What Might a United Parish Look Like
Zion’s-First Lutheran Church
Ambridge United Presbyterian Church

Presentation by Pastor Peter Asplin – Assistant to the SW PA Synod’s Bishop (ELCA)

May 1, 2022

• The ELCA and the PC USA recognize each other as churches in which the gospel is rightly
preached and the sacraments rightly administered according to the Word of God;
• They withdraw any historic condemnation by one side or the other as inappropriate for
the life and faith of our churches today;
• continue to recognize each other's Baptism and authorize and encourage the sharing of
the Lord's Supper among their members;
• recognize each others' various ministries and make provision for the orderly exchange of
ordained ministers of Word and Sacrament;
• establish appropriate channels of consultation and decision-making within the existing
structures of the churches;
• pledge themselves to living together under the Gospel in such a way that the principle
of mutual affirmation and admonition becomes the basis of a trusting relationship in
which respect and love for the other will have a chance to grow.

Commonality between ELCA and PC USA
• Believe in Jesus
• Baptize infants and adults
• Celebrate Holy Communion
• Study the Bible
• “Do Justice, Love Kindness, Walk Humbly”
• Gather for Worship
• Administer groups of Christians using faithfully democratic methods
• Both the PCUSA (Book of Order) and ELCA (Constitution) welcome “joint witnesses” to
the Gospel when ELCA and PCUSA Congregations Formally join
The purpose of a union congregation is the same as the individual congregations:
to gather the people of God around Word and Sacrament
to bear Christ’s creative and redeeming Word to all the world
to love and serve others as Christ loved and served us
The ministry of two congregations shares an intimate bond

• Mission
• Ministry

• Worship
• Facilities
There is good reason to believe that together the administrative responsibilities are
easier to bear leaving the community free to focus on Word, Sacrament, Mission and
Synod & Presbytery Wish to Support your Joint Community in

• Forming your Vision
• Executing your vision

Union Congregation

• Two individual Congregations Cease to Exist
• All assets transfer to new (surviving) corporation

Federated Congregation

• Two separate congregations [one ELCA, one PCUSA] (with councils, annual
meetings and parochial reports)
• Has a representative body governing day to day operations and setting policies
and plans
Union Congregation:
• Has a PCUSA Constitution
• Has an ELCA Constitution
• Has a “Plan of Union” outlining how we function
• Adopted by Both Congregations (2/3 vote for PCUSA)
• Agreed to by the Synod & the Presbytery
• In the end, one corporation owns all the assets, financial and real, and takes on all
liabilities, that corporation is governed under the plan of union
• May have a pastor from either denomination, under contract and/or appropriate
• Has a Congregation Council
• May choose to use the “clerk/moderator” model or the “pastor & president” or “pastor
as president” model – based on your choice
• Reports membership to presbytery/synod 50/50
• Mission Support/Apportionment shall be given as council/congregation directs

If it became necessary – may be dissolved by 2/3 vote at 2 congregation meetings, assets
divided 50/50 between presbytery and synod
Federated Congregation
• Both Congregations Continue to exist (councils must meet, congregations must meet,
parochial reports must be completed)

• Joint Witness Congregation may be incorporated in order to hold assets and pay bills
(i.e. receive donations and pay salaries and mission support/apportionment)
• Joint Witness Congregation will have a “representative body elected by the members of
the federated congregation”
• May be dissolved by 2/3 votes at two meetings of the federated congregation. Assets of
the federated congregation split 50/50 between two original congregations
Don’t Let Bureaucracy Get In the Way of Mission

• What has already accomplished is incredible!
• Having less “administrative work” for limited volunteers is a primary goal
• Living together in trust and hope is a certainty
• Getting it done will be work, but the work will lessen afterwards
• We plan with a vision of hope, while also appropriately preparing for challenges that
might come
Home Work:
• Questions, Challenges, Comments
• Read your constitutions and the appropriates documents describing what you’re doing
from ELCA and PCUSA
• Council/Session – Consider what path, and start working on agreement for
union/federation –
• Consult Presbytery/Synod along the way
• Take your time, do it right
• Synod & Presbytery requirements – must sign off on any agreements
• Congregations both vote to approve the union or federation