Anti-racist activism could be an excellent opportunity for Lutheran and Anglican congregations to engage in grass-roots ecumenical action, says Pat Lovell, representative to Council of General Synod (CoGS) from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).
“We have this close relationship, we have power together, and I’d like to see us do more work together at the grassroots,” Lovell told CoGs in a November 19 partner’s reflection, noting that while both churches are involved in initiatives around responsible resource development, homelessness and poverty, there has been less co-operation on anti-racism.
Lovell said the recent defacement of a synagogue, a church and a mosque in Ottawa, is a reminder that racism and anti-Semitism remain problems in Canada.
Lovell began her reflection by joking that in the ELCIC National Church Council she is known as a “Luthercan” due to her long-term ecumenical involvement with Anglicans.
And while she praised the close relationship that exists between the two churches, which have been in a full communion relationship since 2001, she noted this partnership doesn’t always filter down to the parishes and congregations.
“While we work together at the national levels, at the staff levels, there are so many more things that we could do at a congregational level,” she said. “I think it’s time for us not just to focus on how we deal within our houses, but how we show and express ourselves to the world.”
Lovell’s report was followed by a reflection from Cynthia Haines-Turner, prolocutor for the Anglican Church of Canada and the CoGS representative to the ELCIC’s National Church Council (NCC).
Haines-Turner said that is “a lot that delights me with the Lutherans, and a fair bit that amazes,” noting that for such a small church-according to its website, the ELCIC counts approximately 114,592 baptized members-the ELCIC is quite active in global ministries as well as domestic social justice efforts such as sponsoring refugees.
“The work they produce is incredible,” said Haines-Turner. “It speaks of their commitment to their church, to their faith and to their mission.”
In particular, Haines-Turner spoke highly of the work the ELCIC has done in advance of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.
The ELCIC has issued a “Reformation challenge,” which involves sponsoring refugees, raising money for scholarships for schools, planting trees, and contributing to the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) endowment fund.
Haines-Turner said that the plan as brought to the NCC was to sponsor 50 refugees, provide 50 scholarships plant 50,000 trees, and raise $50,000 for the LWF fund, but the NCC decided to multiply each figure by 10.
It has already met and surpassed the new target for refugees, having sponsored more than 500 since the challenge began.
“I think, for a small church, that actually sums up who the Lutherans are,” said Haines-Turner. “It is better to aim high and fall short than to undersell ourselves.”