Presiding Bishop Mark S. Hanson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America met with Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams for a private hour-long meeting Feb. 4 at Lambeth Palace in London.
Hanson said the two leaders discussed strengthening Anglican-Lutheran relationships, challenges each leader faces within his own communions, the proposed Anglican covenant to deepen internal church relationships, global environmental issues, Christian-Muslim relationships, and mutual concern for conflicts in places such as Sudan and the Middle East.
Hanson, president of the Lutheran World Federation, is leading an official delegation of 12 ELCA leaders on a two-week ecumenical journey to visit world church leaders. The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition.
The meeting with Williams, leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, was the first major meeting for the ELCA delegation. Williams greeted the ELCA delegation briefly after meeting with Hanson.
Hanson told the ELCA News Service that the discussion of strengthening Anglican-Lutheran relationships focused on existing full communion agreements -- in Canada, Europe and the United States. "We talked not only about how this time of 'reception' can strengthen the ministries and mission we share, but provide new opportunities for us to be engaged in ways we haven't even imagined," Hanson said.
The two church leaders discussed how both communions can focus on "the pressing issues of the world in which God has placed us," said Hanson. He said the two agreed there is an urgent need for the United Nations and the U.S. and British governments to find a solution to the conflict in Sudan. They also discussed commitment and concern for Palestinian Christians, and support for the Council for Religious Institutions in the Holy Land, for Lutheran and Anglican churches in the region and for dialogue with religious leaders in Israel.
In an official written statement to the archbishop, Hanson noted a series of priorities that Lutherans and Anglicans share, including care for the environment, working to end poverty and disease, and seeking peace and justice through greater interfaith understanding. He also noted that Lutherans and Anglicans have faced their share of "challenges in our communions."
Since 2000, the ELCA and the Episcopal Church have shared a full communion relationship in which the churches work together in common ministry including the exchange of clergy to serve in each other's churches, Hanson said.
Hanson wrote that Williams has challenged Anglicans to "tackle more deeply the (U.N.) Millennium Development Goals to end poverty and disease." The ELCA, through its HIV and AIDS strategy and a developing effort with other U.S. partners to contain malaria, "is committed to joining you in making these priorities for our daily lives and ministries," he said.
"Together we mourn the loss of life and the destruction that has fallen upon God's people in Haiti," said Hanson. "We know that God calls us to accompany those living in poverty so that together we may work to eliminate poverty wherever it exists," he said.
Without being specific, Hanson said Anglicans and Lutherans have had their share of internal challenges in recent years. Most notably both churches have struggled over the topic of human sexuality.
"We face moral, ethical, theological, and ecclesiastical differences in understanding," Hanson told the archbishop. "As the Anglican Communion considers a covenant as a way to approach present and future challenges, we offer our prayer that unity may be preserved and the rich heritage of the Anglican Communion may continue to provide a united witness throughout the world."
Hanson added that "we as Lutherans also ask for your prayers as we face these challenges in our communion and within our churches.
As we continue our fruitful dialogues and continue to learn from one another, may we live more fully into the agreements that Lutherans and Anglicans have embraced in recent years."
The full text of Hanson's statement to the archbishop of Canterbury is available here.