Participating Churches: Evangelical Lutheran Church in America • Presbyterian Church (USA) • Reformed Church in America • United Church of Christ
Principles for the Orderly Exchange of Ordained Ministers of Word and Sacrament Background and Affirmations Through adoption of A Formula of Agreement, the Reformed Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the United Church of Christ entered into a relationship of full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America entered into a relationship of full communion with the Reformed Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the United Church of Christ. Among other things, full communion means that the four churches “recognize each other’s various ministries and make provision for the orderly exchange of ordained ministers of Word and Sacrament.” (All references to ministers or ordained ministers herein refer to ordained ministers of Word and Sacrament in the four churches.)
Orderly exchange (provisions for availability) of ordained ministers is for the sake of participation by the four churches in the mission of God, and can be an important sign of our unity in Christ. This particular provision of full communion seeks to allow and encourage the more effective use and deployment of our churches’ ordained leaders in order to enhance our shared ministry and mission. It encourages those in our churches who are responsible for the deployment of ordained ministers to draw on the available ministers of the other participating churches to meet mission needs.
Ordained ministers in one church may be invited or may express their desire to serve in another church; they do not have a right to serve in the other church. The orderly exchange of ordained ministers is understood to be at the invitation of the receiving church and subject to that church’s polity and procedures.
A Formula of Agreement, with its commitment to full communion, exists to foster orderly exchange of ordained ministers for extended service in ministries in participating churches while they remain ministerial members of their own churches. It does not directly address the transfer of ministerial membership. When it does seem appropriate for a transfer of ministerial membership, such transfer will be authorized according to the polities of the two churches. Full communion may encourage occasional service by ordained ministers in participating churches, but that service continues to be authorized according to the polities of each of the four churches. Means of implementing orderly exchange need not be identical in each participating church. The existing polity of each church continues to be respected. It is important, however, that provisions parallel each other as much as possible and that each church be familiar with and conversant about the provisions of the others. The four churches will need to continue conversations toward clarification of church policies in order to enhance the orderly exchange of ministers and to find ways to celebrate visibly our full communion relationship and the recognition of the ordained ministries of the four churches.