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Anglican, Episcopalian and Lutheran Leaders Offer a 'Word to the Churches'

CHICAGO (ELCA) -- For the first time, Lutherans and Anglicans in Canada are gathering in a joint assembly July 3-7 in Ottawa for worship, fellowship and to make important ministry decisions together -- an opportunity made possible through a formal relationship that began 12 years ago.

In anticipation of the assembly, leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, The Anglican Church of Canada, The Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) have shared how members of the four denominations have come "closely together in service of the gospel" in a June letter to congregations of the churches. The leaders also recognized that, in some ways, the full communion relationship shared in the denominations is "still at the very beginning."

"As the ELCA has entered into full communion agreements, mission has been at the heart of what we are able to do with other partner churches," said the Rev. Donald McCoid, assistant to the ELCA presiding bishop, executive for ecumenical and inter-religious relations.

"The ELCA and The Episcopal Church continue to deepen shared ministry locally and globally. In North America, cooperation among the ELCA, The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and The Anglican Church of Canada has provided an opportunity to share models of ministry, mission planning, a united witness of the Gospel and a voice of care for our neighbors and for God's creation," McCoid said.

In the United States, congregations of the ELCA and The Episcopal Church are becoming "more integrated by sharing buildings, clergy and worship with each other, in the spirit of full communion," the letter stated. The two churches are also beginning new ministries together; cooperating in outreach ministries; pooled resources to help respond to survivors of natural disasters; and shared personnel, such as in campus ministries and in the training of federal prison and military chaplains, and an international policy and advocacy staff position in Washington, D.C.

In Canada, the Anglican and Lutheran churches will hold their General Synod and National Convention together in the form of a joint assembly under the theme, "Together for the Love of the World." Other engagement between both churches include combined youth and worship gatherings, shared office space in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the publication of a joint issue of the diocesan newspaper.

In their letter, the four leaders also recognized that "our full and mutual recognition of each other's ministries and sacraments 'marks but one step toward the eventual visible unity of the whole Church catholic.'" Some possibilities before the churches, the leaders said, can include theological education -- the calling forth and forming lay and ordained leadership; sharing "episcopal oversight" -- clergy exchange and, in some regions, diocesan and synodical leaders; and speaking with a single voice on issues affecting Canadians and Americans.

As the journey of full communion continues, the leaders concluded their letter expressing that "we have the courage and determination to follow where the Holy Spirit is leading our churches, and the strength and steadfastness to be faithful in serving God's mission in the world -- together." The leaders of the churches are the Rev. Mark Hanson, ELCA presiding bishop; the Most Rev. Fred Hiltz, primate, Anglican Church of Canada; the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop and primate, The Episcopal Church; and the Rev. Susan Johnson, national bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada.