Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, said that “an emerging focus around mission” characterized a spring gathering of the third Anglican-Lutheran International Commission (ALIC) in Chennai, India.
Meeting from April 28 to May 5, the group discussed “how Anglicans and Lutherans approach mission, how they understand it, how they carry it out,” said Archbishop Hiltz, co-chair of ALIC, which oversees Anglican-Lutheran relationships worldwide. “Within that focus there was yet another focus around diakonia, which is the servant ministry of the church,” he said.
In the three years that he has co-chaired the ALIC, Arcbishop Hiltz said that he has noted “movement and progress around a common understanding of what we call ecclesiology, that is, the nature of the church.” There has also been progress around such issues as, “What do we mean by the visible unity of the church? What does that really mean? What might that look like?” He added that they have also “gone deep on the ecclesiological question of, ‘what is the church in the world for, anyway?'”
The commission received reports from various regions where Anglicans and Lutherans are present and exercise ministry together.
“In some parts of the world, they’ve got agreements like we have in Canada, the Waterloo Declaration. (The 2001 accord brought the Canadian Anglican and Evangelical churches closer together in a relationship called full communion.) Different places have different agreements. Some places are not at a point where they actually have an agreement,” said Archbishop Hiltz. “We are at different stages in our dialogue.”
“Regional check-ins” are important because concerns and challenges are brought to light, he said. “As they do that, they may hear from other members of the commission from different regions who have already addressed a similar challenge.”
Archbishop Hiltz underscored the value of holding the ALIC’s meetings in different regions of the world, noting that the commission always creates space in its agenda to engage with the local church. “That engagement is everything from bringing in leaders from all over the church to tell us their story” to worshipping in local churches, he said.
In a communique released after its meeting, the ALIC welcomed the re-activation of the All Africa Anglican-Lutheran Commission. Archbishop Hiltz noted that when the commission first met in Moshe, Tanzania, the African members of the commission and the local bishops and clergy had reported that their regional grouping “was at a kind of low ebb, primarily because they were so absorbed in trying to cope with HIV-AIDS” in their areas. He added: “As they said, until the people and leadership of the church can see … Anglicans and Lutherans working together on the ground to address this immediate, in-your-face issue, dialogue doesn’t make sense. Why would we have this conversation if you’re not following through on action on the ground?” There was a recognition of “a bit of a need for some renewed leadership in the conversation,” he said. “Lo, and behold, at this meeting, we heard that (its) work has been rekindled … they’ve got a plan laid out for the next couple of years whereby Lutheran and Anglican bishops will meet, theologians and clergy will meet.”
The commission also discussed the proposed Anglican Covenant. “One of the big concerns at the joint commission (meeting) last year, as we heard from the other provinces, and certainly, from the Lutherans, was the concern around a growing authority for the primates’ meetings,” said Archbishop Hiltz. (At last year’s meeting, the commission said it had “extensive discussions” on the first draft of the covenant, and “offered a response from the perspective of the document’s potential impact on ecumenical relations between the two communions.”)
The Lutheran World Federation, in co-operation with the United Evangelical Lutheran Church in India, hosted the ALIC meeting.