Lutheran/Reformed ‘Formula of Agreement’

Centuries of division between the Lutheran and Reformed branches of Protestant Christianity came to an end in 1997 when three Reformed churches (including the UCC) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America agreed on a relationship of full communion through a “Formula of Agreement.” A few years earlier, Reformed and Lutheran churches in Europe—where the division between the two Protestant families dates back to the time of Luther and Calvin—agreed to a similar reconciliation through the Leuenberg Agreement.

The Formula:

— acknowledges common historical roots between the two traditions, with a deeply shared theological and liturgical heritage.

— moves beyond the historic 16th-century condemnations that divided Lutheran and Reformed Christians.

— accepts the reality that there are important theological, spiritual and liturgical differences between the two traditions, but that these are not church-dividing, but rather a gift to each other.

— celebrates the potential for shared mission and ministry as the two traditions grow closer.

The United Church of Christ is the only church in the relationship that has roots in both the Reformed and Lutheran heritage. Our “German Evangelical” tradition drew from the wells of both Reformed and Lutheran Christianity. Many UCC congregations of our “German Reformed” tradition—especially in historically German-American communities in Pennsylvania—have lived together with Lutheran congregations as “union churches” since the 18th century.

 Links to Resources

General Synod: 1997 vote for Formula of Agreement
Text of Formula of Agreement
Orderly Exchange of Ministers of Word and Sacrament
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America [ELCA website]
Presbyterian Church (USA) [PCUSA website]
Reformed Church in America [RCA website]