International and ecumenical guests brought greetings to members of Joint Assembly on Thursday morning, and they all offered some words of inspiration about the meeting’s theme, “Together for the Love of the World.”
Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, thanked the Anglican Church of Canada for “its quite exceptional commitment to the life of the Anglican Communion.” He mentioned Canadian efforts to add a sixth Mark of Mission about reconciliation, which resulted in the Anglican Consultative Council deciding to amend the fourth mark to read “to seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.”
Kearon also noted a number of Canadians who are contributing their time and talent to the work of the Communion, such as Bishop Patrick Yu, chair of the international evangelism and church growth initiative, and Adele Finney, who has taken a prominent role in the Anglican Alliance. Kearon, however, said he reserved his most sincere thanks to Anglican Church of Canada for “the very special gift” of Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, General Synod’s former director of Faith, Worship and Ministry who is now the Communion’s director of Unity, Faith and Order, responsible for ecumenical and full communion dialogues throughout the Communion.
Barnett-Cowan also addressed the Joint Assembly, and said it was a delight to be back in Canada and to see how much the two churches had grown in their full communion relationship. In her global ecumenical work, it is clear that “Lutherans are Anglicans closest cousins,” she said, noting that their ecumenical gatherings are a bit like family reunions. “We know lots of the same stories. We have a lot of shared customs. We tell old jokes we both get. But just as with family reunions, there are times when we look at each other and say ‘How can he or she do that? Where did that come from?’ And if we are good friends, we will find out. There’s always the danger we will say, ‘They’re just too weird, let’s not ask them next time…’ So these gatherings are important because they enable us to live together more deeply and more honestly.”
The Rev. Martin Junge, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation, brought greetings from the communion of 141 churches in 70 countries, which he said brings together more than 70 million people. “It is my particular joy to be able to join you,” he said, noting that the integrated meeting of the two churches’ governing bodies is an inspiring example of unity in the body of Christ. “What you are doing here in Ottawa, dear sisters and brothers, won’t only travel to Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver; it will travel across the oceans and do something in Geneva, in London, Dar es Salaam, Jerusalem…”
Katharine Jefferts Schori, the presiding bishop of The Episcopal Church, which operates in 17 countries including the U.S., Colombia, Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Taiwan, had this to say about the theme: “Together for the love of the world,” she advised the members, “does not mean identical forms and structures. It does mean honouring the gifts that God has already planted that they might flourish in ways that can bless the world. The fullness of the gospel can only be known and lived in the diversity of the whole world.”
Jefferts Schori also noted that she and Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, Bishop Susan Johnson, the national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and Mark Hanson, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, have started meeting annually to “to try to discover ways and strategies for working together, that is beginning to bear fruit. Together our four churches have missional possibilities in many, many different places, and all it really takes is the will to develop them.”
Bishop Mark Hanson challenged the members of Joint Assembly with some tough questions. “The question before us is these days is ‘What shall be the face of Christianity in North America in the next 10 years? Shall it be an increasingly vanishing face? Or shall it be the face of a cairn?’ “he asked, describing the importance of stone cairns for travellers needing directions. “A cairn is a gathering of stones scattered but then piled up, and a cairn can have two functions. It can be a monument, a memorial to the past or it can be a pointing of the way.”