Presbyterian-Episcopal dialogue notes progress in joint mission

June 24, 2003

The most recent meeting of the Presbyterian-Episcopal Dialogue, established by the 2000 General Convention, noted the possibilities of joint cooperation in mission.

Meeting at Indian Hill Church, a joint Presbyterian-Episcopal congregation in Cincinnati established over 50 years ago, members of the dialogue meet with the staff and lay leadership, including some of the founding members. The congregation is governed by a vestry and a session, the elected body of elders that oversees the local church in the Reformed tradition. It is served by both an Episcopal priest and a Presbyterian minister.

Worship in the congregation alternates between the two traditions each Sunday. Confirmation classes are held together with confirmands learning about both traditions before choosing confirmation in one church or the other. Confirmation is administered jointly with a local Episcopal bishop and Presbyterian elders participating.

When asked how the congregation managed to hold together over 50 years, despite the differences in liturgical style and polity, the answer from the church leaders was loud and clear: focused, consistent, clear engagement in common mission. The church has been active in the greater Cincinnati community, a commitment to mission fostered by long-time Presbyterian minister Paul Long and Episcopal rector Jim Metzger.

The example and witness of Indian Hill served as a powerful witness for the dialogue team. Apart from meeting with representatives of the church, the Presbyterian-Episcopal dialogue continued its discussion of the ministry of oversight, set within the context of the ministry of the whole people of God.

The dialogue is scheduled to meet in November at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey. The major focus of that meeting will be to respond to the discussion being held on that topic by the ministry task force of Churches Uniting in Christ, successor to the Consultation on Church Union, a movement toward church unity of nine denominations that began in the 1960s.