Purpose of the Pilot Study
The purpose of this study is to provide an opportunity
- for participants from particular selected neighbouring congregations of the Anglican and United Churches to meet, to explore, to share and to deepen our faith and understanding of ourselves and each other
- for the Dialogue to share with the churches what it has discovered about each other and the possibilities for future developments in our relationship
- to send any comments to the Dialogue group using the form provided.
That they may all be one – that the world may believe
— JOHN 17:21
The Anglican Church of Canada (ACC) and The United Church of Canada (UCC) began conversations in the 1940s, and by the early 1970s, were seriously working toward an organic union. This organic union was formally proposed in The Plan of Union (1972). From 1974 until 1983, conversations continued, leading to the Report of the Task Force on the Mutual Recognition of Ordained Ministry (United/Anglican), which was received but never acted upon by the two communities. That path was not chosen, and there are unresolved feelings and issues from that time.
International and regional ecumenical dialogues have brought us to quite a different place from where we were in the early 1970s. The World Council of Churches, in 1982, published the important document, Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry. BEM has identified a foundation that our churches can work from: agreement on baptism and welcome at the table. These are things we can build upon. Our churches benefit from agreements reached in Anglican, Reformed, and Methodist international dialogues, which have forged new commitments and possibilities for conversation in our own churches. The model of “full communion,” as agreed to by the ACC and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), has provided ecumenical dialogues with viable alternatives to organic union. Partnerships with other Canadian churches, including shared ministries, military chaplaincies, and KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, also shape our ecumenical commitments and understandings. We want to strengthen these commitments and understandings.
Significant changes have also taken place within our churches. Breaking the silence about residential school abuse, and the first steps in repentance, have taken place. The All Native Circle Conference of the UCC has been formed, and the Anglican Indigenous Covenant has been affirmed and is moving toward implementation. The ACC began ordaining women in 1976. For various reasons, cooperation in theological education has taken place. Diversities of views, both theologically and socially, have continued to arise in our churches, even as we struggle to learn how to include the diversity of voices speaking out. Our faith has been challenged and enriched by an explosion of theologies that address our context from different perspectives. A deepening awareness of the richness of liturgical practices and some changes in worship have taken place. The growth and diversity of religions and personal spirituality, away from institutional connections for people, have posed new challenges. We live in a society that increasingly presents itself as secular, while at the same time it welcomes people from many and varied vibrant faith communities into our common life. There has also been a rising influence and awareness of religious extremism in various faith traditions, including our own.
The present Dialogue was approved by the appropriate bodies of the UCC and ACC in 2002 and began meeting in February 2003. Meetings have been held twice annually since then. An observer from the ELCIC has accompanied us on our journey.
The task assigned to the Dialogue was to explore themes that will enable members of the two churches to understand each other better; to encourage and strengthen shared ministry and mission, particularly at the local level, and to foster other circles of dialogue, regionally and locally, between the two churches.
The work that we have done to date is largely exploratory. We have reviewed our common history, with particular attention to events surrounding the Plan of Union (1972). We have examined statements of agreement from ecumenical dialogues worldwide. We have explored various models of ecumenical theological education in places where Anglican Church and United Church people teach and study together. We have discussed practical governance issues regarding shared ministries, and are endeavouring to communicate learnings from shared ministries more widely across the church.
Because the Dialogue has encountered a remarkable degree of growth in understanding, and wants to be accountable to the churches and include them in this process, we invite you to engage in this opportunity to share with one another your own experience of what it means to be the church individually and together. How do you understand and express your faith in and through your common life, your worship, and your witness? What do you cherish about your tradition?
The Report that was written by the Dialogue in September 2005 for the United Church General Council and the Anglican General Synod is enclosed for your information. (See Appendix C.)
Areas for Exploration
What are you doing and what do you cherish most about each of these areas?
A. Common Life
By common life, we mean those activities, apart from worship and outreach, that build community in a local church. Our common life together as a Dialogue has been a significant part of our experience. This includes our social time together, sharing the events of our lives with one another, and caring for each other.
For the churches we have visited, common life is an important part of who they understand themselves to be.
What does your local church do to build a caring community among yourselves, such as
- pastoral care
- church suppers
- education, faith formation, and Bible study
- providing space for community groups (e.g., AA, Scouts).
We entered these conversations aware that we come from two historically different traditions. Each of us cherishes those things in our worship that make us distinctly who we are. As we met and worshipped together, we learned to appreciate the gift of our diversity, and the ways in which our traditions can complement each other. As we continue the journey together, we are coming increasingly to celebrate the many things we have in common.
Some suggested topics:
- Music – what are your favourite hymns?
