In an address to the 16th Biennial Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) held July 6-9 in Winnipeg, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, celebrated the full communion relationship between the two churches, and praised the ELCIC for providing leadership on interfaith relations.
Noting that the ELCIC was considering motions to “affirm our respect for people of the Muslim faith and for Islam” in Canada, and to adopt a new resource helping congregations and individuals foster respectful interfaith relationships, Hiltz said the convention was “taking wonderful steps.”
The Anglican church and “indeed, all the churches in Canada, could take a very good lead from your initiative,” Hiltz said.
He also thanked the Lutherans for their support during the Anglican church’s turbulent General Synod last year, where, after several days of highly-charged debate, members considered a motion on whether or not the church should allow same-sex marriage.
Stress was further compounded when, due to a technical error, the vote was announced to have failed before a recount the next day made it clear it had passed first reading.
“The United Church and the ELCIC remind me that there is life beyond this [same-sex marriage] debate,” Hiltz said. “There is life beyond a preoccupation with what, for many people, is a pastoral matter that ultimately works itself out locally.”
The full communion partnership between the Anglican Church of Canada and the ELCIC dates back to the Waterloo Declaration of 2001. Since then, it has become customary for the Anglican primate and the Lutheran national bishop to be invited to offer remarks at each other’s national meetings.
Hiltz’s address stressed the close bonds that exist between both churches at the national level and, increasingly, at the grassroots—a particularly good example of which, he said, was All Saints Lutheran Anglican Church in Guelph, Ont., a new congregation born of the merging of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and St. David’s and St. Patrick’s Anglican Church.
Hiltz went on to praise Johnson for her “strong and steadfast leadership,” especially in ecumenical circles, and congratulate her on her 10th anniversary as national bishop.
“Susan embodies all that you strive for. Spirited discipleship, healthy church, compassionate justice, effective partnerships. Not only is Susan a treasure within your own church, but she is held in high regard within our ours.”
He expressed admiration for the ELCIC’s involvement in Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) as well, noting that although the ELCIC was not involved in running any of the Indian residential schools, many Lutherans have shown a commitment to being part of the reconciliation process as Canadians.
“Your participation in regional and national TRC events…[has] demonstrated to all Canadians that only as we all work together, can we work toward reconciliation and guide our country in a new and a different way in relationship with the first peoples of this land,” he said.
In 2013, the ELCIC and the Anglican church held their first Joint Assembly, during which the governing bodies of the respective denominations met together in Ottawa.
A second Joint Assembly had been planned for 2019, but it was announced earlier this year that it would be postponed until 2022, due in part to the amount of work each body needed to accomplish in 2019.
Hiltz said the decision had been “hard and disappointing,” but was “rooted in a profound respect for the limits of one another’s financial resources and the constraints of time.”
He added that, in spite how “disheartening” some found the decision to be, the capacity for the two denominations to wrestle with the question honestly “is a sign of the maturity of our relationship as churches.”