The exchange of pastors and priests is one aspect of the way the Episcopal Church and Evangelical Lutheran Church in America eventually will share fully their life and mission.
As a result, the churches' ministry-development offices have created -- and the presiding bishop of each church has approved -- a document that sets out the principles and guidelines for the exchange of ordained clergy.
"The exchange of pastors and priests can be an important sign of our unity," said the Rev. Lynne Grifo, associate coordinator of the Episcopal ministry-development office. "It allows and encourages more effective use and deployment of our churches' ordained leaders in order to enhance our shared ministry and mission. And it encourages those who are responsible for deployment to draw on available ministers in both churches to meet mission needs."
One of the rules of the newly formed joint coordinating committee will be to discuss how some functions of ordained Episcopal deacons and consecrated diaconal ministers and deaconesses in the Lutheran church can be shared. This was one of the issues left open for future discussion in the Called to Common Mission agreement.
Each clergy exchange is subject to several conditions. It occurs at the discretion of the inviting church, after approval of the sending diocese or synod. Service can be occasional, or extended, in any position that is normally open to a pastor or priest of the inviting church.
"Extended service requires a contract between the congregation, or employing entity, and the ordained minister for a stated time, normally not longer than five years," said Grifo.
Two other conditions are necessary before an exchange can occur. Experience and grounding in one's own tradition are regarded as essential before serving in another tradition, thereby eliminating a first call by the church that is not the clergy's own. A knowledge of and appreciation for the history, polity, theological and liturgical identity of the inviting church is also necessary, Grifo said. This includes the ministry practices and discipline of that church.
The pastor or priests shall be expected to preach, teach, administer the sacraments and participate in church governance "in a manner consistent with that knowledge and appreciation," the guidelines state.
Priests and pastors in extended service will continue to participate in the pension and benefits program of the sending church. Therefore, the guidelines say, the inviting church is expected to participate fully in that minister's pension and benefits program.
Although the inviting diocese or synod is responsible for assessing an individual's suitability for service, responsibility for pastoral care is shared by both the inviting and sending body, according to the guidelines. And in an ecclesiastical disciplinary review or judicial process, the sending body has jurisdiction, although the inviting body may be asked to participate when appropriate.