- Types and styles of services
- Sacred space
- Ceremony and ritual
- Place of children
- Times and seasons
- Services in the community
- Ecumenical worship
- Baptisms, weddings, funerals
As people of God and as those who bear the image of Christ, we are called to live out our faith in context that is both local and global. Our vision of the Reign of God will inform our response to that challenge. In our Dialogue, we have noted the witness of our churches through participation in the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches; in the advocacy, education, and action groups now brought together under the umbrella of KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives; and through other networks such as Project Ploughshares and the Churches’ Council on Justice and Corrections. We work together in chaplaincies, and institutions of theological education.
Both churches have been compelled to face the issues arising from our involvement in residential schools and the impact of church, colonialism, and racism on Indigenous peoples and our life in Canada. Consequently we are both challenged to work for redress, healing, and reconciliation for all our sakes. There are other issues of human rights and inclusivity with which both churches grapple.
Share how you witness to your faith where you live, for example:
- Meeting needs in community – homeless, addicts, seniors, children
- Interaction with civic bodies
- Interfaith relations and action
- Engagement with Indigenous neighbours
- Addressing racism/prejudice in the community
- Sponsorship of refugees
- Gender and sexuality
D. Shared Ministries
Shared ministry is when people worship and serve God in a unified way while still maintaining their denominational identity and connections. It is any combination of denominations sharing a program, outreach, ministry, or building.
Since shared ministries have become for various reasons a more common option in Canada in the last thirty years, this has been a major focus for the Dialogue. Congregations are joining with one another across denominational lines out of a sense of common call, as well as for pragmatic reasons. Shared ministries take many forms. They may be as simple as sharing programs. Some congregations may share a building only and otherwise maintain their own denominational ministry and services. Some share a minister in common and worship together.
We have listened to the experience of people in shared ministries and have developed a new Shared Ministries Handbook. We have discovered that two of the primary challenges facing these ministries are the difficulty of dealing with distinct church bureaucracies and the inability to recognize fully and completely the ministries of those who serve in them. For example, in the case of a United Church-Anglican congregation, a United Church minister is not automatically permitted to preside at a eucharist using Anglican liturgy. Although there are at least 50 formal arrangements for shared ministries involving our denominations (with others) across the country, much more informal sharing of ministry takes place among congregations in local communities.
Using the list of possibilities below as examples of shared ministry, discuss the following questions:
- In what ways are you engaged in shared ministry?
- What other ecumenical partners do you engage with?
- What possibilities/opportunities do you see for shared ministry in your community?
- Shared programs (including common life and witness activities)
- Shared buildings, separate ministries and services
- One minister, alternate forms of worship among participating denominations
- One minister, a common worship service that meets the needs of each denomination
- Several denominations that share and maintain church buildings in several locations and rotate services
E. Imagine the Future
We want to include your vision in our discussion of the future of our churches and the ways in which we can work together. Since our churches are ministering in many different contexts, our conversations need to reflect the realities of different places and circumstances. Therefore, we will be asking you to imagine your own future and how you are called to embody the reign of God in your own community.
What future do you imagine for church life in your community?
Where do you imagine that God is calling your community of faith?
Study Guide Process Notes for the Facilitator
Thank you for agreeing to undertake this study.
The suggested process for this study involves two sessions, preferably a week apart.
- Begin with a meal hosted by one of the congregations.
- Provide name tags.
- Try to ensure a mix of people at each table.
- When the meal is over, gather in mixed groups of 4. Each person in turn shares
- What brought them to their particular church community
- What they do in their church community — describe their own ministries
- How they live out their ministry outside the church.
- This process should take approximately 1 hour.
- The whole group gathers and the study guide and report are introduced and distributed.
- The facilitator asks one person from each congregation to be prepared to listen carefully at the next session in order to sum up their appreciation for what they have received from the other congregation.
- Conclude with a form of night prayer/compline in the worship space.
- Begin with a meal hosted by the other congregation.
- Provide name tags.
- Try to ensure a mix of people at each table.
- When the meal is over, gather in different mixed groups of 4. Each group is assigned one of the 5 topics as their beginning topic. Groups are invited to proceed through the topics taking as much time as they wish for each. Ask each group to record significant insights, on a separate piece of newsprint for each topic. For example, group 1 starts by discussing “common life,” then “worship,” then “witness,” etc. Group 2 starts
with “worship,” then “witness,” then “shared ministries,” etc.
- After an hour, groups post their responses on walls and view each other’s comments. Responses should be grouped according to topic.
- Gather the whole group and share impressions from the discussion and the postings. What has surprised you? What has challenged you?
- Invite everyone to write one or two sentences about what has been significant for them in these sessions, and to bring that paper with them to the concluding worship.
- Those designated as listeners thank each other’s congregations for what they have learned and received from them.
- Conclude with a form of night prayer/compline in the worship space. Invite everyone to put their comment paper into a basket as they come to worship. Suggest that worship conclude with a commissioning for mission in the community.