Reflections on Waterloo and Edmonton

In 2001 the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada reached an accord officially named Called to Full Communion but is better known as the Waterloo Declaration. The accord established a relationship of Full Communion between the two Churches in which the validity of the Sacraments and Ordained Ministers of each Church were recognized, among other things. This was the result of discussions between Anglicans and Lutherans going back decades worldwide. The Waterloo Declaration is one of several Full Communion agreements between Churches of the Anglican Communion and Churches of the Lutheran World Federation, the most noteworthy being the Provoo Communion Statement of 1992 which established inter-Communion between Six Anglican and Seven Lutheran Churches.

It is no secret that I am a proud Anglican. I also have made it no secret that I consider myself a Nordic Canadian with ancestry from Denmark, Norway, Sweden along with Volga German and Lowland Scots. Thus, for me the fact I am in Full Communion with fellow Nordic and German Canadians is really cool, and I have proudly exercised Full Communion by receiving the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist from a Lutheran Pastor (and Bishop) twice.

Earlier this month I had the pleasure of dropping in on the National Convention of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada here in Edmonton, notably to have a beer with the Rev. Erik Parker, host of the blog The Millennial Pastor. While I was enjoying my Keith’s IPA Erik had told me about a motion to be debated the next day that might “Test Waterloo”. That motion (which passed) started hitting the Anglican blogosphere yesterday in part due to the Anglican Journal’s story entitled ELCIC approves lay communion presiders and preachers, and the reaction has been primarily negative and for good reason.

The ELCIC motion (see pages 1-3) allows for authorized lay ministry to be approved by the Bishop of a Synod (equivalent of a Diocese) where in some situations a lay minister would be appointed to Preach and Preside at a service of Holy Communion. It specifically does not allow said lay ministers to conduct baptisms, weddings, funerals or “or other activities which are normally in the purview of ordained ministers.”

Now, if you are not an Anglican you might be thinking “I don’t see the problem”, and if you are Anglican (or Catholic, or Orthodox) you might be thinking “Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat!?!?!”.

The reason for this motion is that some isolated Lutheran Congregations do not have a Pastor, nor an Anglican Priest or some other Ordained Minister that can fulfill the need to preside over the Eucharist for them. Most Anglican Parishes celebrate the Eucharist weekly, or bi-weekly at worst. The frequency for Lutheran parishes is less than the frequency for Anglican Parishes. However, for many Lutherans it is difficult to get an Ordained Minister to Preside over a service of the Eucharist monthly.

Anglican and Lutheran Theology differ on a number of issues, not least of which is the nature of Ordained Minister which even Anglicans will debate among themselves. Lutheran Theology is very much confessional (What do our Confessions say), while Anglican Theology is very much Liturgical (The Law of Prayer is the Law of Belief). For example in the Augsburg Confession the early Lutherans stated that “no one should publicly teach in the Church or administer the Sacraments unless he be regularly called.” (Article XIV, Augsburg Confession) while the closest thing in Anglicanism would be from Article XXIII of the Articles of Religion. However, Anglican liturgical resources such as the Books of Common Prayer are quite clear that only Priests (or Bishops) can preside over the Eucharist. The only jurisdiction in the Anglican Communion willing to contemplate otherwise is the Anglican Diocese of Sydney in Australia.

With the recent change to practice within the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada does present a question: Can the Anglican Church of Canada continue to be in Full Communion with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, and does this action violate the Waterloo Declaration. I am going to answer with a definite Yes, and No.

But, Maple, you attend an Anglo-Catholic Parish and are a stuck up guy on rubrics and liturgy.

Yes, I do presently attend an Anglo-Catholic Parish, and I can be a bit of a rubrics snob but I am knowledgeable enough to understand what is going on.

Firstly, if you take the time to read the Waterloo Declaration you will notice that while the validity of the Ordained Ministers of each Church is recognized and the encouragement of members of either Church to communicate in the other Church the document does not indicate the necessity of an Ordained Minister to Preside at the Eucharist.

The Waterloo Declaration defines Full Communion as:

Full communion is understood as a relationship between two distinct churches or communions in which each maintains its own autonomy while recognizing the catholicity and apostolicity of the other, and believing the other to hold the essentials of the Christian faith. In such a relationship, communicant members of each church would be able freely to communicate at the altar of the other, and there would be freedom of ordained ministers to officiate sacramentally in either church. Specifically, in our context, we understand this to include transferability of members; mutual recognition and interchangeability of ministries; freedom to use each other’s liturgies; freedom to participate in each other’s ordinations and installations of clergy, including bishops; and structures for consultation to express, strengthen, and enable our common life, witness, and service, to the glory of God and the salvation of the world.

So, the Waterloo Declaration does not force the Anglican Church of Canada to recognize the validity of a service of the Eucharist which was presided over by an authorized lay minister. If an Anglican would find themselves at a Lutheran Parish and such a lay minister was to preside nothing requires them to receive the sacrament in order to keep up the appearances of Full Communion.

Secondly, while the Waterloo Declaration would put the Anglican Church of Canada in the position of being in “mutual recognition and interchangeability of ministries” with the Evangelical Church of Canada this in no way would require us to allow such lay ministers to preside over the Eucharist in one of our own services. They would effectively be the equivalent of Lay Readers in our Church.

Thirdly, and I am not going to lie, this act by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada might represent a threat to continued Full Communion depending on where this action takes the theology of the Lutherans. I could speculate for a number of paragraphs, however, the best thing to say is that this very well could create a problem in the future.

The Waterloo Declaration, and the path that brought both Churches there, forced both Churches to examine their own beliefs and doctrine, along with having to make some changes within their Churches to make Full Communion work. By far it was the Lutherans that had to accept more compromise then the Anglicans have.

If there are persons among us in the Anglican Church of Canada who believe that this change by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada is important enough to end our Full Communion then they have the ability to voice that concern at General Synod next year in Toronto. However, this change for a very small amount of Lutheran Parishes is unlikely to affect any Anglicans or Anglican Parishes. If it did then I would say there is more cause for concern.

So, my fellow Anglicans (especially all my High Church friends): let’s calm down, take a deep breath, and relax. It is best to wait and see what develops. The only way this is going to affect you is if you show up at a Lutheran Parish in a rural community and you see someone wearing an Alb but no stole trying to preside at the Altar. If you happen to see it happening just don’t take Communion and be polite. If something else develops in the next decade or so we can politely withdraw from Full Communion, but until then this isn’t that bad.