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Called to Common Mission

Called to Common Mission is an agreement between The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), establishing full communion between them. It was ratified by the ELCA in 1999, the ECUSA in 2000, after the narrow failure of a previous agreement. Its principal author on the Episcopal side was the Rev. Canon J. Robert Wright. Under the agreement, they recognize the validity of each other's baptisms and ordinations. The agreement provided that the ELCA would accept the historical episcopate, something which became controversial in the ELCA. In response to concerns about the meaning of CCM, bishops in the ELCA drafted Tucson Resolution, which presented the official ELCA position.

Some within the ELCA argued that requiring the historic episcopate would contradict the traditional Lutheran doctrine that the church exists wherever the Word is preached and Sacraments are practiced. Others objected on the grounds that adopting the Episcopalian priesthood and hierarchical structure was contrary to the Lutheran concept of the Priesthood of all believers, which holds that all Christians stand on equal footing before God. They argued that the Old Covenant required a priest to mediate between God and humanity, but that New Covenant explicitly abolishes the need for priestly role by making every Christian a priest with direct access to God's grace. Still others objected because of the implied directive that Lay presidency would be abolished. This was a particularly issue for rural congregations that periodically "called" a congregation member to conduct communion services in the absence of ordained clergy.

In response, the 2001 ELCA Churchwide Assembly adopted a bylaw permitting ordination of pastors to be performed by another pastor with permission of the local synodical bishop in "unusual circumstances". Some argued that this violated the agreement. The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church expressed his disappointment at the Assembly's decision.

Some have tried to characterize the ELCA opposition to CCM as simply a disagreement between conservatives and liberals, but that description fails to address the "high church" and "low church" views that complicated the issue.

Some in the Episcopal Church like also had problems with the agreement. Some evangelical Episcopalians do not recognize the Apostolic Succession that was accepted by the ELCA. This is one of the many issues in the Episcopal Church making a greater divide between liberals and conservatives and between high-church and evangelical tendencies in the ECUSA.

The annual William Reed Huntington sermon and dinner, held each year at St. Peter's Lutheran Church in New York, celebrates the ideals of Called to Common Mission. In 2008, the sermon' was preached by ECUSA presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the Eucharist was celebrated by ELCA Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson.

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