A Formula of Agreement is a historic measure designed to heal the rift between the largest branch of the Lutheran church and several Reformed denominations. The document declares that a "full communion" exists between the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and three churches of the Reformed tradition--the Presbyterian Church U.S.A., the United Church of Christ, and the Reformed Church in America.
A Formula of Agreement originated from the work of the Lutheran-Reformed Committee for Theological Conversations, which concluded a series of four Lutheran-Reformed dialogues beginning in 1962. The report from the final round of dialogue, A Common Calling: The Witness of Our Reformation Churches in North America Today, expresses the doctrinal consensus reached in the dialogue process and is meant to be viewed together with A Formula of Agreement.
The Formula was approved by the RCA at the 1997 meeting of General Synod and by the other three denominations during their similar denominational meetings that same year.
"Full communion" is not a plan to merge; the four denominations continue to maintain their distinctive traditions and identities. Rather, the four agree to recognize the validity of each other's baptism, encourage the sharing of Holy Communion, and permit ministers from one denomination to serve in the other denominations. The pivotal concept in developing the Formula was that while differences between faith traditions must be acknowledged, even to the point of failing to reconcile, these differences are not church dividing so long as "the core traditions of the churches belong together within the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church" (A Formula of Agreement, p. 5).
More information available online:
- A Formula of Agreement
- The Orderly Exchange of Ministers of Word and Sacrament
Principles, Policies, and Procedures for churches participating in the Formula of Agreement