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Besides sharing the name of the same saint, the Anglican and Lutheran churches in West Northfield, Nova Scotia, share equal billing on a highway sign that points the way to the two buildings.

Side by side the church names are spelled out: St. Andrew's Anglican Church and St. Andrew's Lutheran Church. The panels are similar but distinct in that each bears the crest of its own national church.

The sign has been there for some 30 years. You could call it a sign of the times.

On July 6 in Waterloo, Ontario, the Anglican Church of Canada and Canada's largest Lutheran body, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, are expected to formally adopt The Waterloo Declaration-Called to Full Communion. It's being hailed as a major breakthrough in the movement toward Christian unity.

Full communion is not a merger or organic union. There is mutual recognition of each other's rites, services, sacraments, and clerical orders, but the two national churches will maintain their own individual identity, structures, and governance.

For many of the folks in the West Northfield area, adoption of full communion will affirm what area Lutherans and Anglicans have been about for decades, long before the two national churches approved the interim sharing of the Eucharist in 1989.

"We go back and forth, it's no big deal," says the Rev. Gloria McClure-Fraser, who serves six area congregations including St. Andrew's (Anglican). "We share a lot of theology which makes things a lot easier."

Ask the Rev. William Gustafason, who serves four congregations including St. Andrew's (Lutheran), about joint worship services, the interchangeability of clergy and the fact that Anglican young people attend Sunday school at his church.

"We've being doing things here for more than 30 years that Full Communion talks about," he'll reply. Somehow it all feels very comfortable and natural.

Yes, it does feel comfortable, Lawrence Bruhm, a lifelong Anglican, agrees. And necessary."We all try to work together, the best we can." says the retired school bus driver and small businessman. "Look at what's happening in Christianity and in religion today. If we don't work together, there won't be a lot going on."

Lifelong Lutheran and small businessman, Bruce Veinotte, suggests that a generation ago people would not have been talking along these lines. But this is a different era.

"People have to realize that if the Christian Church is going to survive, in this area anyway, they are going to have to work together," he says.

"There are going to be diehards that will go to their grave and not change," Veinotte says. "But in most cases they would get along together. The two churches are about a quarter mile from each other. Look out the door from either one and we could wave to each other if we wanted to. The idea of having two churches in a little community like ours… it's not necessary."

Lutherans and Anglicans share a common heritage. They emerged from the Reformation believing themselves to hold the same faith, to preach the same word, to celebrate the same sacraments, and to exercise the same ministry as the apostles. Yet, historically they have led separate and parallel existences.

Similarities between the two traditions are so striking that the Rev. Jon Fogleman, pastor at St. Paul's Lutheran Church, Guelph, Ontario, says Lutherans and Anglicans should have entered into full communion years ago. Fogleman, the Lutheran representative at the Anglican's Council of General Synod, raised some eyebrows when he compared the difference between Anglicans and Lutherans to the difference between Time and Newsweek. Take the covers off the magazines and you discover the same content. Others suggest it's a little more complex.

But Mr.Fogleman, a passionate supporter of full communion, stands by his analogy. As both magazines report the same news, he says, so Anglicans and Lutherans report the same "good news"-the Gospel.

Full communion, Mr. Fogleman says, is the "discovery of what we have in common rather than the discovery of new ground. The moment we vote for full communion, it's a whole new day for both churches. We will be sailing into uncharted waters which will raise questions about how we do church now."

It's not expected to be all plain sailing. Consider St. Jude Wexford, and the neighbouring Emmanuel Lutheran Church in west Toronto. After an earlier period of close ecumenical interaction, the two parishes now more or less go their own way. Relationships remain cordial, but the financially strapped Lutheran church with a dwindling congregation, is struggling just to survive. As a consequence it's directing its energy into outreach and evangelism.

Nevertheless, Diana Schnitzler quips that she is getting ready for full communion by having a foot in both churches. A cradle Anglican, she is a member of St. Jude, an affiliate member of Christ Lutheran Church in Scarborough, and attends Bible study and Wednesday evening service at Emmanuel Lutheran, located on the ground floor of a Lutheran seniors complex where she has an apartment.

"I'm very comfortable either way," says Schnitzler who is taking a lay ministry certificate course at Wycliffe College.When she and her husband lived in eastern Ontario they could not find an Anglican church in which they felt comfortable. So they both joined a Lutheran church.

In Port Alberni, B.C., Anglicans and Lutherans appear to have had a head start on full communion. Faced with a dwindling congregation and financial trouble, Christ the King Lutheran was faced with two choices: either close down completely as a congregation or join another church. The congregation opted for joining in shared ministry with St. Alban's Anglican Church with the Anglican priest as their pastor.

The two congregations now worship together, using the facilities and ordained ministry of St. Alban's, but maintain their separate identities. Every third Sunday there's a Lutheran service with full liturgy. The other Sundays there's an Anglican service.

Christ the King Lutheran still exists, though it no longer has a church building of its own, and it maintains its affiliation with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.

"It's all very smooth," says the Rev. Patrick Tomalin, who has been co-pastor at St. Alban's with his wife Dianne since February. "It's so seamless that it's hard to tell who is Lutheran and who is Anglican. And, nobody minds anyway."

What's happening at St. Albany is an example of what can happen if people put their minds to it, says Joe Hill, a chartered accountant and lifelong Anglican. "We welcomed them (the Lutherans) with open arms and it's all been very amicable," he says. "It's taking a little time for us to get used to their hymns. We are creatures of habit in that area. But, we will get on to that just as they will get on to ours."

Vera Seydel, a "Lutheran by birth," says the Lutheran congregation has never looked back since it threw in its lot with the local Anglicans.

