Jeanne Fomgbami from Cameroon joins worshippers in dance at the end of an ecumenical celebration. Shown with her are two of her children – Emmanuelle and Marina (left).
“I never dreamed it would be like this,” said Archbishop Michael Peers, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada as he reminisced before 1,000 Lutherans at the 10th Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation.
He was referring to the love that has grown during the past three decades between Anglicans and Lutherans in Canada. Full communion – the mutual recognition by the two churches of sacraments and clergy – became a reality in 2001 at Waterloo, Ont., but numerous local events paved the way.
Discovering how much was really going on with Canadian Lutherans and Anglicans at the grass-roots level was the brainchild of Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, the director of the Anglican church’s faith, worship and ministry department who also attended the international Lutheran gathering.
Ms. Barnett-Cowan’s department surveyed bishops early on during formal communications with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, asking what they knew about Anglicans in communion with Lutherans in their areas.
“We were amazed at how much the bishops reported, and began speculating there was a lot more the bishops might not even know about,” the primate said.
In Winnipeg, Anglicans at St. Bede’s church and Lutherans of St. Stephen’s church together formed the Mount Royal Centre in order to own equally the building in which both congregations worshipped. During the 1970s, then-Rev. Michael Peers, who was the incumbent at St. Bede?s, and the Lutheran pastor of the day collaborated in summer, so that when Archbishop Peers went on holidays, Sunday services were Lutheran, and when he filled in for his vacationing colleague, the services were Anglican.
“People accepted that and began appreciating another liturgy. They got to know one another in different contexts at study groups and social gatherings.” said Archbishop Peers.
“The funny thing is that this was not just a Canadian phenomenon,” he said. “Around the world the same thing was going on, particularly in Europe where Nordic and Baltic Lutherans were communing with Anglicans in Great Britain.”
He said a significant aspect of his walk with Lutherans is that it was punctuated with “almost unrelieved good news.” Part of the reason is that bishops of both churches in Canada agreed in 1995 to meet regularly for 10 years. “So far we are in our eighth year, and I would be astonished if we stopped meeting after 10,” he said. “We know each other, so when issues arise, we pick up the phone and talk with people we know.”
The 10th Assembly of the LWF in Winnipeg was a dream come true for the primate on the eve of his retirement – instant interpretation into four languages, 24-hour translation onto paper, Lutheran eucharists in Roman Catholic churches, Anglicans billeting Lutherans from around the world.
He will retire in February of 2004 and a new primate will be elected three months later at General Synod.
Irvin Kroeker is editor of Rupert?s Land News.