The Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) have approved in principle a plan to hold a second joint assembly in 2019.
The first joint meeting of the two churches’ governing bodies, which drew about 800 delegates, was held in Ottawa in 2013, with the full communion partners generally meeting as one group except when required to meet and vote as separate legal entities.
The Anglican House of Bishops and Lutheran Conference of Bishops met together on Nov. 17 and 18 in Niagara Falls, Ont., where the bishops heard a report from the Joint Anglican and Lutheran Commission (JALC) that included news of the joint assembly.
The report also highlighted the fact that Waterloo Ministries-where Anglican and Lutheran communities share clergy, facilities and programs-have grown from 32 to 82 ministries in the last few years. The report emphasized the point that for the majority of those ministries, the choice to work together was made from “a position of strength for common witness,” not from a survivalist point of view, said Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, in an interview.
Bishop Susan Johnson, national bishop of the ELCIC, spoke to the bishops about plans to mark the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Hiltz said that Johnson and the joint commission were careful to point out that they are not calling this a celebration “because they realize that one of the outcomes of that reformation was a splintering of the church, so they’re calling it a commemoration.” They are very keen to have their full communion partners and ecumenical partners participate in the events, he added. The theme will be “Liberated by God’s Grace” and the subthemes, to be examined from 2015 to 2017, are “Salvation Not for Sale”; “Human beings not for sale” (which will focus on trafficking); and “Creation not for sale.”
Hiltz said a report from JALC also pointed to a need for both churches to discuss the challenge of providing sacramental ministry in rural communities. Within Lutheran circles there is discussion about the possibility of lay people offering the eucharist, which is not being considered in the Anglican church, he said. “Our route around handling that situation has always been to look at locally raised priests, helping the community to discern who might in fact have the charism [gift] of priesthood and then to call that person, train and ordain them.”