Anglicans and Lutherans have developed very close ties since entering into full communion in 2001, but keeping those ties strong requires members of both churches to engage both prayerfully and candidly with each other, their representatives say.
Members of Council of General Synod (CoGS) and the Lutheran Nation Church Council (NCC) want to make sure both can happen when the churches meet for Joint Assembly in 2019.
“Full communion is a choice that we make every day,” said Archdeacon Michael Thompson, general secretary of the Anglican Church of Canada. “It is something that requires our daily attentiveness, because it is so easy to slip into the habit of thinking that one or the other of us is the norm and the other is the departure.”
Recent rumblings of discontent among some Anglicans over the decision by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) to allow lay people to preside over the eucharist in extraordinary circumstances have been a reminder that, as the Anglican Church of Canada’s primate Archbishop Fred Hiltz put it, full communion is still about “two autonomous churches that feel called by God to be a in a relationship with one another.”
Although two churches have been in full communion since 2001, the first time they brought their respective national bodies together for a joint assembly was in Ottawa in 2013. In 2019, they will meet for the second time, but will likely be following a different process.
“We don’t know how that meeting will be shaped,” said Thompson. “The churches have different things to do in different ways at that joint assembly, so it seems unlikely that we’re going to have the kind of joint assembly we had in Ottawa, where we begin and end at the same time.”
In order to get a sense for what that might look like, the joint meeting of CoGS and the NCC asked members to talk about the things they appreciated and the things they would like done differently in 2019.
“We think we should have the opportunity, as much as to celebrate our relationship, to really have an opportunity to get into some of the issues and challenges,” said Lt. Col. the Rev. Marc Torchinsky from the Anglican Military Ordinariate of Canada, noting in particular the controversy over authorized lay ministry. “Let’s not neglect the hard issues.”
At the same time, many members spoke warmly of the time spent in shared worship, and stressed the importance of giving Anglicans and Lutherans a chance to get to know each other on an individual basis.
The Rev. Paul Gehrs, assistant to Lutheran National Bishop Susan Johnson on justice and leadership, stressed “the value of table group discussion, because of how it maximizes the diversity of Anglican and Lutheran people coming from different geography and experiences.”
Any such shared time would need to be carefully planned in 2019, according to David Jones, chancellor of General Synod.
“In 2013, there was a lack of time for Anglican business—we got it done, but it was too tight,” he said. “In 2019, we think there will be some significant legislative business for Anglicans, so however it’s planned, we need to make sure there’s time to do that.”
The Joint Assembly will take place somewhere “in or around Vancouver,” Thompson said, because “it has been a long time since the Anglican church has held its national meeting in western Canada.”?