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NEW ORLEANS (ChurchMilitant.com) - The largest denomination of U.S.-based Lutherans is declaring there are no "church-dividing issues" between it and the Catholic Church.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) gathered on August 10 in New Orleans for its annual Churchwide Assembly. The assembly voted 931–9 to accept the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) document "Declaration on the Way," on which Lutherans provided input.
ELCA presiding bishop Elizabeth Eaton commented, "This 'Declaration on the Way' helps us to realize more fully our unity in Christ with our Catholic partners, but it also serves to embolden our commitment to unity with all Christians."
One of the most substantial differences the Declaration doesn't fruitfully address is Catholic teaching on the Holy Eucharist.
It makes a series of statements in harmony with certain branches of Lutheran theology but discordant with Catholic teaching.
Lutherans and Catholics recognize in both their ecclesial communities the attribute of apostolicity grounded in their ongoing continuity in apostolic faith, teaching and practices.
Lutherans and Catholics agree that the proclamation of the gospel is foremost among the various tasks of the ordained ministry.
Through our dialogues, we are renewed in our commitment to continue together on the way to full communion, when we will experience our unity in sharing the Eucharist, in the full recognition of each other's ministries and of our being Christ's church.
Among other things, the document doesn't address the need for Lutherans to convert and implies the Lutheran "church" and the Catholic Church are on equal footing. Overall, the statements are more Lutheran than Catholic.
The ELCA is the largest of three main groups of Lutherans in the United States, with more than 3.7 million members and just over 5 percent of worldwide Lutheran membership.
Both Lutherans and Catholics are gearing up for the 500-year anniversary of the Protestant revolt, led in 1517 by Augustinian priest Martin Luther. Recently, the German Conference of Catholic Bishops referred to Luther as a "Gospel witness and teacher of the Faith."