Breakaway Anglicans talk with conservative Lutherans
“The Background and Identity of our Churches” was the theme of the first dialogue session held recently between representatives of The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS), Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) and the new Anglican Church in North America (ACNA). ACNA comprises former members of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) and The Episcopal Church in the US (TEC) who have left their former church bodies over differences of conviction on core Christian teaching. Formed in 2009 and based in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, the group now numbers 700 parishes
Dr. John Stephenson, professor of Historical Theology at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary in St. Catharines, Ontario, represented Lutheran Church–Canada at the meeting, held November 10-11 at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri. Stephenson explains that ACNA’s formation in 2009 came as a result of “absolutely momentous and unpredictable developments in world Anglicanism over the past 10 years and more.” On the surface, these changes concerned non-celibate homosexual clergy and same-sex unions, but at a deeper level they have to do with the authority of Holy Scripture and classical Christian doctrine.
Full communion, altar-and-pulpit fellowship, is not the intent of the discussions. Stephenson notes, “Both sides simply want to get together and compare notes to see to what extent they can make common affirmations and statements. The discussions are in their infancy.”
At the St. Louis session, faculty from the seminary gave presentations on the identity of the LCMS in the 21st century, its history, and historical connections between Lutherans and Anglicans. Representatives of ACNA addressed topics such as Lutheran influence on the important Anglican theological statement, The 39 Articles, Anglican history, and the identity of the church body in the current century.
Dr. Stephenson says the session was “friendly and open,” noting that many traditional Anglicans feel traumatized by the recent upheavals in their church, but are “very glad to find some friends” with similar convictions and values in the LCMS and LCC.
Dr. Stephenson says the dialogue is noteworthy for the LCMS, as previously it has not been a self-starter in ecumenical discussions. He is also looking forward to being present at the three further sessions of the dialogue, the next of which is scheduled for May 12 to 13, 2011 at the Reformed Episcopal Seminary in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. The topic chosen for this meeting is Authority in the Church. The church bodies have also scheduled two subsequent sessions to take place in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Nashotah, Wisconsin. “I’d ask for the people of our synod to pray for God’s blessing,” says Dr. Stephenson about the ongoing dialogue between the LCMS, LCC and ACNA.