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May 9, 2012

Lutheran, Anglican leaders visit Jerusalem

National leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) will visit their counterparts in Jerusalem May 15 to 21 to discuss the development of full communion ministry in the Middle East.

National Bishop Susan C. Johnson (ELCIC) and Archbishop Fred Hiltz (ACC) will describe how the Anglican-Lutheran partnership evolved in Canada and encourage Bishop Munib Younan (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land) and Bishop Suheil Dawani (Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem) as they take their own steps towards a similar relationship.

The trip was first suggested by leaders of their respective international bodies, the Lutheran World Federation and the Anglican Communion.

“We know the benefit both personally and as churches of this form of deeper partnership and are excited about sharing our experiences as we have travelled this road together,” said Bishop Johnson.

“It is especially important that in Jerusalem, the birthplace of Christianity, we do all that we can to support and encourage the remaining Christian population.

Christians are a minority in the Jerusalem region. They struggle to work towards peace with justice in Palestine and Israel. They also struggle with declining numbers as Christians emigrate elsewhere.

Joint mission work is one way to respond to their challenges. In Canada, Lutherans and Anglicans have been in a full communion partnership since 2001. This means mutual recognition of baptisms, interchangeability of clergy, and many areas of cooperative mission work, including joint advocacy against homelessness and global poverty.

In 2013 the denominations will hold their first joint national assembly in Ottawa.

Lutherans and Episcopalians (Anglicans) in the Middle East are just starting to explore the potential of such joint work. Bishop Younan and Bishop Dawani worked alongside each other as local ministers in Ramallah, Palestine. Now they have started to chart steps for larger-scale cooperation. Recently they appointed co-chairs of a joint Anglican-Lutheran Commission for their regions: the Rev. Sven Oppegaard (Lutheran) and the Rev. Canon John L. Peterson (Anglican).

Canadian Lutherans and Anglicans have longstanding, deep ties to the Middle East. Bishop Johnson and Archbishop Hiltz have both visited Jerusalem and their denominations have passed national resolutions that pledged to journey with Christians in that region through prayer and other means of support.

Recently Canadian Anglicans have started the Companions of the Diocese of Jerusalem group to raise awareness and funds for the diocese, which extends over Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, and Syria. A companionship relationship is also emerging between Ottawa and Jerusalem.

Canadian Lutherans are active in the region through their partners, Canadian Lutheran World Relief and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), which support a hospital and a vocational training centre in East Jerusalem. Bishop Younan has served as president of LWF since 2010.

With such rich and complex histories undergirding the trip, the Canadian delegation hopes that this visit will deepen a sense of joint mission for all involved.

“We’re really going there not to tell them how to do it,” said Archbishop Hiltz. “We want simply to share the Canadian story—the significant moments in our journey, some of the high points, the challenges, and the realities of what it’s like to live in full communion.”

The Canadian delegation also includes the co-chairs of the Joint Anglican Lutheran Commission Bishop Michael Pryse (Lutheran) and the Very Rev. Peter Wall (Anglican) as well as the Anglican Church of Canada’s Director of Resources for Mission and Communications and Information Resources Vianney (Sam) Carriere.

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is Canada's largest Lutheran denomination with 145,376 baptized members in 594 congregations. It is a member of the Lutheran World Federation, the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches.

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