Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and ELCIC national bishop Bishop Susan Johnson at the 2013 Joint Assembly. Photo: Art Babych
When the national governing bodies of both churches met together for the first time in 2013, they agreed in principle to hold a second Joint Assembly in 2019. In a joint statement released Thursday, February 2, ELCIC national bishop Susan Johnson and Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, say organizers from both churches have been working to put the plan in place, with Vancouver chosen as host city.
However, Hiltz and Johnson say they now foresee a number of challenges standing in the way of a 2019 Joint Assembly—including insufficiencies of money and of time, given the busy agendas expected for both General Synod and the ELCIC’s National Convention, and the difficulty of finding appropriate meeting places.
“One of the realizations that has come to light is the challenge around aligning our two gatherings in a way that feels meaningful and in the best spirit of Full Communion,” the statement says. “Part of this is simply the mass of work before our two national bodies in the governance of each of our churches.
“There are also logistical concerns—finding venues that work for both our churches simultaneously has proven to be a real challenge,” it continues, adding that organizers face the additional challenge of mounting an event that would be “within the financial constraints” of the ELCIC and within the time requirements of the Anglican Church of Canada.
Hiltz and Johnson say they did not relish the possibility of rushed meetings and harried assembly members.
“The prospect of a Joint Assembly where we are each hurrying through agenda and scrambling on and off buses to commute to one another’s venue in order to accommodate time together was not a prospect that we welcomed,” the statement continues. “We are both very mindful of the need of both our churches to have adequate time to do the work they must do. Both of us would also want the maximum amount of time together in Joint Assembly.”
As a result, the two national church leaders proposed to the councils of their respective assemblies—ELIC’s National Church Council and the Anglican Church of Canada’s Council of General Synod—to reschedule the Joint Assembly to 2022, “in a venue that will accommodate the national bodies of both our groups together, as well as providing separate meeting places for the work unique to each of our churches.” They also proposed that planning for the 2022 Joint Assembly start immediately.
The proposal was passed by both councils in a vote by email, Hiltz and Johnson say. They add that they believe holding the Joint Assembly in 2022 will provide an opportunity to celebrate more than two decades of the two churches’ full communion relationship.
The Anglican Church of Canada and the ELCIC voted for full communion in 2001, after 15 years of talks. The relationship allows members to worship and take communion in each other’s churches, and clergy from each church to preside at one another’s services.
Hiltz and Johnson conclude the statement by thanking God “for all who are at work in hundreds of places across our two churches to realize the Full Communion relationship that has been written so deeply on our hearts.”
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Tali Folkins has worked as a staff reporter for the Law Times and the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal. His writing has appeared in The Globe and Mail and The United Church Observer.
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