Though they’re not merging, the nation’s two largest mainline Protestant denominations have agreed to share ministers and resources. The full-communion agreement, which was approved at the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s biennial assembly in Minneapolis, connects the 4.6 million–member ELCA with the United Methodist Church, which has 11 million members.
Church leaders said the measure is more than a matter of feel-good ecumenism. By enabling the sharing of ministers, missions and resources, the accord may toss a lifeline to the two denominations, both of which have steadily lost members for decades.
ELCA delegates voted 958 to 51 in favor of the accord and stood to applaud the measure. The UMC approved the agreement overwhelmingly at its General Conference last year.