The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) belongs to ecumenical councils or agencies as a way of living into our call to make visible the unity we have in Christ. PCUSA is a member of World Council of Churches, World Alliance of Reformed Churches, National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA, and Christian Churches Together.
Membership in these councils and relationships of full communion with other churches, mission, partnerships, and ecumenical dialogue are ways in which the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) seeks to express Christian unity. In accordance with this commitment, the 212th General Assembly (2000) voted to: “Affirm the intent of the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical Relations to design a process for review of councils and other ecumenical alliances to which the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) belongs.
Therefore, each General Assembly, the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations presents a review of PCUSA involvement with a specific council. These reports are available on PC-biz.org.
Why Ecumenical Dialogue?
Dialogues have many purposes. Some dialogues are designed to heal and address old divisions and differences. Some dialogues are for the purposes of mutual understanding and truth. All dialogues are with the prayer and hope of moving Christian churches and communities closer to visible unity, tearing down dividing walls, seeking reconciliation, and manifesting the wholeness that God intends for the Church and the whole of creation. The act of sitting down with other Christians and praying for openness and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, allows us to seek knowledge about beliefs, polity, and creeds without presuppositions. This understanding about our sisters and brothers leads to deeper understandings of our shared Christian faith and genuine respect for one another, both hallmarks of unity. The General Assembly approves upon the recommendation of the General Assembly Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations the formal dialogues in which we engage. Below is a list of recent dialogues and resources, including reports and article.
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), and its antecedents, has been a participant in the Catholic-Reformed dialogue for over 40 years. Over this period of time many documents have been published to memorialize understandings and provide a path for future conversations. The most recent dialogue was the eighth round in 2013. Below are links to some resources and guides from the Catholic-Reformed dialogue.
These Living Waters: Common Agreement on Mutual Recognition of Baptism: A Report of the Catholic Reformed Dialogue in the United States. 2003-2007
This Bread of Life: Report of the United States Roman Catholic-Reformed Dialogue on the Eucharist/Lord’s Supper. November 2010
Historically, Anglicanism and Presbyterianism grew up as cousins, if not siblings, in England, Scotland and later in Ireland and Wales, and these traditions were transplanted into the American context during the colonial period. Having had common roots in Britain, as well as in the colonies, and being generally of similar socio-economic and educational levels, Presbyterians and Episcopalians have over the years engaged in conversations towards unity on and off since the 1890s.
The current Presbyterian-Episcopal dialogue is a direct outgrowth of our common participation on the Consultation on Church Union. Read the report containing the agreements from the 2001-2006 dialogues.
As a result of the Dialogue, the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, the Reverend Gradye Parsons, and the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, stood together at the Lord’s Table and led the congregation in receiving Holy Communion at the 221st General Assembly (2014). Rev. Robina Winbush, Associate Stated Clerk for Ecumenical Relations reflected on this event after the General Assembly.
The Episcopal Church has published an overview of the Agreement with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for church members.
- Seventh-Day Adventist Dialogue
In 2006 an exploratory conversation began with representatives of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Christian Reformed Church in North American and the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and these church-to-church meetings became an official dialogue in 2010. Through the exchange of scholarly papers and hours spent in discussion, the two churches reached a deeper understanding and appreciation of each other’s beliefs and practices, removed many false stereotypes, and explored possible areas of cooperation. A deep level of friendship and fellowship developed as we acknowledged one another as brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ.
A report from the 2011 meeting gives a summary of discussion topics.
Presbyterian News Service reported on the final meeting in Battle Creek, Michigan in November 2013.
A final report of the dialogue was presented to the 221st General Assembly (2014) in Detroit Michigan and is available on PC-Biz.
What do Seventh-day Adventist believe? The Thoughtful Christian published a new study and it is available for purchase and download on their website.
Convener of the Seventh-day/Reformed Dialogue reflects on the importance of the dialogue process.
Churches Uniting in Christ (CUiC) is a dialogue and covenant relationship of communions dedicated to expressing unity in Christ by working together for justice and the end of racism. While the project was born in the 1960s as the Consultation on Church Union, in 2002 11 communions pledged to deepen their Christian commitment to unity with justice. Visit: www.churchesunitinginchrist.org.
The General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has approved and adopted several papers of CUiC including, A Statement of Ecumenical Consensus: Visible Marks of Churches Uniting in Christ.
CUiC together with the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has created a video exploring race and the church in the wake of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.
full communion or covenants
As a result of past dialogues and prayerful discernment, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has entered into full communion or covenants with particular denominations. The PCUSA is in full communion covenant relationship with:
Moravian-Reformed Covenant Partnership
In 1997, the relationship of the Reformed Church in America, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the United Church of Christ, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has been memorialized in the Formula of Agreement. This document outlines the meaning of “full communion” and how it affects relationships. The understanding and development of a process for the Orderly Exchange of Ministers is an important part of the Agreement.
Resources for Ecumenical Education and Formation
Ecumenical Institute of Bossey is the international center for encounter, dialogue and formation of the World Council of Churches. Founded in 1946, the Institute brings together people from diverse churches, cultures and backgrounds for ecumenical learning, academic study and personal exchange.
National Workshop on Christian Unity. An annual workshop designed to equip Christian leaders in the quest for unity. It is sponsored by the National Ecumenical Officers Association, for details visit their website.