Full Communion Partnership
of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada
and The Anglican Church of Canada
Celebrates 20 Years!
Reflecting on our past and future in full communion
~ by Matt Gardner and Chris Krejlgaard – July 5, 2021 in The Anglican Journal
Much hard work preceded the signing of the Waterloo Declaration in 2001. It officially established a full communion partnership between the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC). Much hard work followed as the two churches cemented their partnership through shared ministry.
But at the signing of the declaration itself, work was set aside for a moment as Anglicans and Lutherans joined together in celebration.
“It was humbling and I just felt so extremely honoured to be part of it,” recalls Telmor Sartison, then national bishop of the ELCIC.
Sartison felt a “quiet joy” after the document was signed and saw a similar joy in the face of his counterpart Archbishop Michael Peers, then primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.
After the signing and worship service, Anglicans and Lutherans marched out together and began dancing and singing We Are Marching in the Light of God.
“The whole experience was very uplifting,” Sartison says.
The Waterloo Declaration marked the culmination in Canada of years of ecumenical dialogue which began internationally in the 1970s with discussions between the worldwide Anglican Communion and Lutheran World Federation—part of a broader ecumenical movement sweeping Christianity at the time.
Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, ecumenical officer of the Anglican Church of Canada from 1991 to 2009, describes ecumenism as rooted in “the vision of the one church of God” and the fundamental wish of Jesus that all Christians be one.
She pinpoints the origins of the Waterloo Declaration to two developments: the defeat of a plan to merge the Anglican Church of Canada and the United Church of Canada in 1975, and the merging of several different Lutheran churches into the ELCIC in 1986.
“I think [Anglicans] were all smarting a little bit from [the former] and thought, ‘Well, if church union is not the way to proceed ecumenically, maybe there’s another way,’” Barnett-Cowan says. “That’s why we began to talk about relationships of communion rather than union, and the Lutherans were interested in that model.”
A key factor in the growing bond between the Anglican and Lutheran churches in Canada was the close personal friendship between Peers and Sartison. The two had first met in 1986, shortly after Sartison’s ordination as Saskatchewan bishop of the ELCIC. At that time Peers was moving from Regina, where he had served as bishop of Qu’Appelle, to Toronto to take over as primate.
When Sartison visited Toronto and Peers visited Winnipeg, the pair went on walks together and established a strong rapport “at a faith level, but also on a personal level,” Sartison says.
They soon wrote to their respective church committees and encouraged them to work towards a potential agreement between the two churches.
Sartison and Peers began a tradition of bringing together Lutheran and Anglican bishops once a year in Toronto, where they would hold joint meetings to talk about issues of mutual concern along with their separate meetings. In 1995, the two churches established a joint working group to move towards the implementation of some form of partnership.
Anglicans and Lutherans in Canada found they shared the same faith, territory and understanding of the Eucharist. They agreed on many points of doctrine and Scripture and worshipped in a similar way.
Though differences remained on understandings about ordained ministry and apostolic succession, Barnett-Cowan says, “We discovered that our similarities vastly outweighed our differences.”
The joint working group prepared a draft of the Waterloo Declaration, which was circulated for discussion through the two churches. In July 2001, both the ELCIC National Convention and the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada took place in Waterloo, Ont. and each formally approved the declaration.
Barnett-Cowan calls the Waterloo Declaration “a good model for ecumenism,” balancing independence and cooperation.
“Each church is still free to be itself,” she says. “But we do so much in partnership.”
The Waterloo Declaration may have marked the culmination of growing ties between their respective churches, but Anglicans and Lutherans in Canada had been worshipping together long before the signing of the agreement.
~ Read the rest of the article here. It describes individual shared ministries across the country.