The July 21-31 assembly of the Lutheran World Federation in central Canada's prairie country is developing into an ecumenical event that will show how Canadian Lutherans and Anglicans work with each other on a daily basis.
The delegates, representing 63 million Lutherans in 76 countries, will gather in Winnipeg, with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC) hosting the event. The planners are expecting 442 representatives from 136 member churches and a host of other participants under the theme 'For the Healing of the World.'
This is only the second time the assembly, which normally meets every six years, has been held in North America. The last time was at Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 1957. The most recent meeting was held in Hong Kong in 1997.
Many Anglican lay people and priests have joined their Lutheran counterparts to volunteer for the variety of tasks related to hosting the 11-day event. ELCIC has almost 194 000 members and the ACC counts about 740 000 members.
Archbishop Michael Peers, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) will be among the 500 guests and visitors at the Winnipeg Convention Centre. In an address to the assembly, he is expected to tell the delegates about the partnership of Canadian Lutherans and Anglicans.
Full communion sharing between the ELCIC and the ACC was initiated in 2001 at Waterloo, Ontario. The Waterloo Declaration stated that the churches would maintain separate identities but recognize each other's rites, ministries and sacraments. Both churches have praised the arrangement as being flexible and mutually beneficial.
'When I visit my colleagues in the United States, where the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is in full communion with the Episcopal Church in the United States, they look at us with considerable envy because the relationship that we have is so amicable,' ELCIC's national Bishop Raymond Schultz was quoted in article carried by the Anglican Communion News Service on 23 April.
'It also has a great deal of flexibility compared to the US relationship where everything is kind of nailed down from the beginning and is a much more rigid process. It's working [in Canada] because there is the opportunity to make responses based on situations that arise,' said Schultz in the interview.
Church leaders note that Canada's sparse rural population has obliged churches in some communities to call a single minister to serve congregations of the two denominations. Winnipeg has a congregation served by an Anglican priest and a Lutheran pastor, and in Regina, Saskatchewan, the city's largest Anglican church has called a Lutheran pastor to serve as rector.
Anglican dioceses and Lutheran synods sponsor joint worship, stewardship and other study events. Leaders from both denominations have participated in the consecration of their bishops. For more than eight years, Canada's six Lutheran and 30 Anglican active bishops have met to discuss mutual concerns and share in worship.