This article first appeared in the Mar. 2013 issue of Anglican Journal.
In 2001, after many years of discussion, the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) broke new ecumenical ground by entering into full communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC). Called the Waterloo Declaration, the agreement was signed during the two churches’ respective national meetings in Waterloo, Ont.
Now in their 12th year of common mission-which includes sending representatives to each other’s executive councils-the ACC and ELCIC are poised to take another giant step: a full joint assembly to be held this July, as the triennial General Synod and its biennial ELCIC equivalent, National Convention, take place simultaneously at the new Ottawa Convention Centre.
“We live in a world where a lot of forces are conspiring to divide us and break people apart,” says the Rev. Dr. Michael Pryse, bishop of the ELCIC’s Eastern Synod and co-chair of the ACC-ELCIC joint commission. “This is a significant step toward trying to put God’s world back together.”
Pryse adds that this concurrent meeting of two denominations’ highest legislative bodies will provide a unique public witness under the thematic banner Together for the Love of the World. “The two denominations are not merging, but when we combine in this way, our capacity for mission as churches is enhanced.”
The two groups-about 600 Lutherans and 400 Anglicans-will separate into denomination-specific sessions in closed-off sections of a large convention centre room, but will come together in the open room for their joint agenda, which relates primarily to issues of mission. “We will worship, eat and party together and also participate together in a public liturgical procession planned to end on Parliament Hill,” says Pryse.
The guiding principle for the July assembly is that the two denominations will do everything they can together, separating only for business exclusive to one or the other. “All of the reporting from the Primate’s World Development Fund and Canadian Lutheran World Relief, for example, as well as work on our international relationships, is being done together,” says the Very Rev. Peter Wall, joint commission co-chair and dean of the diocese of Niagara
Speaking at the assembly will be the Rev. Dr. Christopher Duraisingh, a professor of applied theology at Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., who will deliver the opening keynote address and also reflect on the entire proceedings at the close. Other international guests will include representatives from the Anglican Communion, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Council of Churches, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and The Episcopal Church in the United States of America.
The coming event is raising expectations across the country. “What I actually hope is for Anglicans and Lutherans to find a way to incarnate the full communion,” says the Rev. Christian Schreiner, a Lutheran pastor from Bavaria who is dean of Holy Trinity Anglican Cathedral in Quebec City, where there are no Lutheran churches. “We committed to do everything together that can be done together, and this is an opportunity to really live up to that promise.” In his view, the assembly will send a powerful message to the world. “At a time when you hear so much talk about divisions, even schisms in the church of God, here are two churches that venture to incarnate their full communion.”