Representatives from The Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) met at Glendale, Ohio at the Transfiguration Spirituality Center from October 7-9, 2019 for the Third Round of Bilateral Dialogues (2019-2024). The aim of these dialogues is encouraging closer relationships between congregations of both denominations.
The mandate of this Third Round of Bilateral Dialogue as approved and authorized in 2018 by The Episcopal Church’s General Convention and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s 223rd General Assembly focuses the Third Round on such issues as what would be needed to lead both Churches towards full reconciliation of ordered ministries, the meaning of membership in a shifting American religious context, analyzing ecclesiological identities and differences using historic and socioeconomic lenses, and working with the respective national offices of both churches to develop guidelines and resources for mutual ministries and missions, particularly in areas of collaboration for new worshipping communities and ecumenical congregations.
Held on the traditional land of the Shawnee and Miami indigenous peoples, this meeting launched the third round of these dialogues with prayers, fellowship, and discussion. The group joined the sisters of the Community of the Transfiguration for Morning Prayer and the Eucharist. Representatives discussed the history of dialogues between the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church. These span more than a century, with official bilateral conversations beginning over 30 years ago. The 10 points of a 2008 Agreement were reviewed and affirmed, among which were: mutual recognition of the two churches’ belongingness to the one holy catholic apostolic church, mutual recognition of both bodies bearing the two marks of churches from the Reformation (preaching and sacraments), mutual recognition of one another’s ordained ministries, and mutual acknowledgement of the need to connect the dialogue with judicatories/mid councils and parishes/congregations.
Representatives celebrated the 2008 Agreement’s hope for a full reconciliation of ministries, including an interchangeability of ministries between the two Churches, while also noting that much work needs to be done on the respective Churches’ understanding of the historic episcopate and episcopé (oversight).
Also reviewed was the work of the International Anglican-Reformed Dialogue between the World Communion of Reformed Churches and the Anglican Communion. This group continues to examine the nature of communion and reception of the 1984 report God’s Reign and Our Unity, most recently in Japan, August 23-30, of this year.
The Dialogue table met with the pastoral leadership of the Indian Hill Church, a 72-year old federated Presbyterian and Episcopal congregation, two distinct ecclesial traditions living as one community with shared leadership, finances, governance, and worship. Members and staff listened to clergy leaders the Rev. Nancy Hopkins-Greene (Episcopal) and the Rev. Stephen Caine (Presbyterian), and local judicatory officials the Rev. Canon Lynn Carter-Edmands and General Presbyter Lisa Allgood, as they shared both the joys and challenges of this ecumenical “experiment.”
Support was expressed for a movement underway by leaders in The Episcopal Church for reparations for African Americans as a tangible expression of racial reconciliation in the United States, particularly in light of the quadcentennary of the Transatlantic Slave Trade. This might be an area of clear and immediate ecumenical collaboration between the two Churches.
On the final day, Dialogue representatives discussed and noted those communities and congregations across the country that are ecumenical collaborations, respective full communion partners, and the status of ongoing bilateral dialogues. Members reviewed an online asset map of shared Presbyterian and Episcopal ministries, which include campus ministries, congregations, hospitals, retirement communities, creation care work, and food pantries. They also reflected on the importance of safeguarding standards and mutual reporting processes in ecumenical ministries across all of our partner churches. As the Dialogue closed the session with prayer, representatives grieved the news of the anti-Jewish violence in Halle, Germany at a synagogue during the holy observance of Yom Kippur.
Members present from The Episcopal Church: the Right Rev. Dr. Eugene Sutton (co-chair), the Rev. Canon Elise Johnstone (co-vice chair), Ms. Elizabeth Barker Ring (remotely), Dr. Michael Booker; the Rev. Margaret Rose and Mr. Richard Mammana served as staff. From the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.): Ruling Elder Dr. Anne Bond (co-chair), the Rev. Dr. Neal Presa (co-vice chair), the Rev. Terry Ofori, the Rev. Brian Entz, the Rev. Robert Foltz-Morrison (remotely), and Ruling Elder Dr. Dianna Wright served as staff. Not at this meeting were Episcopal representative the Rev. Dr. Joseph Wolyniak and Presbyterian representatives the Rev. Dr. Christian Boyd and the Rev. Brooke Pickrell, who will join subsequent conversations.
The Bilateral Dialogue will meet again on February 17-19, 2020, hosted by the Presbyterian delegation, at a location to be determined.
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