Full communion approved

Published September 1, 2001

After the vote on full communion, both synods were presented with baskets of bread and two bottles of wine by one another’s partners to their executive councils. Lutherans Rev. Gordon Jensen (L) and Dr. Jon Fogelman made the presentation at the Anglican General Synod.

Waterloo, Ont.

Canadian Anglicans and Lutherans voted overwhelmingly to bring their joint membership of 900,000 into full communion and a new, closer partnership.

The vote, which brought to a head more than 15 years of talks between the two churches, came in July during parallel meetings of their two chief governing bodies in session a couple of miles apart from each other.

In the end, the overwhelming acquiescence to full communion provided little controversy, yet still remained a moment of high emotion, with delegates at both meeting acutely aware that they were making history.

At an emotional press conference held jointly with the Lutherans shortly after the vote, Anglican primate Archbishop Michael Peers described the mood of the Anglican synod, meeting at Waterloo University, as “awash with tears, starting with me.”

Anxiety over the future of the Anglican Church of Canada, which faces bankruptcy over litigation costs from residential schools lawsuits, was temporarily swept aside as 300 Anglican synod members celebrated the historic vote with a long, spontaneous standing ovation, followed by the singing of Praise Him From Whom All Blessings Flow.

Moments later, synod members again leapt to their feet and applauded as Archbishop Peers took a cell phone call which confirmed that members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, meeting at Wilfrid Laurier University, had also approved full communion.

Following their vote the Lutherans also stood, and according to their outgoing bishop Telmor Sartison “clapped and clapped and clapped – there was a passion that I had never expected.” The Lutherans too, then burst into song, singing The Church is One Foundation.

The motion to adopt and implement The Waterloo Declaration – Call to Full Communion, which brings the two churches closer but stops short of an actual merger, was moved at the Anglican General Synod by Bishop Fred Hiltz of Nova Scotia and P.E.I., and seconded by Archdeacon James Cowan, who is Anglican co-chair of the joint working group.

“We have discovered that we belong to and are at home with one another, and are genuine companions in the body of Christ,” said Bishop Hiltz.

Full communion will mean that Anglicans and Lutherans can freely worship and take communion in one another’s churches, and their clergies may officiate at one another’s services.

The churches also commit themselves to regular collaboration and consultation, and to inviting one another’s bishops to participate in the laying on of hands at the ordination of bishops as a sign of unity.

Pastors and ministers from each church will attend one another’s ordinations as a further act of unity. The declaration, delegates were told, is only the first of many steps as the new relationship unfolds.

Part of the declaration calls for the establishment of a joint commission to oversee the new relationship.

Bishop Hiltz said that the two churches affirm each other’s expression of episcopal ministry, and “? we understand the bishops of both churches to be ordained for life service in the Gospel in the pastoral ministry of the historic episcopate.” Previously Lutheran bishops were elected for terms of four years at a time, and were not considered to be bishops for life, as they are in the Anglican church.

The Anglican vote passed without debate, but there was one key dissenter among bishops, who vote separately from laity and clergy. Bishop Anthony Burton of Saskatchewan said Lutherans and Anglicans do not share a common view of holy orders.

The Lutheran vote did include some debate, although most speakers were in favor. Some concern was expressed about the relative size of the two churches – 700,000 Anglicans, as compared to 200,000 Lutherans.

Bishop Sartison’s successor, bishop-elect Raymond Schultz, said it will be his role to work out protocols for the agreement. He said the partnership “will create a whole bunch of relationships that we haven’t even begun to imagine”


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