Hailing this past weekend the enactment of a full communion agreement between the United Church of Canada and the United Church of Christ in the U.S., Anglican Church of Canada primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, said he is eagerly looking forward to more ecumenical co-operation in the future.
The two churches, which had been exploring the idea of full communion since 2013, approved an agreement at their general synod and general council meetings this summer, but it was not officially enacted until a ceremony in Niagara Falls, Ont., October 17. Congregations of both churches marked the agreement with a special common prayer the following day.
According to the agreement, the full communion is marked by five key features: the common confession that “God is in Christ”; the mutual recognition of each other’s members and baptisms; the common celebration of the Lord’s supper/holy communion; the mutual recognition of each other’s ordained ministries; and a common commitment to the mission of each church.
“It is with joy that I extend my fraternal greetings as the United Church of Canada and the United Church of Christ consummate their new relationship of full communion,” Hiltz said in a statement Saturday. “As united and uniting churches, both of your denominations have at your very heart a vision of the full visible unity to which Christ calls his church, and you have inspired other Christians with this vision by the daring manner in which you have expressed it through organic union.”
The Anglican Church of Canada’s full communion agreement with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada has continued to “bear new fruit with every passing year” since it was entered into in 2001, Hiltz noted. “As full communion partners we are growing more and more interdependent, even as we remain autonomous, celebrating and exchanging the gifts of our respective Anglican and Lutheran traditions,” he said.
Hiltz then noted that the report, “A Journey to Full Communion,” released by a joint United Church of Canada and United Church of Christ panel last April, invited both churches “not only to go deeper to live out this full communion agreement, but also to go wider.” Canadian Anglicans and Lutherans, he said, are currently pursuing the same goals with their full communion partners in the U.S.-The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. “It is exciting to contemplate the possibilities for our churches’ collaboration on urgent matters that affect us all as North Americans, such as climate change, Indigenous peoples, and immigration,” Hiltz said.
The United Church of Canada dates to 1925, with the merger of the Methodist Church in Canada, the Congregational Union of Canada, 70% of the Presbyterian Church in Canada and a number of local churches that had been formed in anticipation of the union. The United Church of Christ was born in 1957, with the merger of the Evangelical and Reformed Church and the Congregational Christian Churches.