Anglicans, Lutherans present united witness of their faith

 — May 2, 19982 mai 1998

by Virginia Battiste, Saskatoon Star Phoenix

Jesus prayed that all believers might be one. In Saskatoon, two churches are close to achieving that goal.

After several years of dialogue on national and international fronts, the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) are moving towards establishing closer ties that would include shared communion and common ministry.

While this is partly the outgrowth of the tide of ecumenism that has swept through many Christian churches, ELCIC Bishop of Saskatchewan, Allan Grundahl, says it is primarily rooted in scripture.

“Our action arises out of the ecumenical context of the past two decades, but it is the High Priestly Prayer of Jesus that is the real basis for our moving together. In John 17, Jesus prays that all believers might be one. He calls for a conscious oneness so that the world will believe. It needs to be obvious to the world that there is a unity among us, as believers, before others will believe.”

Grundahl says there are some good reasons for the dialogue and action between the ELCIC and Canadian Anglicans.

“As Anglicans and Lutherans, we share the same basic beliefs and teachings so we are open to working with each other. We are still active ecumenically on other fronts, but it is also a case of not being able to do everything at the same time.”

The issue of closer ties between the two churches was under discussion at the Saskatchewan Synod of the ELCIC Biennial Conference in Saskatoon last weekend. Grundahl says the conference delegates voted to commend the study document produced by the two churches national levels, “Called to Full Communion,” to the local congregations and conferences for discussion. The national ELCIC will then vote on the matter at their national conference scheduled for July 1999 in Regina.

Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Saskatoon, Tom Morgan, was in attendance at the ELCIC conference and fielded questions about the closer co-operation of the two churches. He says there has been a long history to the discussions that have culminated with the Canadian document.

“Our history is directly parallel to what is going on in other parts of the world. The American churches have preceded the Canadian churches in these discussions and the same discussions are going on between the European churches. The Canadian Lutheran-Anglican Dialogue (CLAD) began in 1983. A report was released in 1989 that astonished and encouraged our congregations when it was discovered we had such an overlapping Reformation history.”

While both churches had already established open communion for all, the practice of allowing any baptized Christian to receive communion without membership or involvement in the particular church, Morgan says this practice was formalized between the two churches in 1989.

“We established interim eucharistic sharing which meant essentially that we were extending hospitality to each others members at the Eucharist, without any formalities. We said to each other that the baptized members of the other church were welcome at each other’s altars or the Lord’s Table.”

Grundahl says the attitudes of the two churches to the eucharist are very similar.

“We both stress the real presence of Christ in the sacrament, and for us that is quite sufficient. Both of us have already had eucharistic hospitality for all the baptized, so this is not a new part of our growing together. It is an official recognition of it, even though we have been doing it for quite a while.”

The formal agreement on eucharist sharing set the stage for the commitment to work toward full communion by the year 2001.

According to Morgan, full communion will include recognition of the other’s clergy, allowing for interchangeability of ministry between Anglican and Lutheran clergy. It also means interchangeability of liturgy and membership between the member churches. This has implications for areas like Saskatchewan with its large rural population. It will mean that in both rural and urban communities where there are ELCIC and Anglican churches, one clergyperson may serve both.

Morgan says this interchangeability means there is a recognition between the two churches that each has preserved the apostolic faith and ministry.

“We recognize in the Lutheran Church the apostolic order within the form of ministry they have embraced, and that they have guarded the apostolic faith, proclaimed the evangel, and maintained the Word and Sacraments in the same way that we understand the Anglican Church to have done. We both recognize that the apostolic faith is not guarded just by the lineage of the ordained clergy but by the whole church.”

However, Morgan hastens to add that full communion does not mean there will be structural union of the two churches as there was at union for the churches that joined to become the United Church.

“I think it is significant that we are not going the route of organizational union where it could founder in trying to bring together the canons, constitutions and confessional documents. That might happen one day, but that is not part of what is happening right now.”

Grundahl goes on to point out that this agreement does not include all Lutherans in Canada.

“There are two major Lutheran churches in North America. The ELCIC represents about two-thirds of the Lutherans in Canada. The other one-third are members of the Lutheran Church Canada, which is the same as the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod in the United States. They are not a part of this growing together. There are another five per cent of Lutherans in a dozen or more other tiny Lutheran groups. These are not involved in this either.”

In fact, Grundahl says, there are closer ties between ELCIC and the Anglican Church than with fellow Lutherans in Canada.

Grundahl and Morgan say the formal agreement for full communion between the ELCIC and Anglican Church of Canada is expected to be approved, and fully implemented, at the national conventions of the two churches scheduled to occur simultaneously in 2001.

Posted: May 2, 1998 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: Anglican Church of Canada, Christian unity, ecumenism, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, full communion, Lutheran
Transmis : 2 mai 1998 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : Anglican Church of Canada, Christian unity, ecumenism, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, full communion, Lutheran

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