.

ELCA Full Communion Relationships

Between 1997 and 1999, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has adopted full communion relationships with the Moravian Church, the Episcopal Church, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Reformed Church in America and the United Church of Christ.

As used in the ELCA agreements, full communion is characterized by a common confession of faith; mutual recognition of the sacraments, and of ordained ministry; common commitment to evangelism, witness and service; and a mutual lifting of any exisitng condemnation between the churches.

Re-Gatherings

The United Methodist Church

The United Methodist Church was founded in 1968 by the union of The Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church.

The Union Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (UPCUSA)

The Presbyterian Church in the United States of America (PCUSA) merged with the Union Presbyterian Church of North America (UPCNA) in 1958 to form the Union Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.

The United Church of Christ

In 1931, the General Council of Congregational Churches and the General Convention of the Christian Church merged to form the Congregational Christian Churches. In 1934, the Evangelical and Reformed Church was formed by the merger of the Reformed Church in the United States and the Evangelical Synod of North America.

In 1957, the Congregational Christian Churches and the Evangelical and Reformed Church joined to become the United Church of Christ.

Federated Churches

There are many instances of local congregations of different denominations joining together to form a federated church. Federated churches retain much of their individual identities, yet share a common worship space and, very often, participate in common worship services.

Denominations that have formed federated churches in one place or another include the American Baptist Church, the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Methodist Church, the Congregational Church, the Disciples of Christ and the Community Church.

One of the "Congregations in the Commons" is the Maine Federated Church, a congregation embracing both the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church faith traditions.