Tomorrow is the 10 year anniversary of the signing of the Called to Common Mission statement. For those of you not aware, CCM is the full-communion statement between the Episcopal Church and the Lutheran Church (ELCA). And I find myself in a place I had hoped for but didn't expect ten years down the road.
When the agreement was first being talked about, I was suffused with hope. How beautiful that two Christian denominations would let go of our differences enough to recognize the Holy Spirit in our midst. How welcoming that could be to folks on the outside to see Christians doing what we say we should do--love one another. How intriguing it would be to pastor a multi-denominational (not non-denominational) church.
One of my first thoughts was, "Ooh, I want to be that pastor. I want to help us come together where we've historically pulled apart." And my second was, "How will this really work?"
I was delighted that a given congregation could ask for resumes and choose among a wider field of applicants so as to find the right person for the job, regardless of denomination. That's not how it works, as you might have expected, but I did not. No, a Lutheran church will look at Lutheran candidates and will only look at an Episcopalian when the options are gone. And vice versa.
But ten years out, I find myself working for the Lutheran Church (ELCA) and also representing the Episcopal Church. And sometimes Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and Catholic, but that's another story. Here ten years later, the club of pastors whose jobs are a result of the CCM is fairly small. And we don't all know one another. But we're here, and we're offering something to our churches you don't often find in a regular church--intentional differences.
At the Edge campus ministry house at UC, we've been working on our "Rule of Common Life," akin to the monastic practice of the same name. And one item which comes up in every discussion is that of diversity. We value our differences, not because it looks pretty or attractive to donors, but because those differences in race, sexuality, denomination, faith, gender, socioeconomic status, or politic encourage conversation. It would seem that because we began as multi-denominational, our whole ethos has taken on that flavor.
I don't agree with everything brother Martin Luther wrote. And my Lutheran students don't agree with everything brother Thomas Cranmer wrote. We might all agree with brother CS Lewis, but then again, maybe not. We spend our time listening not for judgement but for connection and for understanding. We don't always succeed. But I don't think a place like this would exist without the Called to Common Mission to push us towards each other so intentionally.