Anglicans and Lutherans issue report on theological agreement
by Mathew Block
After a year and a half of discussions, the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) in conjunction with The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) and Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) have released a statement highlighting areas of theological agreement. The LCMS and ACNA began dialogue in the Fall of 2010. Because ACNA’s congregations also stretch into Canada, LCC was invited to join the discussions.
“Our church is deeply grateful for the opportunity to send a representative and be involved in these discussions,” said President Robert Bugbee of LCC. “Despite the decay in foundational Christian teaching among mainline churches in North America, the Lord is opening doors for us to encourage each other to root our work in the apostolic Gospel of Christ and in the Scriptures as God’s infallible Word.”
The discussions were spread over four separate meetings, hosted in turns by the LCMS and ACNA. Themes of the discussions thus far include the background and identity of our churches, authority in the Church, theological and societal challenges facing the Church, and the practice of ministry in worship and catechesis. The report includes a statement of beliefs held in common by the church bodies. These include a shared belief in the Triune God as confessed in the Apostles’, Nicene, and Athanasian creeds; justification by grace through faith; the centrality of the Sacraments for the Christian faith; and the infallibility of Scripture.
The report also outlines areas which the church bodies plan to engage in further study and discussion. These include the value of authoritative theological confessions, matters of ecclesiology and the office(s) of ministry, the understanding of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper, and differing views on the use of the western liturgy.
Rev. Dr. John R. Stephenson is LCC’s representative to the discussions. He notes that “good personal rapport has been built up among the various participants in the dialogue.” “As we head into a second round,” he said, “I hope that both sides can pose candid questions and humbly learn from each other.”
South of the border, the leaders of the LCMS and ACNA also shared their thoughts. “In a time when there is a widespread failure to recognize the biblical teaching regarding the creation of man and woman and their biblical roles, life-issues, and other grave challenges that society faces, it is a joy to find a group of Christians with the Anglican Church in North America who affirm this biblical teaching,” said President Matthew Harrison of the LCMS. Archbishop Robert Duncan of ACNA had similar thoughts. “We share an unwavering commitment to the authority of Scripture and have been able to support each other as we take a bold stand for the historic faith,” he said. “We look forward to continuing our work together for the Gospel through prayers, evangelism, dialogue, encouragement of one another, and joint efforts to help those in need.”
Rev. Dr. Stephenson also expressed his wish that a future meeting might be held in Canada. “It would be good if one of the next four meetings could be held on Canadian soil,” he suggested, “with maximal participation on the part of LCC and the Anglican Network in Canada (ANiC – the Canadian branch of ACNA). The long-term results of these conversations depend on getting the laity and clergy of LCC and ANiC acquainted with and concerned for each other, and on their getting involved in the process at the various levels of church life.”
The report is available for download from the LCMS’ website here.
Mathew Block is editor of The Canadian Lutheran and communications manager for Lutheran Church–Canada. With files from an LCMS news release.