"It's just wonderful," she says. "They did welcome us with open arms. We were a little nervous but we work very well together."

Mrs. Seydel will be a Lutheran delegate at Waterloo when the vote on full communion is taken. She will enthusiastically vote "yes."

Full communion, she says, can serve as an example for other Christian denominations especially in small towns such as Port Alberni. "There are more churches here than people," she says. "All sorts of them and they are all struggling."

(This resource was developed by the Anglican Church of Canada.)

 

Full Communion Facts

The Waterloo Declaration-Called to Full Communion specifically involves the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).

The Anglican Church with national offices in Toronto has about 750,000 members in 1,850 parishes and 30 dioceses across the country. There are about 2,000 active clergy.

The ELCIC, formed by the merger in 1986 of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Canada and the Lutheran Church in America-Canada Section, has about 200,000 baptized members in 642 congregations with about 650 clergy. Its national office is in Winnipeg.

Both churches are members of the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches. The ACC is a member of the worldwide Anglican Communion. The ELCIC is a member of the World Lutheran Federation.

Both churches were part of the Church in Western Europe before the 16th century Reformation and have been shaped by that reformation. They emerged from the Reformation believing themselves to hold to the same faith, to preach the same word, to celebrate the same sacraments and to exercise the same ministry as the apostles. Both churches have been established national churches in Europe.

Full communion is not a merger such as the organic union proposed between the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada that was rejected in 1975. Nor is it like the merger that created the ELCIC in 1986. To be in full communion means that churches become inter-dependent while remaining autonomous.

Full communion is described as a relationship between sister churches in the family of God. Although one family, each Church maintains its own individual ministry. There is mutual recognition that both churches hold the essentials of the Christian faith and that both are part of the universal Christian Church.

Full communion implies a community of life, an exchange and a commitment to one another with respect to major decisions on questions of faith, order and morals. It implies, where churches are in the same geographical area, increased opportunity for common worship, study, witness, evangelism, and promotion of justice, peace and love.

A significant factor in the agreement is the acknowledgment and affirmation of each other's ministries. Both churches agree to make the following commitments:

  • To welcome persons ordained in either church to the office of bishop, priest/pastor or deacon to serve in that ministry without reordination.

  • To invite one another's bishops to participate in the laying on of hands at the ordination of bishops as a sign of the unity and continuity of the Church and to invite pastors and priests to participate in the laying on of hands at the ordination of pastors and priests in each other's churches.

  • To consult with one another regarding developments in our understanding of the ministry of all the baptized, including the ordained ministry.

  • To encourage regular consultation and collaboration among members of both churches at all levels, to promote the formulation and adoption of agreements for work in mission and ministry, and to facilitate learning and exchange of ideas and information on theological, pastoral and mission matters.

Among other things, full communion will mean:

  • Transferability of members between two churches;

  • Communicant members welcomed at each other's altars;

  • Clergy may officiate in each other's service-an interchangeability of ministers;

  • Strengthening resources for mission and ministry at all levels;

  • Encouraging and enabling consultation and working together on major decisions affecting the church at all levels;

  • Greater opportunities for fellowship with other Christians;

  • Shared ministries of various descriptions.

Neither church sees the full communion agreement as necessarily a step towards union of both churches. Rather it is seen as a step towards union of the Christian Church as a whole.

(This resource was developed by the Anglican Church of Canada.)

 

Full Communion History

Lutherans and Anglicans share a common heritage. Both were shaped by the 16th century Reformation that split the Christian Church. Relations between the two traditions go back to the Reformation's early days, yet, historically, they have lived separate and parallel existences.

Politics, geography and the contentious issue of the role and authority of bishops have all conspired to keep the two traditions at arm's length.

On the international scene, the current dialogue between Lutherans and Anglicans began after the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, which heralded a major breakthrough in ecumenical relationships. At the initiative of the 1968 Lambeth Conference-the worldwide meeting of Anglican bishops every ten years-and the Lutheran World Federation, dialogue between the two churches got underway in 1970.

In North America, dialogue between major Lutheran bodies in the United States and the Episcopal Church started in 1969 and culminated in last year's declaration of full communion by the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America. The Lutheran Church had earlier rejected the proposal.

Prompted by what was going on internationally and in the United States, Canadian Anglicans and Lutherans formed the Canadian Lutheran Anglican Dialogue. (In 1986, the two Lutheran groups merged to form the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.)

Topics for discussion included authority in the church, polity, ministry and ordination and the question of what is essential and necessary for the church. It led to approval of interim sharing of the Eucharist in 1989 and adoption of a series of identical recommendations that altered the churches' relations with each other.

Dialogue has also led to the Waterloo Declaration-Called to Full Communion, which will be voted on in Waterloo by delegates attending Anglican and Lutheran conventions. Both conventions are being held at the same time but at different venues.

The office of bishop was, and continues to be, an important item for discussion. Anglicans believe that the office of bishop is essential in the church. Lutherans, while recognizing the importance of the office, have tended to see bishops more as pastors who have been elected for a term for regional or national administrative duties.

The mutual recognition of the ordained ministries was a major focus of an international meeting of Lutherans and Anglicans in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in 1987. The Niagara Report issued several recommendations on the issue of bishops and said there was an understanding that neither of the churches was asking the other to give up an important part of its heritage, nor was it casting aspersions on the other's history and tradition.

Conversations among Lutherans and the move to adopt the episcopacy in the number of Lutheran churches that had not previously had bishops (at least by that title), has made it more possible for Anglicans to recognize themselves in their Lutheran counterparts. As discussions between the two traditions developed, Anglican leaders agreed to broaden their understanding of apostolic succession to recognize Lutheran bishops.

(This resource was developed by the Anglican Church of Canada.)

 

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