Bishops seek deeper relations with Presbyterians, Church of Sweden

July 7, 2009

The House of Bishops passed two resolutions July 8 that would bring Episcopalians into closer relationship with the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the Church of Sweden.

Both resolutions, A075 and A076 respectively, were sent to the House of Deputies for approval.

The Committee on Ecumenical Relations recommended adoption of an agreement between the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church that would allow and encourage sharing of clergy and communion.

Bishop Suffragan Catherine Roskam of New York said use of the word "adopt" seemed too final for an agreement that still has not yet been formally ratified by the Presbyterian Church. She proposed an amendment to change "adopt" to "receive," which passed despite a handful of dissenting votes, and then the amended resolution passed with one audible vote against it.

"For some, to say 'adopt' is to say it's finished and there's nothing more to do with it," said Bishop Philip Duncan, who sits on the ecumenical relations committee. "In receiving it, we see it as an opportunity to move forward toward a deeper relationship with the Presbyterians.

"Some felt that not using language of adoption might insult them, but in receiving it we're acknowledging that we are in agreement with it so far, but there is more work to do."

The Presbyterian Church moved forward with the agreement during its General Assembly in 2008, but the action still must be ratified by a simple majority of the denomination's 173 regional presbyteries. That ratification should be complete by the General Assembly's next meeting in 2010. The denomination's Committee on Ecumenical Relations is to oversee the continuing conversation on the agreement and report to the 220th General Assembly in 2012.

Bishops also passed a resolution calling for deepening relations with the Lutheran Church of Sweden. The resolution calls for the Standing Commission on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations to "begin a dialogue" with the Swedish church in hopes of eventually forming a "relationship of full communion."

"We're really putting in writing what has been a reality for a long time," Duncan said.