Canadian Lutheran churches appear to be faced with many of the same problems known to Canadian Anglicans.
These include shrinking congregations and an increased interest in weekly eucharist.
According to Susan Johnson, national bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), this is leading Lutherans to look at such measures as the use of ordained pastors as “circuit riders” bringing the eucharist to a number of parishes. Speaking here at the Oct. 22-25 joint meeting of the Anglican House of Bishops and Lutheran Conference of Bishops, she added there has also been pressure to revive a practice of permitting lay people to preside at the sacrament, as some Lutheran churches did at one time.
Bishop Johnson also spoke about joint partnerships between large urban and small rural parishes as well as “locally called” pastors ordained to serve their own parishes with less stringent educational requirements than exist for other pastors.
Her remarks led several bishops, Anglican and Lutheran, to discuss various proposals for opening up ordination more widely, especially among people already ministering to isolated communities. “If they are recognized in the community, what is stopping us from ordaining them as priests?” asked Anglican Bishop Larry Robertson of the Yukon, recalling his own recent service as suffragan bishop serving isolated communities in the eastern part of the diocese of the Arctic.
“We say they can do pastoral work and preach,” said Bishop Gregory Kerr-Wilson of the Anglican diocese of Qu’Appelle in southern Saskatchewan. “But we won’t lay hands on them and ordain them. What does that mean?”
But Suffragan Bishop Linda Nicholls of the Trent-Durham region of the Anglican diocese of Toronto said there has been a noticeable shift in some parishes away from insisting on weekly communion.