The Lutheran World Federation has lauded the full communion of Canada's Lutheran and Anglican churches, marked in an unprecedented Joint Assembly as a key development that can help global church unity.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) and the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) held their first fully integrated national gathering in Ottawa, from July 3 to 7 Lutheran World Information has reported.
The churches entered into a relationship of full communion, called the Waterloo Declaration in 2001, which means they work closely together in all respects, exchanging clergy and establishing joint congregations, while remaining separate church bodies.
At the meeting the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit expressed deep admiration for the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada for holding their first-ever joint assembly in Ottawa, Canada.
"You have refused to say 'I have no need of you' [1 Corinthians 12:21] but rather have said that with the other you can better live out your calling as churches here in Canada and the world," said Tveit, a Norwegian theologian.
"You do this in the context of belonging to a much bigger Christian family, therefore the efforts you make have the potential to transform beyond yourselves."
ELCIC has 145,000 members in 600 congregations in Canada while the Anglican Church in Canada has 545,000 members in nearly 2,800 congregations across the country. Both churches has faced shrinking congregations in recent years.
"What we see happening here in Canada between your two churches is also a great encouragement regarding one of our major commitments as a global Christian World Communion: the unity of the body of Christ," Lutheran World Federation general secretary, Rev. Martin Junge, told the Joint Assembly.
"What you are doing here in Ottawa … won't only go back to Calgary, Montreal and Vancouver. It will travel across the oceans and do something in Geneva, London, Dar es Salaam, Jerusalem, Hong Kong and Buenos Aires."
The Joint Assembly drew hundreds of Lutherans and Anglicans under the theme "Together for the love of the world."
Delegates from the two churches tackled issues such as responsible resource extraction, homelessness and how to engage in mission amid declining church membership.
"In a world wounded as it is, and in a context in which God's creation bleeds and suffers as it does, I am grateful for the direction that the commitment for unity is taking," said Junge.
Canadian Lutheran Bishop Susan C. Johnson said that "the whole point of full communion is to assist us and strengthen us in mission and ministry so that we can reach out in love and service to the world that God so dearly loves."
For Canadian Anglican Primate Archbishop Fred Hiltz, the joint assembly was "a meeting quite unlike any other meeting that has happened in the past. […] It's an exciting and historic moment for our churches"