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Anglican-Lutheran dialogue examines service and witness

June 28, 2011

NEW YORK

The third phase of the Anglican-Lutheran International Commission wrapped up its sixth and final meeting on June 25 in Jerusalem by discussing how greater theological agreement can lead to concerted action in ministry.

“We are no longer putting the same emphasis on reconciling forms of ministry. We are now sufficiently akin. We need to do actual ministry, living and proclaiming Jesus Christ in the world,” said Canon Alyson Barnett-Cowan, Anglican co-secretary of the meeting, in an interview. Kathryn Johnson of the Lutheran World Federation was also co-secretary.

The commission, which was established in its current form in 2004, will recommend that the next phase of Anglican-Lutheran international work be a coordinating committee, rather than a theological group, to encourage cooperation in regional work. Theology, however, would still be part of its mandate, Barnett-Cowan said.  

In a communique released on June 27, summing up the June 18-25 meeting, the commission said its final report would focus on “the service and witness of the Church,” a concept that is connected with the ecumenical concept of the Church’s unity.

The meeting heard of the difficulties faced by Christians in the Holy Land, where much of the Palestinian population faces daily restrictions and lack of jobs and opportunities. The meeting also heard from Christians from Tanzania, South Africa, Argentina, Botswana and Japan, whose general message was “an emphasis on getting on with mission,” Barnett-Cowan said.

Regional cooperation could take the forms of challenging the stigma of HIV/AIDS or working together to combat climate change, she noted. In Jerusalem, “there had been a full communion commission and the bishops pledged to re-activate that,” she said.

Bishop Suheil Dawani leads the Episcopal Diocese of Jerusalem and Bishop Munib Younan, who is also president of the Lutheran World Federation, leads the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.

Dialogue between Anglicans and Lutherans on an international level has been in existence since 1970. In the past 30 years, a number of regional agreements, such as “Called to Common Mission” in the U.S., the “Waterloo Declaration” in Canada and “Common Ground” in Australia, set out terms of closer relationships between Anglican/Episcopal churches and Lutheran churches. Each church agreed to recognize the other’s clerical orders, for example, and agreed on points of theology.

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